News briefs


Bright spot

Small town in uproar over rainbow flag

MEADE, Kan. - When J.R. and Robin Knight's 12-year-old son sent them a rainbow flag while staying with his grandparents in California, they flew it on a pole in front of their hotel because it was "summery" and made them feel near him.

However, the decision prompted a controversy in the town of 1,600 and eventually someone cut the flag down. It also prompted an Internet-fueled debate on gay rights in rural America, and the Knights say they have received messages of support from around the world.

Now, the Knights say the anger displayed by some residents has strengthened their resolve to keep the rainbow flag flying.

Flying the flag not only protests discrimination, they say, but they also believe giving in to the pressure would send the wrong message to their son.

The Knights ordered two more flags to replace the destroyed one, and said more will be coming to replace any others that might be destroyed.

Politics

Colorado Democrats hold summit on faith

DENVER - The Colorado Democratic Party staged recent a strategy meeting at a seminary.

Two years after "values voters" were credited for Republican victories, Democrats are trying to figure out how to reframe the debate around wedge issues, attach moral weight to priority issues for Democrats and discuss their own faith without coming across as insincere.

In 2004, pollsters found 22 percent of voters identified "moral values" as the campaign's most important issue, though subsequent research found the Iraq war and terrorism concerned voters more than gay marriage and other social issues.

However, in 2004 George W. Bush overwhelmingly carried not only white evangelicals but the most frequent churchgoers regardless of tradition.

Michael Brewer, public policy director of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Colorado, moderated one of the Colorado sessions.

Explanation of anti-marriage referendum sparks debate

MADISON, Wis. - The November ballot will provide voters a plain-English explanation of a jargon-laden anti-marriage referendum, but anti-marriage groups are claiming the explanation is biased.

The explanation, written by the Attorney General, describes what it means to vote yes or no on the measure.

Anti-marriage groups have taken issue over a line in the explanation that tells voters it would be up to courts or the Legislature to determine whether the amendment would affect so-called domestic partner benefits between same-sex and other unmarried couples.

The proposed Wisconsin amendment is similar to Michigan's Proposal 2, which has been used by anti-gay groups in lawsuits seeking to ban domestic partner benefits.

7 New Members Named to Bush's AIDS Panel

WASHINGTON - The US Department of Health & Human Services recently appointed seven new members to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, which provides recommendations on how the government should fight HIV/AIDS, according to an Aug. 7 New York Blade report. The seven members are Dr. Marilyn Maxwell, a primary care HIV/AIDS specialist; Dr. Freda McKissick Bush, a gynecologist; Shenequa Flucas, a Triangle AIDS Network outreach worker; Robert Kabel; a trustee for the District of Columbia's Whitman-Walker Clinic; Dr. David Malebranche, a researcher of black men's health; John Martin, president of biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences; and Barbara Wise, co-founder of WiseChoices, an abstinence-until-marriage organization. There are reports that both Maxwell and McKissick-Bush are abstinence-only supporters as well.

Education

California assembly scales back gay-inclusive textbook bill

SACRAMENTO - The California Assembly in Sacramento Aug. 7 gutted a bill that would have required state textbooks to include the historical contributions of gay people, amending it to say only that school material should not be discriminatory toward gays. Lawmakers voted 56-2 to delete the provision at the request of the bill's author, who had feared a gubernatorial veto.

Her bill instead would prohibit any negative portrayal of gay people in textbooks and other instructional material, expanding current anti-discrimination laws that apply to minorities.

State law prohibits textbooks from portraying people negatively because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry.

Family rights

State Supreme Court lets stand pro-adoption ruling

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's Supreme Court let stand a ruling that allows unmarried couples, including those of the same sex, to adopt children through a joint petition that gives both partners equal custody.

In a 4-1 decision posted Aug. 4, the high court refused to hear arguments in the case. That left intact the April ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which had overturned a lower court's ruling that state law limits adoption to married couples and individuals.

The case was filed by a lesbian couple whose 2004 attempt to adopt a baby girl was approved by a judge in one county but denied by a judge in another.

Employment rights

Transgender Houston police sergeant takes job transfer

HOUSTON - A Houston police sergeant who is transitioning from male to female has voluntarily transferred to the city's dispatch center until the gender change is complete.

