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May 2, 2014

News Briefs

New Ohio marriage petition gets green light

Columbus--The backers of an Ohio constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriage have received approval to begin circulating petitions for a new version of the measure.

The Ohio Ballot Board approved Freedom Ohio’s new wording on April 22, giving them the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures.

The amendment would overturn the 2004 ban on same-sex marriage in Ohio by writing into the constitution a guarantee of marriage equality.

Freedom Ohio began circulating an earlier version of the measure two years ago, and have said they have well over the 385,247 signatures needed to put it on the ballot.

The earlier version, however, was criticized for having a too-broad religious exemption that could be misused to allow schools and hospitals affiliated with religious organizations to refuse to recognize legal marriages.

The old version said that religious organizations would not be required to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. The new version, announced last month, drops the recognition text and says houses of worship will not have to perform marriages, which their First Amendment protections already guarantee them.

Ian James, Freedom Ohio’s founder, said that the updated language and restarted signature-gathering means that the amendment is unlikely to be on the November ballot.

City opens LGBT business registry

Cleveland--Timed to coincide with the Gay Games being held in Cleveland and Akron in August, the city’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Plexus, the northeast Ohio LGBT chamber of commerce, are putting together a registry of LGBT-owned businesses.

The Mayor’s Office of Equal Opportunity already certifies businesses as “local, minority or female-owned” for the purpose of city contractor requirements. The LGBT registry, however, will just be for people who want to support LGBT-owned businesses.

Companies must show that they are majority-owned and operated by an LGBT person, are located in the Cleveland market, and do business there.

Rainbow flag tops Uganda

Mount Stanley, Uganda--Neil Gottlieb, founder of an ice cream company in California and avid mountaineer, climbed the country’s highest mountain on April 16 and planted a gay pride flag, sending a message to a country with viciously anti-gay laws.

Gottlieb posted a photo of himself planting the flag, taller than the altitude marker, on his Facebook page, along with his letter to Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.

“On April 16, 2014, after a 6-day climb, I summited your country’s tallest peak, Mount Stanley’s 16,753-foot-tall Margherita Peak, and mounted a gay pride flag at its summit in protest of your country’s criminalization of homosexuality,” he wrote. “Your country’s highest point is no longer its soil, its snow or a summit marker, but rather a gay pride flag waving brilliantly, shining down from above as a sign of protest and hope behalf of the many thousands of Ugandans that you seek to repress and the many more that understand the hideous nature of your repressive legislation.”

“As the president of a nation you have the opportunity to be a great man and lead your country forward. Instead, you choose to hold your people back like the imperialists, the dictators and the warlords that have held Africa back generation after generation. The people that you wish to imprison are the same people who can help Uganda grow into a great nation. When you choose to deny the people of Uganda their human rights, you are no better than [former president Idi] Amin,” he continued. “If you don’t like said flag on your highest peak, I urge you to climb up and take it down. However, you are an old man and surely the 6-day climb through the steep muddy bogs and up the mountain’s glaciers is well beyond your physical ability. Your days are more limited than most. Do you want your remaining days to be yet another blight on the history of your nation or will you find the strength to reverse your actions and allow all Ugandans to be free?”

He wrapped up the letter with a postscript absolving his fellow climbers and their guides and porters of any involvement with his act of protest, noting, “The Ugandan guides present at the summit as the flag was mounted had absolutely no idea what the flag stands for, nor did they ask.”

Both sides ask judge to strike ban

Eugene, Ore.--A federal judge was urged on April 23 to strike down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Judge Michael McShane, however, was not just asked to strike the ban by attorneys for the same-sex couples seeking to marry. He was also asked to rescind the ban by attorneys for the state.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said that the ban is indefensible and refused to submit arguments supporting it.

The issue before McShane is two-fold. The first suit before him seeks to declare the ban on same-sex marriages in the state unconstitutional. The other would have the judge order the state to recognize marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

McShane said he won’t rule on the case until he considers a request by the National Organization for Marriage to defend the ban. The anti-marriage equality group’s founder, Maggie Gallagher, admitted defeat overall in an interview with the Huffington Post in March. McShane will announce in May whether he will allow NOM to intervene. If he allows it, he will have new oral arguments.

Police chief fired for being lesbian?

Latta, S.C.--This small town has come under fire after the mayor fired the police chief after she had served for 20 years without a single reprimand.

Mayor Earl Bullard reprimanded Police Chief Crystal Moore seven times in one day on April 15. Residents and some local officials believe that Bullard had a vendetta against Moore because she is lesbian.

TV station WBTW obtained the recording of a telephone conversation between Bullard and Councilor Jared Taylor.

