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October 5, 2012

News Briefs

Supreme Court likely to hear two marriage cases

Washington, D.C.--The Supreme Court will probably hear two cases on same-sex marriage this session, although it now seems unlikely that it will take up either before the November elections.

The court is faced with challenges to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Both have been struck down by appellate courts, and the justices will have the final word on the issue--if they decide to take up either or both.

Court watchers are also curious to see what repercussions will arise from Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to join the four left-leaning justices in June’s decision on the Obama administration’s health care law. Roberts cast the deciding vote that the law was constitutional, so future decisions will be scrutinized to see if he is moving more towards the center, or if his vote was an attempt to restore the reputation of the court, which took a hit following the Citizens United decision declaring that corporations have the right to free speech.

Brown signs ban on ‘change’ therapy

Sacramento, Calif.--Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation’s first ban on “reparative” therapy for minors on September 29, outlawing attempts to change the sexual orientation of children in California.

Sen. Ted Lieu of Los Angeles introduced the bill barring mental health professionals from performing the therapy, which most psychological associations have warned can be very harmful, on minors.

Brown signed it a day before the deadline to act on bills send to him by the legislature. A petition with 50,000 signatures was sent to him by the Human Rights Campaign.

“Gov. Brown has sent a powerful message of affirmation and support to LGBT youth and their families,” said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “This law will ensure that state-licensed therapists can no longer abuse their power to harm LGBT youth and propagate the dangerous and deadly lie that sexual orientation is an illness or disorder that can be ‘cured.’ ”

Studies supporting “reparative” therapy have been criticized for using small samples, anecdotal evidence and coming from researchers with political agendas. The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and a handful of other major professional organizations have denounced “reparative” therapy.

Meningitis outbreak in New York City

New York City--The health department warned doctors on September 27 that an outbreak of bacterial meningitis threatens HIV-positive gay men in the city.

There have been 12 cases in the last two years, but four of them have been in the last month. Out of those dozen cases, four have died.

The reported cases were among men 31-42 years old in “several” boroughs, and all four of the most recent patients were HIV-positive.

“People living with HIV are at a greater risk than the general population of acquiring invasive meningococcal disease and if infected, dying from infection,” the New York City Health Department said in the statement. “Common symptoms of meningitis are high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash that develop rapidly within two days.”

The disease can cause swelling of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to death.

Top court turns down NOM money case

Washington, D.C.--The National Organization for Marriage was slapped down by the Supreme Court on October 1 when it announced that it would not hear NOM’s appeal of a campaign finance case.

The organization was accused of violating Maine election campaign finance laws by not divulging their donors. A lower court has ruled that the campaign finance law was constitutional and fairly applied to NOM.

The appeal to the Supreme Court asked the justices whether non-profits could be subjected to the same reporting requirements as political campaigns for or against specific candidates.

It was the second appeal to the Supreme Court from NOM based on the Maine campaign finance laws, and the second one to be rebuffed by the high court.

The denial leaves the lower court’s ruling in place, meaning NOM will be required to disclose its donors, something it has steadfastly refused to do.

Group sued for abuse of wedding photo

Denver--The Southern Poverty Law Center is filing suit on behalf of a New Jersey couple whose engagement photo was used without permission in an anti-gay ad against a Colorado civil union bill.

Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere announced their 2010 wedding with a photo of the two sharing a kiss by the East River, with the Manhattan skyline in the background. But the photo was copied off the Internet by an anti-gay group calling itself Public Advocate of the United States, which changed the background to a snowy Colorado forest and added text attacking lawmakers who supported the legislation.

Joining the couple in the suit is Kristina Hill, the photographer who took the picture. She maintains copyright to her work, and did not give permission for PAUS to use it.

SPLC, which tracks hate groups and advocates for civil rights, identified Public Advocate as a hate group because of their deceptive anti-gay rhetoric, like a fundraising letter asking the reader to “imagine a world where the police allow homosexual adults to rape young boys in the streets,” and comparing same-sex marriage to bestiality.

Ballplayer suspended for slur on face

Toronto--Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended for three games for coming onto the field with “Tu ere maricon” written on the black tape under his eyes during a game with Boston last month.

The Spanish phrase translates roughly as “You are gay”--or “faggot,” depending on who is translating. Escobar said he meant it as a joke, not a derogatory statement towards anyone. He said that Spanish-speaking players and his friends often call each other that without considering the meaning behind it.

Escobar lost $82,000 in pay for the suspension, which was given to You Can Play, a group which advocates for LGBT athletes, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

In his first home game back, Escobar caught the ceremonial first pitch from David Testo, an openly gay former professional soccer player, after having a meeting with Testo, gay runner Jose Estevez and Patrick Burke, You Can Play’s founder. Testo is also a board member of the organization.

Estevez and Burke said that Escobar’s apology was sincere, and that they believe he really did not intend any offense by his actions.

Baldwin is ahead in Senate race

Madison, Wis.--A poll in mid-September showed Tammy Baldwin leading the race for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Herb Kohl.

Baldwin leads former governor and George W. Bush-era Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson by three percent. Thompson’s favorability rating has also fallen, with 53 percent of those responding to the Democracy for America poll having a negative view of him.

Thompson narrowly won a four-way Republican primary that saw his campaign fund depleted, leaving him spending more time fundraising and less campaigning. Baldwin, meanwhile, has been able to spend money on advertising, and got some of the best possible free publicity when she addressed the Democratic National Convention last month.

If Baldwin is elected in November, she will become the first out LGBT senator.

Former Pirates owner comes out

Pittsburgh--Kevin McClatchy, the former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and chair of newspaper publisher McClatchy Company, came out publicly in a September 22 interview with the New York Times.

McClatchy felt he was faced with a choice back in 1996; he could be open about his sexual orientation, or he could become the youngest team owner in Major League Baseball. He chose the latter, leaving the team 11 years later. It took him another five years, however, to feel comfortable discussing his sexual orientation in an open forum, especially given his still-close ties to MLB. He is currently advising Sacramento’s mayor on efforts to bring an MLB team there.

He said that, while tens of thousands of professional athletes have played on sports teams in the United States over the last 40 years,  none have come out while still playing.

McClatchy’s partner, Jack Basilone, noted that, even with his new openness, McClatchy is still guarded.

“He’s like when you go to Pottery Barn and get the floor model--they have some nicks and scrapes,” he joked. The couple were introduced by a staffer for former Senator Rick Santorum, the anti-gay politician and former Republican presidential hopeful whose name should not be searched on the internet.

Nigerian man jailed for gay sex

Abuja, Nigeria--A 28-year-old actor was sentenced on September 17 to three months in jail for engaging in gay sex.

Bestwood Chukwuemeka was handed the sentence by a senior magistrates court for engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity. He told the court he was guilty, but said he was intoxicated and asked the court to show lenience.

According to Gay Star News, Chukwuemeka earlier pleaded not guilty, saying, “I came back drunk from the night club and thought I was sleeping on the same bed with my girlfriend and I started romancing her.”

The magistrate had said that alcohol was not an excuse for violating prohibitions against gay sex, but granted bail.

After handing down the sentence, the magistrate said, “This would serve as warning to other youths who hide under the influence of alcohol to commit crimes.”

Chukwuemeka got off lightly, however. Gay sex is criminalized nationally in Nigeria but faces differing degrees of severity in punishment in different states. In the south, the maximum sentence is 14 years, while a federal law allows for 14 years and a fine in southern states. A dozen, however, have adopted elements of strict Muslim law, levying floggings and stoning as penalties.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.










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