In June, Sgt. Jack Oliver went public that he had begun medical treatment to have his gender reassigned and become Julia Oliver.

The patrol sergeant has been receiving hormones for several months now and has told officers she would like to be called Julia at work.

Before undergoing gender corrective surgery, Oliver will have to live as a woman 24 hours a day for an entire year. Oliver's new job is now allowing the officer a chance to comply.

Oliver's salary and rank will remain the same.

Religion

Conservative Episcopal leader calls for help in anti-gay dispute

PITTSBURGH - The leader of a network of conservative Episcopal dioceses says the global Anglican Communion will unravel unless the archbishop of Canterbury helps U.S. conservatives distance themselves from the Episcopal Church.

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan said that if Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams fails to address the concerns of U.S. conservatives "any hope for a Communion-unifying solution slips away, and so does the shape and leadership of the Anglican Communion as we have known them."

Duncan made the remarks July 31 at a meeting of the Anglican Communion Network, which represents 10 Episcopal dioceses and more than 900 parishes with that claims to hold traditional views of the Bible.

Conservatives oppose the 2003 consecration of the openly gay Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. They also oppose the June election of the new Episcopal presiding bishop, Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, either because they reject ordaining women or because Jefferts Schori supports ordaining gays and blessing same-sex relationships.

Health

Washington state moves to ban publicly funded sex-change operations

OLYMPIA - Washington Medicaid officials are taking steps to end publicly funded sex-change surgery. However, the state is required to pay for at least two more operations and will continue to cover hormone treatment and psychotherapy for low-income people diagnosed with gender-identity disorders.

A state appeals board ordered Medicaid last month to pay for two people to travel out of state to undergo sex-change operations at an estimated cost of $50,000 to $60,000 each.

International news

U.K. court rejects lesbians' marriage

Two British lesbians who tried to get their Canadian marriage recognized

in the United Kingdom failed July 31.

U.K. law automatically converts foreign same-sex marriages into U.K.

civil partnerships, which nonetheless provide all the same rights and

obligations.

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, who were married in Vancouver in

2003, denounced the decision by Sir Mark Potter, president of the London

High Court Family Division, as "profoundly discriminatory [and] an

affront to social justice and human rights."

Success for 1st World Outgames

The 1st World Outgames, staged in Montreal July 29 to Aug. 5, were an

apparent success.

Montreal organized the first Outgames after a bitter dispute with the

Federation of Gay Games led to the seventh Gay Games being relocated

from Montreal to Chicago, where they took place July 15-22.

More than 10,000 athletes from 111 nations participated in 35 sports at

the Outgames, and the opening ceremonies attracted an additional 28,000

spectators to the Olympic Stadium.

George Michael to sue fellow cruiser, photographer

Gay pop singer George Michael has told the BBC he will sue the man with

whom the News of the World tabloid said he had a late-night tryst in a

cruisy area of London's Hampstead Heath.

"I'm suing the individual involved who I have never, ever seen, let

alone wanted to have any kind of sexual encounter with," Michael said.

The star said he also will sue the photographer who photographed him at

the scene. "They're harassing me and I should not have to worry about

who's watching me at 2:30 in the morning," he said.

"A very large part of the male population, gay or straight, totally

understands the idea of anonymous and no-strings sex," Michael added.

"The fact that I choose to do that on a warm night in the best cruising

ground in London - which happens to be about half a mile from my home

- I don't think would be that shocking to that many gay people."

Assumed lesbian couple murdered in Jamaica

An assumed lesbian couple was stabbed to death in late June in Bull Bay,

Jamaica.

The bodies of Candice Williams and Phoebe Myrie were found dumped in a

septic pit behind a home they shared, Human Rights Watch said.

Police said an estranged male partner of Williams is the prime suspect,

and that the apparent relationship between the women was the likely

motive for the crime. But HRW said police have failed to investigate

further or question the man.

Lithuanian gay parade banned

Authorities in Klaipeda, Lithuania, a city on the nation's west coast,

prohibited a planned gay pride parade, the Russian wire service Interfax

reported July 28.

The parade was to coincide with Klaipeda's 754th anniversary

celebrations Aug. 1.

Mayor Rimantas Taraskevicius' office said the request to hold the parade

lacked details about its route, time, reason and number of participants.

Compiled by Dawn Wolfe Gutterman from staff and wire reports.

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