National News Briefs

Compiled by Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

Marriage

Schwarzenegger vetoes equal marriage bill, signs other pro-gay bills

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger followed through Sept. 28 on his promise to veto a bill to legalize equal marriage rights.

The governor said the state Constitution barred the Legislature from enacting a law allowing equal marriage without another vote of the people.

In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said he supported the state's domestic partner laws, which give same-sex couples most of the rights and obligations of married couples, and would oppose efforts to overturn or weaken those statutes.

Schwarzenegger signed four other bills Sept. 28 that bolstered civil and economic rights for gays. Those measures prevent taxes from being raised because ownership of property is transferred between domestic partners; allow retired teachers and other public employees to amend their retirement plans to cover their domestic partners; uphold court decisions specifying that a major civil rights law, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, bars businesses from discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation or marital status; and add gender and gender identity to anti-discrimination laws covering health insurance plans.

Poll: Almost two-thirds of AZ voters oppose marriage ban

TEMPE, Ariz. - Sixty percent of voters surveyed in recent days said they would oppose a change to the state's constitution that would ban equal marriage rights and deny state and local governments from giving legal status to any unmarried couple.

Those seeking the constitutional amendment need to collect the signatures of 183,000 registered voters to put proposal on the ballot next year.

Churches lead signature drive for equal marriage ban

BOSTON - The campaign to end equal marriage has found traction in Massachusetts churches, with thousands of Catholics and other worshippers lending their signatures to a petition drive seeking to abolish the civil right in the state.

With the backing of the state's four Roman Catholic bishops, opponents of LGBT-headed families set up shop at more than 200 churches across the state, and some Protestant churches also joined in the effort.

During the weekend of Sept. 30, the pastor of a Roman Catholic Church was temporarily pulled from the pulpit after he refused to support the petition drive.

The Rev. George Lange of St. Luke the Evangelist church in Westborough was replaced by an anti-gay bishop during the weekend of Sept. 30. The move came after Lange and his associate pastor, the Rev. Stephen Labaire, posted an item in the Sept. 11 church bulletin stating their opposition to a proposed Constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights.

Politics

Miers backed equal rights, supported anti-sodomy law

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers went on record favoring equal civil rights for gays when she ran for Dallas city council, and she said the city had a responsibility to pay for AIDS education and patient services.

But Miers opposed repeal of the Texas sodomy statute in a survey she filled out for the Lesbian/Gay Coalition of Dallas during her successful 1989 campaign. The Supreme Court struck down the prohibition on consensual homosexual sex in 2003 on a 6-3 vote. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Miers is nominated to replace, voted with the majority.

Miers answered "Yes" to the survey question, "Do you believe that gay men and lesbians should have the same civil rights as non-gay men and women?"

However, in addition to supporting the anti-sodomy law, she was noncommittal about protecting gays and lesbians from employment discrimination and protecting HIV-positive individuals from housing discrimination.

West recall effort survives latest challenge

SPOKANE, Wash. - A visiting Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of proponents of an effort to recall Mayor Jim West, tossing out a petition that sought to invalidate a large signature drive.

The recall campaign was prompted by articles in The Spokesman-Review newspaper that accused West of offering City Hall jobs, professional game tickets and cash to young men he met in an online gay chat room.

Opponents of anti-discrimination law end legal challenge

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Opponents of a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity have decided not to take their legal challenge to the state Supreme Court.

Their decision means an Aug. 11 ruling by a Commonwealth Court will stand. A three-judge panel said the city could legally broaden its anti-discrimination ordinance.

In 2002, Allentown amended its Human Relations Commission act - a law that prohibited employment and housing discrimination based on such things as race, religion or country of origin - to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Group files suit over Salt Lake City's DP benefits plan

SALT LAKE CITY - A second lawsuit has been filed over a mayoral executive order to provide health benefits to the domestic partners - homosexual or heterosexual - of unmarried city employees.

On Sept. 29, the Alliance Defense Fund asked Utah's 3rd District Court to declare Mayor Rocky Anderson's order illegal and prevent the city from providing insurance benefits to employees' domestic partners.

The Utah Employees Health Program also filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court, but that suit centers on whether domestic partner benefits are legal under state law.

