National News Briefs

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

National Security

Efforts intensify to end ban on gay soldiers

NEW YORK - Critics of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy are gaining new allies, including a few conservative congresspersons and a West Point professor.

Opponents of the policy are now highlighting the ongoing struggles of Army and Marine recruiters. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says that many highly trained specialists are being discharged involuntarily while the Pentagon "is facing extreme challenges in recruiting and retaining troops."

In Congress, four Republicans have joined 81 Democrats co-sponsoring a bill to repeal the policy.

A U.S. Military Academy professor, Lt. Col. Allen Bishop, wrote a column this spring in Army Times urging Congress to repeal the ban.

Politics

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NSD launches partnership effort to unseat Santorum

WASHINGTON - On June 14 the National Stonewall Democrats Federal PAC and Liberty PA PAC announced the launch of partnership efforts to defeat anti-gay Republican Senator Rick Santorum in 2006. The partnership will merge national resources with grassroots efforts throughout Pennsylvania. For more information or to contribute visit www.stonewalldemocrats.org.

Illinois House passes resolution supporting 2006 Gay Games

CHICAGO - On May 31, the state House passed a resolution stating, in part, "that we recognize the organizers, participants, and attendees of Gay Games VII in Chicago, and we wish a successful event for all." The Games will be held in Chicago July 15-22, 2006. For more information or to register as a Gay Games participant visit www.gaygameschicago.org.

Judge rules recall against Spokane mayor can proceed

SPOKANE, Wash. - Embattled Mayor James E. West may appeal a judge's decision that a recall petition over a sex scandal can proceed to the signature-gathering phase.

A Benton County Superior Court judge threw out two of the recall charges made against West but said the allegation that West improperly offered city jobs to prospective dates should be put before voters.

Hillsborough County Commission bans support of gay pride events

TAMPA, Fla. - The Hillsborough County Commission has enacted a policy banning county agencies from acknowledging gay pride events.

Civil rights groups threatened to sue and called for a town hall meeting on the ban, which requires the Hillsborough County government "to abstain from acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride recognition and events."

The vote came a week after a book display recognizing Gay and Lesbian Pride Month was taken down at West Gate Regional Library after some library patrons complained.

Health

New institute will fight challenges to gay men's health and well-being

NEW YORK, - Long-time AIDS activist Spencer Cox has announced the creation of the Medius Institute, a new organization dedicated to developing innovative responses to gay men's health issues.

Cox noted that a Congressional prohibition on the use of federal funds to "promote homosexuality" serves as a disincentive for researchers doing non-HIV-related research on gay men's health.

The Institute's initial project is a multidisciplinary workshop that will bring together professionals from a variety of fields to develop a research agenda regarding gay men in mid-life.

For more information email MediusInstitute@gmail.com.

CDC: More than a million Americans now living with HIV

ATLANTA - More than a million Americans are believed to be living with the virus that causes AIDS, the government said June 13.

While better medicines are keeping more people with HIV alive, government health officials have failed to "break the back" of the AIDS epidemic by their stated goal of 2005. This is believed to be the first time the 1 million mark has been passed since the height of the epidemic in the 1980s.

Studies demonstrate ineffectiveness of abstinence-only sex education

WASHINGTON - A report on the impact of federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs was released on June 14 calls into question the Bush Administration's support of abstinence-only as a national policy.

The four programs included in the study demonstrated slight improvements in participants' attitudes regarding abstinence, but were ineffective at improving young people's communication with parents or their intention to remain abstinent.

The study confirms findings of a recent report by Advocates for Youth that compiled the evaluations of abstinence-only until marriage programs from ten states. The report found that abstinence-only programs, which prohibit discussion of the health benefits of condoms and birth control, show little evidence of sustained long-term impact on adolescents' attitudes favoring abstinence or on teens' intentions to abstain. In only one of the ten states did any program demonstrate short-term success in delaying the initiation of sex, and none showed long-term success in affecting teen sexual behavior.

NAPWA calls on condom manufacturer to withdraw 'misleading' TV ads

WASHINGTON, DC - In a letter to the Chairman of Church & Dwight Company, National Association of People With AIDS Executive Director Terje Anderson challenged the company's advertising campaign for Trojan Condoms, focusing on the "misleading and highly incendiary claim that '40 percent of people who know they are HIV-positive don't tell their partners.'"

