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NEWS ITEMS AFFECTING GAYS AND LESBIANS

FOR 2003 - APRIL to JUNE

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News of 2003-APR:

bullet2003-APR-4: USA: GOP leader meets with gay activists: The Washington Blade, a gay-positive magazine, discussed a speech by Marc Racicot, the Republican National Committee Chairperson before the Human Rights Campaign. This is the first time that a sitting GOP chair has addressed a gay audience. Racicot said that he would push for fairness and equality for all Americans, including gays and lesbians, and that he would not tolerate "gay-baiting" ads in Republican election campaigns under his control. RNC spokesperson, Dan Ronayne, said: "Governor Racicot believes the most important obligation we have as a party is to engage with all of our citizens in respectful and insightful dialogue to explain and debate our positions. The Human Rights Campaign luncheon was a wonderful opportunity to do just that." He added that Racicot was "honored" to speak before the HRC event and to address "our party's commitment to tolerance and inclusion." 1
bullet2003-APR-10: MA: Most adults support gay marriage: The Massachusetts Family Institute, a fundamentalist Christian group, reported the results of a new poll from the Boston Globe and WBZ-TV which was released early in April. It showed that 50% of Massachusetts residents support gay marriage whereas 44% oppose it. 2
bullet2003-APR-15: WI: Conservative Christian vs. gay student conflict: AgapePress, a conservative Christian news service, reported a conflict in the Evansville High School in Evansville, in south-central Wisconsin, some twenty miles south of the state capitol, Madison, WI. Presumably using the Equal Access law, students had formed a Gay Straight Alliance Club in the school. They held a "Day of Silence" presumably on the National Day of Silence held in over on 2003-APR-9. AgapePress is a little skimpy on details. 3 "Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence Project has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression." 4 Students who support equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations in over 1,900 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities across the U.S.  Participating students do not speak during this day. Some hand out "speaking cards" stating: "I am participating in the 'Day of Silence,' a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice and discrimination." 3 According to AgapePress, "The club was permitted to advertise the event through posters, literature, and on the school intercom." This, of course, is required by the Equal Access act.  "The school even provided them with a 'safe room' to sit in if they felt they were being harassed during the day." It is fairly common for the verbal and physical harassment of homosexual and bisexual students -- and their supporters -- to reach a peak on this day. In response to the Day of Silence a group of Christian students -- presumably conservative Christians -- prayed and shared Bible verses in the school commons during classroom time. They were given unexcused absences, despite having permission slips from their parents, because they had skipped class. One of those Christian students, Justin Wallestad, expressed his disappointed that an entire day at his school was dedicated to promoting the acceptance of homosexuality, but past events organized by Christian students had been restricted. He said: "In the past they [presumably the administration] were putting [a stop] to some of the stuff that we wanted to do, such as 'See You at the Pole' and stuff like that -- they wouldn't allow us to put up posters. But when people come in with a Day of Silence for homosexuality, they [permit use of] the intercom. It was really frustrating, so we wanted to do something about it." Wallestad felt some of his classmates who participated in the Day of Silence were promoting immorality. He said: "The majority of these people who did participate are my friends because I want to be friends with a variety of people. So I actually did lose quite a few friends because of this."

Wallestad and other students plan to organize a "Christian Purity Day" which presumably promotes sexual abstinence. They plan to promote the event through posters, literature, and over the school intercom. If they take advantage of the Equal Access Law, and organize a conservative Christian student-run club, then they will have every right to fully advertise their cause on campus. If they remain unorganized, then they may well continue to experience restrictions from the administration. Whether they organize a club or not, they probably will not be allowed to skip classes.
bullet2003-APR-23: PA: Senator Santorum attacked and complemented for homosexual comment: On APR-7, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) was interviewed by the Associated Press about a currently active case before the U.S. Supreme Court which will determine the constitutionality of a Texas "sodomy" law. If the law is overturned, then rights now enjoyed by heterosexuals would be extended to homosexual couples. Santorum appears to believe that all sexual expression would then be legalized in the state. He allegedly said: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." This statement appears to be factually untrue. Allowing gays and lesbians to have the same freedom of sexual expression as heterosexuals would not have any impact on the laws banning bigamy, polygyny, polyandry, incest, bestiality, sexual abuse of children, adultery, statutory rape, etc. Santorum also allegedly described homosexual acts as a threat to society and the family. He said: "I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts."
bulletThe Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay Republicans criticized Santorum's comments.
bulletHoward Dean (D), a presidential candidate called on Santorum to resign from his Senate leadership post. Dean said: "Gay-bashing is not a legitimate public policy discussion; it is immoral. Rick Santorum's failure to recognize that attacking people because of who they are is morally wrong makes him unfit for a leadership position in the United States Senate. Today, I call on Rick Santorum to resign from his post as Republican Conference chairman."
bulletSantorum has defended his comments, saying that "all are equal under the Constitution" and that his remarks in the interview were not meant to be a statement on "individual lifestyles." He also said that his comments were "taken out of context."
bullet Concerned Women for America, a Fundamentalist Christian group criticized the "gay thought police" and said that Santorum was "exactly right."
bulletGenevieve Wood of the Fundamentalist Christian Family Research Council, said: "I think the Republican party would do well to follow Senator Santorum if they want to see pro-family voters show up on Election Day."
bulletAt a town hall meeting, a 23-year-old man who identified himself as "a proud, gay Pennsylvanian" and said he was offended by the remarks. He commented: "You attacked me for who I am....How could you compare my sexuality and what I do in the privacy of my home to bigamy or incest."
bulletRobert Knight of the Culture and Family Institute said that the president's refusal to support Sen. Santorum "looks like a suicide move." 7

