Pet of the Week


Kit Kat is a 10-year-old, front-paw-declawed Maine Coon mix. After her elderly owner died, family members took her in but developed severe allergies to her. Kit Kat is calm, laid-back, loving and quiet. She’s somewhat shy and hides from strangers. This beautiful kitty should have many more years left and deserves to spend them in a loving home. She is spayed, vaccinated, microchipped and negative for feline leukemia virus and immunodeficiency virus.

Dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are available for adoption from Operation Kindness, 3201 Earhart Drive (near Keller Springs Road and Midway Road), Carrollton. The no-kill shelter is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (until 8 p.m. Thursday) and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Cost to adopt is $110 for cats and kittens and $135 for dogs and puppies. The cost includes spay or neuter surgery, microchipping, vaccinations and other tests. Those 65 and above and those who adopt two pets at the same time get a $20 discount. For more information call 972-418-PAWS, or visit www.operationkindness.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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Inmate’s request for state-funded sex-change stirs controversy

By Denise Lavoie – Associated Press

Transgender activists say denying operation cruel and inhumane; opponents say operation would be a waste of taxpayer dollars



Michelle Kosilek has been receiving hormone therapy since a federal judge ruled in 2002 that she was entitled to some treatment for gender identity disorder.

BOSTON Wearing lipstick, a scooped-neck sweater and nearly waist-length hair, the witness cried while describing what it feels like to be a woman trapped inside a man’s body.

“The greatest loss is the dying I do inside a little bit every day,” said Michelle Kosilek, an inmate who is serving a life sentence for murder.

Michelle Kosilek was Robert Kosilek when he was convicted in the killing of his wife. In 1993, while in prison, he legally changed his name to Michelle. Since then, Kosilek has been fighting with prison officials to complete his transformation into a woman.

Kosilek, 57, wants the state Department of Correction to pay for a sex-change operation. After two lawsuits and two trials, the decision now rests with a federal court judge.

Kosilek’s case has become fodder for radio talk shows, where the topic of whether the state should pay for a sex-change operation for a convicted murderer often attracts outraged callers.

The case is also being closely watched by attorneys and advocates across the country who say Kosilek is an example of the poor treatment transgender inmates receive in prison.

Courts in several other states have ordered prison systems to allow transgender inmates to receive psychotherapy and, in some cases, hormone shots.

But no inmate in the country has ever succeeded in getting a court to order a sex-change operation, according to advocates.

“People often have a knee-jerk reaction that public money shouldn’t be spent on this,” said Shannon Minter, a board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.

“If people are not treated, they suffer tremendously,” said Minter. “It’s just as cruel to withhold treatment for gender identity disorder as it is to withhold treatment for any other medical issue.”

Some states allow inmates to continue hormone treatments if they are already on hormones when they begin their sentences. But most do not allow inmates to initiate hormone therapy while in prison, and many states do not have any written policy for the treatment of transgender inmates, said Cole Thaler, a transgender-rights attorney for Lambda Legal, a national advocacy group for gays, bisexuals and transgenders.

Inmates in several other states have sued prison officials for sex-change operations. Like Kosilek, they argued that gender identity disorder is a serious illness that can lead to severe anxiety, depression, suicide attempts and self-castration. They argue that treatment for their condition is a “medical necessity” and denying it would violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Those arguments have fueled the anger of some taxpayer groups and politicians.

“It’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of,” said state Rep. Mark Gundrum of Wisconsin, who helped author a law barring the Department of Correction from using tax dollars for hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery.

“I think the founders of our country when they wrote that clause they were envisioning preventing people from being burned in oil or burned at the stake, not simply refusing to use taxpayer dollars to allow inmates to get a sex- change or breast implants or whatever else,” Gundrum said.

The “Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act” was introduced after Wisconsin inmate Scott Konitzer filed a lawsuit seeking a sex-change operation. The law took effect in January, but is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal.

In Colorado, inmate Christopher “Kitty” Grey, who is serving 16 years to life for molesting an 8-year-old girl, is suing the state to provide him with a gender specialist he hopes will determine that he needs a sex-change operation. The state Department of Corrections is already giving Grey female hormones. Officials say that providing a sex-change operation for Grey or any of the other two dozen transgender inmates in the state’s prisons would create security concerns.

In addition to the cost estimates for sex-change operations are in the $10,000 to $20,000 range prison officials cite the safety risks of housing a male inmate who has been transformed into a female.