According to the letter, "The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that two-thirds of new infections in the US are related to people who do not know their HIV status. Published studies and analyses have shown that transmission of HIV from those who are aware of their status is a relatively uncommon occurrence."

Family Rights

Immigration measure seeks relief for binational couples

SUNNYVALE, Calif. - The Reuniting American Families Act was introduced in Congress June 21. This measure was previously introduced as the Permanent Partners Immigration Act.

When enacted, the measure would bring immigration relief to countless binational same-sex couples around the world. Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Jerrold Nadler are the lead sponsors of the legislation.

"Seeking both justice and equality is an imperative to our community," said Leslie Bulbuk, co-founder of Love Sees No Borders, an educational organization focused on raising awareness of the plight of same-sex binational couples and their fight to remain together.

Unlike their heterosexual counterparts, Americans and legal permanent residents in same-sex relationships are unable to sponsor a foreign partner for immigration purposes. The measure would grant these couples the much-needed immigration benefit. The bill would add the words "permanent partner" after the word "spouse" each time it appears in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Currently, 16 countries have laws that allow citizens to sponsor a same-sex foreign partner for immigration.

Court reverses decision to dismiss gay father's complaint

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The state's highest court says a gay father should get a chance to present evidence that his son was harmed by a Virginia court ruling.

Ulf Hedberg has been fighting the ruling, which ordered that his partner had to move out of the house if Hedberg wanted to keep custody of his son.

During the week of June 13, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed a Montgomery County judge's decision to dismiss Hedberg's complaint without giving his lawyers a chance to present evidence. The appeals court sent the case back to circuit court.

Deceased mother's partner gets custody of son

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The state's highest court on June 17 gave custody of a five year-old boy to his dead mother's lesbian partner.

Tina Burch had appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court for custody of the son of her partner, Christina Smarr, who died in a 2002 car accident. Within hours of her death, Smarr's relatives had given the child to his grandparents.

The opinion said a "psychological parent" could be a biological, adoptive, foster or stepparent, as long as the parental relationship began with the consent of the legal parent or guardian.

Supreme Court refuses to tamper with termination of civil ruling

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Supreme Court on June 17 refused to tamper with a lower court decision granting two women a dissolution of their civil union.

In a unanimous ruling, the court said a conservative group that had sued to overturn the ruling had no standing in the case.

Business

Cracker Barrel takes steps to rebuild its image

NASHVILLE - Fifteen years after Cracker Barrel was first accused of mistreating minorities, the stigma still lingers.

The company has taken steps to rebuild its image. Some measures were required by a settlement with the Justice Department after it investigated Cracker Barrel's treatment of minority customers. But the company also has launched new outreach to minorities on its own.

Before the lawsuits alleging racism, Cracker Barrel was accused in the early 1990s of dismissing some gay workers. Gay rights groups complained about a Cracker Barrel executive's memo saying restaurant managers should fire anyone who didn't "demonstrate normal heterosexual values." The company eventually renounced the memo. The company has added sexual orientation to its hiring and nondiscrimination policy.

Religion

Southern Baptists urged to take on gays, schools

NASHVILLE - Most Southern Baptists send their children to public schools, but some leaders in the faith are urging members to yank children out of schools deemed too tolerant of homosexuality.

The issue is expected to be prominent at the annual Southern Baptist Convention where two right-wingers are co-sponsoring a resolution that says churches should look into whether schools are teaching acceptance of homosexuality.

If they find that's the case, the resolution says, churches then need to inform parents and encourage them to remove their children from the schools.

Church suspends minister who performed gay daughter's wedding

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - Leaders of the Reformed Church in America suspended a New Jersey minister June 17, ruling that he violated the Bible and the denomination's teachings when he officiated at his gay daughter's wedding.

The Rev. Norman Kansfield, 65, had been dismissed in January from his presidency of one of the church's two seminaries, New Brunswick Theological Seminary. Kansfield performed his daughter's wedding ceremony last June in Massachusetts.

A majority of delegates voted to suspend Kansfield from ministry until he changes his views to fall in line with church doctrine. They also stripped him of his standing as a professor of theology in the RCA. Kansfield has served in the church for 40 years.

The Reformed Church in America has at least 100 congregations in Michigan, many in the western part of the state. In Ottawa and Missaukee counties, Reform church membership accounted for more than half of all church affiliations in 2003, and between a quarter and a half in Allegan County, according to the church's Web site.

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