Religion

Vatican-directed evaluation of American seminaries gets under way

NEW YORK - Vatican-directed evaluators have started visiting all 229 American seminaries, looking for lapses in church teaching about celibacy and for "evidence of homosexuality." The Pope is reported to be considering issuing a ban on gay men entering the priesthood regardless of whether or not they remain celibate.

Since 1965, the number of annual ordinations has dropped by more than half to 454 this year. Enrollment in graduate-level seminaries has dropped from 8,325 to 3,308 in the same period. Thousands more parishes are without a resident priest and the average age of Catholic clergy is climbing.

Estimates of the number of gays in seminaries and the priesthood range from 25 percent to 50 percent.

Episcopal churches in Connecticut sue bishop

HARTFORD, Conn. - Six conservative Episcopal parishes have filed a federal lawsuit claiming their civil rights were violated by the local bishop, the church's national leader and others in a dispute that stemmed from the confirmation of openly-gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop.

The parishes had asked to be supervised by another bishop because they disagreed with the decision of Connecticut Bishop Andrew Smith to support the 2003 confirmation.

A priest at one of the Connecticut parishes, the Rev. Mark Hansen, was subsequently suspended by Smith, and five others have been threatened with suspension.

The lawsuit filed Sept. 27 alleges that the six priests were fraudulently accused of abandoning the church and denied due process because they were not tried in religious courts.

Right Wing Watch

Students counter-protest overwhelms Phelps' church members

BEAVERTON, Ore. - High school students turned out by the hundreds recently to oppose a few members of the Westboro Baptist Church who staged a protest over the school's presentation of "The Laramie Project."

The seven church members were met by Southridge High School students who staged a counter protest, along with parents with signs of their own, including one that said "God loves gays."

The Southridge principal has suspended production of the high school's version of the play, citing profanity and sexual content.

Anti-gay boot camp sues state over license requirement

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Love In Action has sued the state of Tennessee claiming it is violating the anti-gay organization's religious freedom by requiring a license to care for mentally ill patients.

The group is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based anti-gay legal firm that is also representing Tennessee lawmakers in a suit brought by the ACLU regarding a proposed anti-equal marriage rights referendum.

The suit claims that the state is discriminating against the ministry because of its self-defined religious mission. Love In Action attempts to "cure" people of homosexuality.

The state determined after a pair of inspections in July and August that Love In Action was providing housing, meals and personal care for mentally ill patients without a license, and gave the group until Sept. 30 to cease operation of the facilities and apply for a state license.

A state spokesman said the state is justified in requiring the facility to be licensed based on three criteria: Love In Action had two people who had been clinically diagnosed with mental illnesses; the facility was administering their medication; and they were in a restricted living arrangement, unable to come and go as they pleased.

Miscellaneous

Etheridge working on sitcom for ABC

NEW YORK - Melissa Etheridge says she's working on a sitcom. The show, still in development with the ABC television network, is about "what my life might have been like had I not left to find my fame and fortune, and stayed in Kansas and became a teacher and been gay and dealt with life there," Etheridge told Time magazine.

The two-time Grammy winner said she doesn't want to rely on touring to make a living, and a television show would allow her to "be home for dinner."

International Briefs

Madrid city councilor marries same-sex partner

MADRID, Spain - A Madrid city councilor married his male partner in a wedding ceremony held in the capital's historic old quarter Oct. 1.

Pedro Zerolo, a member of the ruling Socialist Party, married boyfriend Jesus Santos in a half-hour ceremony officiated by the party's senior foreign policy official, Trinidad Jimenez.

"Today we feel very proud to be Spanish and to live in a country where the discrimination of centuries past has been eradicated," said a smiling Zerolo. The couple expressed a wish to someday adopt children.

Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy said Sept. 30 that his Popular Party is due to lodge an official appeal against the law before the Constitutional Court on the grounds that "marriage" in the constitution means the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.

Sodomy law ruling appealed by Hong Kong government

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's government on Sept. 29 appealed a High Court ruling against a law that says men younger than 21 should be jailed for life for engaging in sodomy.

The government waited until the last day of its deadline to appeal the Aug. 24 legal decision, which activists hailed as a major victory for human rights.

The High Court ruling caused an uproar among Christian groups, who have vigorously campaigned against human rights for gays.

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