During Kosilek’s trial, Massachusetts Correction Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy said that if Kosilek has the surgery, prison officials believe Kosilek could end up being a target of sexual assault in prison.

In Massachusetts, four of the 12 inmates diagnosed with gender identity disorder are receiving hormone shots.

Kosilek has been receiving hormone therapy since a federal judge ruled in 2002 that he was entitled to some treatment for gender identity disorder. Although Judge Mark Wolf did not order a specific treatment plan, he ruled that Kosilek had proven he has a serious medical condition that had not been adequately treated.

After Wolf’s ruling, the DOC allowed Kosilek to receive female hormones and laser hair removal. He was also given access to female undergarments and some makeup.

During testimony this spring in his second lawsuit, Kosilek said the female hormones and other treatments have not been enough to relieve his suffering and said he would likely commit suicide if he does not get the surgery.

Such talk infuriates state Sen. Scott Brown, who points out that most private health insurers do not cover sex-change operations, and says taxpayers should not have to pay for such “elective” surgery for inmates.

“I just think it would be deemed a luxury…. He is in there because he murdered his wife,” Brown said. “There are no luxuries that are supposed to be available.”

But advocates for transgender inmates say that in some cases, sex reassignment surgery is a medical necessity, not a luxury.

Dr. George Brown, a psychiatry professor at East Tennessee State University who has treated hundreds of transgender people, said he believes Kosilek will commit suicide if he does not get a sex-change operation. Kosilek said he has twice tried to kill himself and once tried to castrate himself.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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Gay couple weds in Nepal

By Associated Press

Ceremony marks first same-sex marriage in Nepali society



Anil Mahaju, 25, left, and Diya Kashyap, 21, pose for a photograph after their wedding in Katmandu, on Aug, 26.

KATMANDU, Nepal Cheered by scores of wedding guests, two gay men exchanged garlands of marigold on Aug. 26 in the first public same-sex marriage in tradition-bound Nepali society.

The guests, mostly activists from gay and lesbian rights groups and a few relatives applauded as Anil Mahaju, 25, and Diya Kashyap, 21, exchanged vows in Katmandu, Nepal’s capital.

The marriage, however, will not receive official approval, as Nepalese laws do not recognize same-sex unions, said Suni Pant, who heads the Blue Diamond Society, a non-government organization. There was no Hindu priest present to conduct the marriage.

“They have decided to get the marriage registered but I think they will have to wait for a new constitution that would legitimize same-sex marriages,” Pant said.

Rights groups are hoping a new constitution, currently being prepared by experts, would provide Nepal’s gay and lesbian community with their civil rights.

Although there are no official figures, Pant said there were around 20,000 gay men and 1,000 lesbians in Nepal a country with a population of around 25 million where gay sex is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison under public offense laws.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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AIDS hits new high in Japan

By Chisaki Watanabe – Associated Press

Health Ministry fears infection rate is accelerating,but numbers remain low compared to many other countries.

TOKYO The number of new infections of the AIDS virus in Japan hit a new high of 248 in a three-month period from April to June this year, the Health Ministry said Wednesday, raising fears the country’s infection rate is accelerating.

The increase was the highest since 209 people were infected in the July-September period in 2004, said ministry official Yasuaki Hashimoto.

A ministry statement on the new figures did not specify a cause for the increase, but suggested the wider availability of testing for HIV, the AIDS virus, could account for a marked increase in infections among middle-aged Japanese.

The number of people infected with HIV in Japan 17,000 remains low compared to many other countries. The infection rate in Japan is 1 in 7,529 people, far lower than, for example, the 1-to-110 infection rate in Thailand, according to UNAIDS, a U.N. body.

Although the numbers are small, the rate at which HIV infection has spread in Japan over the past decade is similar to developing countries. Japanese tend to have a low general awareness of the disease.

“We are greatly concerned about the trend,” Hashimoto said, adding that the ministry has been promoting awareness about HIV to the general public and urging health officials to expand hours for HIV tests at clinics.

Some experts also argue that the cases are severely underreported, estimating the actual number of Japanese infected with the AIDS virus, many of them gay men, is two to four times the official toll.

While two-thirds of those newly infected with HIV were people in their 20s and 30s, infections among older people were increasing, according to the ministry’s AIDS Surveillance Committee.

The ratio of those newly infected in their 40s and 50s rose to 31 percent in April-June, up from 22 percent in the previous quarter.