Although the White House earlier criticized what some consider racist comments by Senator Trent Lott (R_MS) and what others considered anti-semitic comments by Jim Moran (D-VA), the White House remained silent on Santorum's statement. 5,6

bullet2003-APR-25: World: U.N. Commission on Human Rights discusses gay rights resolution: This commission is charged with the responsibility of monitoring and promoting human rights worldwide. Brazil introduced a draft resolution titled, "Human Rights and Sexual Orientation," which addresses the topic of equal rights for gays and lesbians. Rather than vote on the resolution, the Commission, decided to defer further discussion until next year's session.
bullet2003-MAY-10: UK: Government legislation allows discrimination against gays: The British government has drafted the 2003 Employment Equality Regulations to combating harassment and bias in the workplace on grounds of sexual orientation and religion. They were written to comply with an EU directive on workers' rights. An employer found to discriminate on these grounds when hiring, promoting, demoting or training staff would be in breach of the law. The main groups who appear to be in need of protection are Muslims, gays and lesbians. However, the proposed legislation will make religious employers exempt from the law if they feel that they must discriminate "so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion or so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers." The law would allow an employer to dismiss or fail to hire an individual if he is "not satisfied" that they fit his own "ethos based on religion or belief." Evan Harris, the opposition Liberal Democrats' equality spokesman, condemned the new regulations. He said: "When faced with pressure from those who wish to continue to harass and discriminate against people on the basis of lawful private behavior or their sexuality in circumstances where sexuality is patently irrelevant to their ability to do the job, the Government has simply caved in." Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said the regulations were a "witch-hunter's dream come true...Organizations with a 'religious ethos' employ around 200,000 people, most of them in jobs paid for out of the public purse. This includes over 100,000 teaching posts in faith schools. The Government has given in to religious pressure at every stage of this process." 8
bullet2003-MAY-24: USA: Presbyterian Church led by woman: At the 215th General Assembly in Denver CO, Rev. Susan Andrews of Bethesda, MD, became the first female parish pastor to be elected as moderator of her denomination. In a demonstration of the liberal-conservative split in the denomination, she narrowly won with 53% of the votes against the Rev. Harold Kurtz, a conservative with missionary experience in Africa. Rev. Andrews said that it was her "fondest dream" that the church will lift its ban on ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians during her lifetime. But she feels that now is not the time to attempt this change. Referring to the ban on ordination, Rev. Kurtz said: "This is what the church has said and we have to abide by this."

The Assembly will debate a number of controversial issues, including whether to repeal its ban on the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, whether those who defy the ban should be dealt with more harshly, and whether to adopt a more restrictive abortion stance. 9
bullet2003-JUN-8: Church elects its first gay bishop: Episcopalians in New Hampshire elected Rev. V. Gene Robinson, 56, to be their next bishop coadjutor on only the second ballot. This is the first time that an openly gay person has been elected bishop in the denomination. He succeeded over three other candidates for the position. Otis Charles, former bishop of Utah, announced in 1993 that he was gay. However he had waited until he retired to make the information public. After his election, Robinson said: "We will show the world how to be a Christian community...I plan to be a good bishop, not a gay bishop." 10 More details
bullet2003-JUN-10: ON: Appeals court legalizes same-sex marriages: The Ontario Court of Appeal handed down a ruling in Toronto which legalizes same-sex marriages within Ontario, Canada. The province was ordered to register a number of existing marriages of lesbians and gays. They were also ordered to issue marriage licenses to other same-sex couples who wish to marry. 11 More details.
bullet2003-JUN-15: Convention to consider blessing homosexual unions: The 2003 General Convention will be held in July. There is a proposal to compose and allow a blessing -- a formal rite -- for same-sex unions. Conservatives are outraged. 12
bullet

2003-JUN-20: Gay couple denied marriage license in Alberta: Keith Purdy, 41, and Rick Kennedy, 37, were refused a marriage license in Calgary AB. The clerk said that "The laws of Alberta, at this point, do not allow same-sex marriage." The couple then crossed the street to the office of the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, and obtained a complaint form which they planned to file on JUN-23. Purdy said: "We're setting the groundwork for what's going to come up in the future. We want to exercise our rights as Canadian citizens under the Charter. We consider ourselves married already but we want to be legally recognized with all the rights and responsibilities that come with that." The couple have been together for 13 years and held a commitment ceremony in 1992. 13