“I would much rather have . . . and I will say this to anybody’s face . . . somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children,” Bullard said. “Because that ain’t the damn way it’s supposed to be. You know . . . you got people out there--I’m telling you buddy--I don’t agree with some of the lifestyles that I see portrayed and I don’t say anything because that is the way they want to live, but I am not going to let my child be around.”

Around 100 residents showed up to the April 17 council meeting to protest the firing, and after the meeting adjourned, several council members continued outside since Bullard would not let Moore’s firing be discussed at the meeting.

Pro wrestler Austin backs marriage

Los Angeles--Proving the magic of the Internet once again, nine-month-old comments by retired professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin from his podcast have become news all over again.

Austin was portrayed as an iconoclastic redneck when he reached the pinnacle of his success, and that’s not far from the reality of Steve Austin. When the Supreme Court handed down its twin rulings in favor of same-sex marriage last year, Austin took to his podcast to address same-sex marriage.

“I don't give a shit if two guys, two gals, guy-gal, whatever it is, I believe that any human being in America, or any human being in the goddamn world, that wants to be married, and if it's same-sex, more power to ’em,” Austin said.

“What also chaps my ass, some of these churches, have the high horse that they get on and say ‘we as a church do not believe in that.’ Which one of these motherfuckers talked to God, and God said that same-sex marriage was a no-can-do?” he continued. “OK, so two cats can't get married if they want to get married, but then a guy can go murder 14 people, molest five kids, then go to fucking prison, and accept God and He's going to let him into heaven? After the fact that he did all that shit? See that’s all horseshit to me, that don’t jive with me.”

And that’s the truth, ’cause Stone Cold says so.

Two new stamps honor gay icons

Washington, D.C.--The Harvey Milk postage stamp will go on sale after its unveiling ceremony on May 22, but it will be outdone in September by Finland’s Itella Posti Oy, their postal service.

Finland is releasing postage stamps featuring the drawings of Touko Laaksonen, better known as erotic artist Tom of Finland.

The trio of stamps’ images will be taken from two pictures by Tom of Finland, one of a uniformed man with a naked man framed by his legs, and the other of a man staring through the exposed buttocks and thighs of another man.

The first picture will be divided into two stamps, each one featuring the face of one of the men.

Jodie Foster weds Alexandra Hedison

Los Angeles--Jodie Foster married her girlfriend Alexandra Hedison, a photographer who formerly dated Ellen DeGeneres.

They were married in mid-April, and Foster’s representatives confirmed the news. She was later seen in Santa Monica sporting a wedding band.

They began dating last year, according to reports.

Troop loses charter over gay scoutmaster

Seattle--The Boy Scouts of America pulled the charter of the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church’s scout troop as long as Geoffrey McGrath, an out gay man and Eagle Scout, remains as scoutmaster.

Rev. Monica K. Corsaro, the pastor of the church, pushed for McGrath to stay leading the troop, and said that the group will continue to meet, even without the trappings of the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts of America lifted their ban on openly gay scouts, but still bars service by gay adults. The Scouts ordered McGrath removed earlier in April.

McGrath formed the troop to serve the needs of low-income youth in his area of South Seattle.

Pennsylvania to skip marriage trial

Harrisburg, Pa.--Both sides in the Pennsylvania marriage suit have agreed that there is no need for a trial, so written briefs will suffice for the judge.

All the papers will be filed by May 12, although there is no date set for a ruling.

The state’s attorney general refused to defend Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage, and Gov. Tom Corbett hired an outside firm to represent the state.

The firm demanded information about the sexual histories of the plaintiffs in the suit, so the latest agreement indicates that they were backing off an attempt to smear the same-sex couples suing the state.

Brunei law calls for stoning gays

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei--The sovereign state in Malaysia passed a new set of laws including ones calling for stoning deaths for people convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual activity.

Before the new law passed, the maximum penalty was ten years in prison, but the new penal code is based on Shariah law and also calls for stoning for adultery, rape, extramarital affairs and rejecting Islam.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the new law, noting that the country has not used the death penalty since 1957, and that stoning violates international laws against torture and inhuman punishment as well as violating the right to privacy, equality, and freedom from arbitrary arrest.

Arson suspect propositioned before fire

Seattle--Musab Masmari, the man accused of setting fire to the Neighbours gay club on New Year’s Eve, received an email from a man hitting on him prior to the attack on the club.

The email was sent on December 28 from someone offering to be Masmari’s slave, if just given the chance.

Court documents have already indicated that Masmari told a friend that gays should be “exterminated,” and he has only been charged with a single count of arson so far. Nobody was injured in the fire, which was kept in check by patrons until the bar’s fire suppression system managed to douse it.

He was caught heading to the airport to fly to Turkey. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 29.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.












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