Newsbriefs

Compiled by D'Anne Witkowski

Politics

Democratic lawmakers plan civil union, gay adoption bills

DENVER - Democratic Reps. Tom Plant of Nederland and Alice Madden of Boulder plan to introduce the legislation in the 2004 session to let same-sex couples get "civil union" certificates and adopt children with legal parental rights for both.

Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said this week the bills probably won't get far. Similar bills have died in previous sessions.

Lundberg plans to introduce a resolution supporting a U.S. constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriages.

Illinois looks to pass Equality Bill

CHICAGO - Senate Bill 101 (SB 101) will add "sexual orientation" to its statewide non-discrimination laws, covering employment, citizenship, education and other constitutional guarantees. The bill will also cover Illinois' transgender residents per the bill's definition. Sexual Orientation as a category is defined in part as "having or being perceived as having a gender-related self-identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth."

If the bill garners the necessary 30 votes to pass the Senate, it will go on to the House for the 2004 session in January.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has promised to immediately sign the bill once it passes the legislature.

Law

High school senior challenges rule against same-sex dance dates

BIG PINEY, Wyo. - A heterosexual teen is challenging a school district policy that bars students from bringing same-sex dates to school dances.

In September, Amanda Blair took another female to the homecoming dance at Big Piney High School. They were kept out by sheriff's deputies at the request of school officials.

Blair, a senior, has now enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union in formally calling on Sublette County School District No. 9 to lift the same-sex date ban.

The ACLU stated the policy violates a 1980 federal court ruling out of Rhode Island that found that students who bring same-sex dates to school dances are not only protected by the Constitution, but schools must take steps to ensure their safety at the dances.

Blair said her test of the policy is meant to help and support her peers who are homosexual. "I think it would be a lot harder if I were a lesbian to do this for myself. I'm helping those who are."

Blair and her mother went to the school board after the homecoming dance, asking that the rule be changed. Kris Blair said she and her daughter contacted the ACLU after getting no sign from board members that the ban was going to be lifted.

Marriage

Lieberman and Kerry issue statements about MA marriage ruling

Joe Lieberman issued the following response to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial CourtÕs ruling allowing same-sex unions in the state: ÒAlthough I am opposed to gay marriage, I have also long believed that states have the right to adopt for themselves laws that allow same-sex unions.Ê I will oppose any attempts by the right wing to change the Constitution in response to today's ruling, which would be unnecessary and divisive.Ó

John Kerry expressed similiar sentiments:ÊÒI have long believed that gay men and lesbians should be assured equal protection and the same benefits - from health to survivor benefits to hospital visitation - that all families deserve. While I continue to oppose gay marriage, I believe that todayÕs decision calls on theMassachusettsstate legislature to take action to ensure equal protection for gay couples. These protections are long over due.Ó

Bruno: No gay marriage bill in New York

ALBANY, N.Y. - Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said he is opposed to allowing homosexuals to legally marry in New York and has no plans to have his chamber approve such legislation.

The Bruno opposition effectively sounds the death knell for such legislation in the immediate future.

In New York, which has a strong leader form of government, it is almost unheard of for legislation to be approved in the Senate without the majority leader's backing or in the Assembly without the support of the speaker.

While state Assemblyman Richard Gottfried has introduced "right-to-marry" legislation in that chamber to permit gay marriages in New York, the measure has not won the support of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Gottfried's fellow Manhattan Democrat.

Attorney general says Alabama won't recognize gay marriages

MONTGOMERY - Alabama will not recognize same-sex marriages from Massachusetts even if that state's lawmakers provide for gay nuptials, Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor.

Pryor spoke out after Massachusetts' highest court ruled 4-3 Tuesday that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Pryor said Alabama law defines marriage as the "unique relationship between a man and a woman" and that Alabama law does not allow members of the same sex to marry.

"Under the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act, the State of Alabama is not required to and will not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions from other states," the Republican attorney general said.

Minnesota lawmakers call for constitutional ban on gay marriages

ST. PAUL - Sen. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, both Republicans, plan to introduce legislation that would allow voters to decide whether to amend the Minnesota Constitution to say a marriage is a civil contract between a man and a woman even though Minnesota already has a law that bans same-sex marriages.