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2003-JUN-26: USA: U.S. Supreme Court overturns 13 state sodomy laws: CBS News reported that the U.S. Supreme Court "overturned a Texas law that banned gay sex, a landmark ruling for gay rights activists that overturned an unpopular decision the court made 17 years earlier." In addition, 12 other state sodomy laws apprear to have been declared unconstitutional as well. further, the court found that states are severely limited in their ability to pass laws dealing with sexual morality. More details

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2003-JUN-27: USA: President asks Congress to allow churches to discriminate: President Bush asked Congress to allow churches to accept federal support funding and be free to actively discriminate against employees on grounds of religion, sexual orientation, etc. So, for example, a Protestant church could get federal funding to run a drug addiction program, advertise for a janitor, and say "no Catholics, gays, or women deed apply." A White House position paper says that such groups should be free to hire employees who are best able to further their goals and mission. The Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said that it's government-sponsored bigotry. Lynn says it's appalling to "deny government jobs to qualified Americans because they believe in the wrong religion." 14

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2003-JUN-26: Kansas: U.S. Supreme Court orders new trial for gay youth: After its ruling of the Lawrence v. Texas case which legalized private same-sex activities between consenting adults, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a Kansas appeals court to rehear the case involving two inmates at a residential school for developmentally disabled youths. Matthew Limon was barely 18 years of age when he engaged in consensual homosexual sex with another inmate, who was almost 15 years of age at the time. If Limon had engaged in sex with a girl of that age, he would have been tried under the "Romeo and Juliet Law" that gives minimal sentences to cases of this type -- typically 12 months in jail. But that law only applies to opposite-sex encounters. Limon was tried under a different law, and was given 17 years in jail. James Esseks, litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, said: "The Romeo and Juliet Law, similar to the Texas law that was struck down yesterday, treats lesbian and gay people much more harshly than it does straight people who engage in the same behavior, and states can no longer get away with that kind of unequal treatment...We hope that this is the first of many wrongs that yesterday's ruling will correct." 15

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References:

  1. Lou Chibbaro, Jr., "GOP leader meets with gay activists," The Washington Blade, 2003-APR-4.
  2. "***Gay Marriage Poll Reports Skewed Results***," E-Alert, Massachusetts Family Institute, 2003-APR-10.
  3. Jim Brown, "Christian Students Punished for Countering Pro-Homosexual Observance." AgapePress, 2003-APR-15, at: http://headlines.agapepress.org/
  4. "Day of Silence 2003," GLSEN, at: http://www.dayofsilence.org/
  5. Sean Loughlin, "Santorum defends comments on homosexuality; White House maintains silence on issue," CNN.com at: http://www.cnn.com/2003/
  6. "Santorum: 'I have a problem with homosexual acts'," Recorded 2003-APR-22, CNN.com, at: http://www.cnn.com/2003/
  7. "Bush has 'confidence' in Santorum. But Fleischer says president's view not based on religion," WorldNetDaily, 2003-APR-25, at: http://wnd.com/news/
  8. Paul Waugh, "Blair gives religious employers the right to sack gay workers," The Independent.co.uk, 2003-MAY-11.
  9. Eric Gorski, "Liberal female pastor elected head of Presbyterian assembly," Denver Post, Denver, CO, 2003-MAY-25, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
  10.  Anne Saunders, "Church elects its first gay bishop," Associated Press, at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/
  11. Tracey Tyler & Tracy Huffman, "Wedding bellwether for same-sex couples: Gay duo wed hours after court ruling; Judges rewrite definition of marriage," The Toronto Star, 2003-JUN-11, Page A4.
  12. "Impact of gay issues on Episcopal church policy," WNET, week of 2003-JUN-13, at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/
  13. "Gay couple fighting Alberta for marriage licence," The Kingston Whig Standard, 2003-JUN-21, Page 17.
  14. "Bush Asks Congress to Make It Easier for Religious Groups to Hire According to Beliefs and Sexual Orientation," This Week in Religion News, 20-03-JUN-27, at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/This is a temporary listing. After 2003-JUN, consult: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/
  15. "Supreme Court applies sodomy ruling to case involving a gay youth," Advocate.com, 2003-JUN-28 to 30, at: http://www.advocate.com/

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Notice:

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. sec 107: The news items contained in the above hyperlinks are provided without profit by the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, PO Box 27026, Kingston ON Canada K7M 8W5, and are intended to be available to anyone interested in the topics included, for educational purposes only. Any editor, author, Webmaster, writer, publisher, news service, etc. that objects to being part of this listing may request that future works be excluded. We will also attempt to delete previous entries from the same source.

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > News > here

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Copyright 2003 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-APR-9
Latest update: 2003-JUN-29
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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