They fear gay couples from Minnesota could go to Massachusetts to marry, then return and challenge the Minnesota law. While there's no way to tell where Minnesota's courts would land on the issue, Holberg said amending the state Constitution in 2004 would be the easiest way to make sure Minnesota judges don't interpret the law to allow same-sex marriages.

Competing bills on gay marriages expected for 2004 session

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Supporters and opponents of gay marriages are preparing competing bills for the 2004 legislative session that would either ban gay marriages or authorize civil unions between same-sex couples.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich lent his support to gay marriage opponents.

Delegate Richard Madaleno, a gay Democrat, plans to introduce legislation allowing civil unions for same-sex couples.

John Kane, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said Republicans will sponsor legislation banning gay marriage at the legislative session which begins Jan. 14 and predicted many Democrats will vote for the bill.

Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Senate committee that would handle bills dealing with gay rights, said he believes the vote on legislation banning same-sex marriages or a competing bill legalizing civil unions for gay couples would be decided on a 6-to-5 vote in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, "and I don't know which is the six and which is the five."

Religion

Ugandan Anglican Church severs all ties with U.S. Episcopal Church

KAMPALA, Uganda - The Anglican Church of Uganda has severed all ties with the Episcopal Church over the American body's consecration of a gay man as a bishop.

The Ugandan Anglicans initially cut ties only with the New Hampshire Diocese following the Nov. 2 consecration of V. Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire.

But at a Nov. 20 meeting, 30 Uganda Anglican bishops decided to sever their church's ties with the entire Episcopal Church in the United States. The decision will result in a loss of scholarships and other financial aid from the Episcopal Church.

Uganda is the second largest Anglican community in Africa, representing 8 million of the country's 24 million people.

Health

U.S. syphilis rate increases for second year in a row

ATLANTA - The nation's syphilis rate has climbed for the second year in a row, mostly because of an increase in cases among gay and bisexual men.

Between 2001 and 2002, the syphilis rate rose 9.1 percent from 2.2 cases per 100,000 people to 2.4 cases. The rate had dropped every year between 1990 and 2000 before reversing course.

The actual increase in cases was small - 759 more people, for a total of 6,682 new cases - but the rise among gay and bisexual men has caused concern that the public health safeguards and safe-sex practices adopted over the last two decades during the AIDS epidemic continue to crumble.

"The vast majority of the United States is not seeing any syphilis at all," said Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC's division of sexually transmitted diseases. "We're seeing syphilis rise primarily in groups of gay and bisexual men."

For two years the government has repeatedly warned that gays and bisexuals may be letting down their guard against STDs. About 40 percent of the new cases are from these groups, the CDC said.

AIDS group says brochures were removed at health fair

GEORGETOWN, Ky. - Scott County High School administrators told an HIV and AIDS services group to remove brochures about safe sex at a student health fair, group members said.

Cathy Cox, executive director of AIDS Volunteers, Inc., said group members were instructed not to display four brochures that contain information about safe sex or are written for gay and lesbian teens. They were also told to remove any materials containing the gay pride flag or information about alternative lifestyles, she said.

Doug Southworth, the school's principal, said he instructed a teacher to tell the group members to remove one brochure that had graphic drawings of gay sex. Cox said the graphic brochure Southworth is referring to is intended for adults and was mistakenly put out by a volunteer, but was removed after they realized the error.

Except for the first brochure targeted at adults, Cox said, the materials are appropriate for high school students.

In Other News

Library weighs action against man who tore cover off gay magazine

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - John Callaghan, 77, was so disgusted by The Advocate's Nov. 11 cover, featuring a bare-chested black man and white man leaning in to kiss each other, he ripped it off from a library. Now he could face criminal charges.

Library officials are deciding whether to alert law enforcement officials, revoke Callaghan's library privileges or take other action against him.

Callaghan said he was offended the magazine was available to young people and that his tax dollars were spent to put it there.

The Nov. 11 edition of The Advocate appeared on a rack with a sexually suggestive photo of Britney Spears on Cosmopolitan's cover and a scantily clad Jessica Simpson on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Under Virginia law, willfully destroying or damaging a magazine in a library is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.

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