Hashimoto said that the increase in such cases may be due to week long awareness campaigns in June with extended hours for tests making it easier for older people, often in managerial positions, to get tested.

The number of new AIDS patients during the latest period was 106, the second highest since the July-September period in 2004 with 126 cases, the official said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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Trial postponed in St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten The trial of four men accused of attacking two gay American tourists has been postponed so that a victim can return to testify in a St. Maarten court.

In requesting the postponement, prosecutors said Aug. 22 that finances kept Ryan Smith, 25, from traveling to the Caribbean country in time for the trial. Chief prosecutor Taco Stein told The Associated Press on Aug. 23 that his office would help pay for Smith’s return for the trial, which is scheduled to resume Oct. 31.

“The government of St. Maarten has also stated its willingness to assist,” Stein said by telephone. “After all, this case was not good promotion for the island.”

Smith and his friend Richard Jefferson both employees of CBS News in New York were severely beaten as they left a bar April 6 in St. Maarten, the island’s Dutch side.

Smith suffered massive brain damage and was unable to speak properly for months.

Jefferson, 51, whose skull was cracked by a blow from a tire iron, recovered and returned to the island to give authorities his account of the attack, which he called a hate crime. He is not expected to testify in the trial.

The four suspects have been charged with attempted murder and manslaughter. Stein declined to identify them.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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South Africa to send civil union bill to parliament

By Associated Press

New bill provides recognition of domestic partnerships whether same or different sex.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa The South African parliament is expected to approve same-sex marriages later this year, despite opposition from church groups.

The Cabinet on Aug. 23 agreed to send the Civil Unions Bill to parliament.

This follows a Constitutional Court judgment which found that the common law definition of marriage in the Marriage Act of 1961 was unconstitutional because it failed to give the same status, benefits and responsibilities to same-sex unions that marriage accorded to heterosexual couples.

The new bill provides for the recognition of domestic partnerships between adults, whether same or different sex. A cabinet statement issued Aug. 24 said the bill “was likely to generate a lot of public debate but at the end of the day, the decision of the Constitutional Court must be respected by everyone.”

Church leaders have protested against the court ruling and warned they will seek to have the proposals amended during the passage through parliament.

The Marriage Alliance said it is planning a march in seven cities on Sept. 16 to demonstrate against the moves and “protect marriage in its traditional form.”

The alliance said it would lobby Parliament for a constitutional amendment that would ensure that marriage in its traditional form between a man and woman is protected. At the same time the alliance would also call for additional legislation to protect the rights of same-sex couples in permanent relationships.

However, the ruling African National Congress has a huge majority in parliament, which is expected to approve the act before the end of the year.

Homosexuality remains largely taboo throughout Africa and South Africa would become the first country on the continent to legalize same-sex unions.

South Africa recognized the rights of gay people in the constitution adopted after apartheid ended in 1994 the first in the world to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But government previously opposed attempts to extend the definition of marriage in court to include same-sex couples in the mostly Christian country.

Married couples have numerous rights still denied to gay couples, including the ability to make decisions on each other’s behalf in medical emergencies, and inheritance rights if a partner dies without a will.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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World Briefs

By Rex Wockner

1 person in a coma, 1 in critical condition after anti-gay attack in Moscow

A group of young intruders stabbed four gay men in their Moscow apartment on Aug. 23 in what authorities labeled a hate crime, according to RIA Novosti.

The report said one victim is in critical condition and another is in a coma.

Organizers of banned Moscow Pride taking their case to European court

Organizers of Moscow’s first gay pride parade this past May are preparing a European Court of Human Rights case against the Russian Federation.

The small parade downsized to an attempt to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then walk a few blocks for a rally across from City Hall was officially banned by city officials and then attacked by neofascists, skinheads, Christians and riot police.

On Aug. 22, Moscow’s Taganski district court ruled that the city’s Central Administrative District prefecture did not violate any laws in denying gays permission to picket in Lubyanka Square in lieu of marching. Earlier, the Tverskoi district court had upheld the city’s ban on a full-fledged parade.

Pride attorney Dmitri Bartenev called the new ruling “illegal,” saying peaceful pickets are permitted with simple notification to authorities that the action is going to take place.

Pride organizer Nikolai Alekseev said both rulings are being appealed to the Moscow City Court, the final Russian authority on the matter.

“In case our claims are not satisfied in Moscow City Court we will immediately send a complaint against Russian Federation to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg,” Alekseev said.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has said he banned the march because Russia’s “morals are cleaner” than those of “the West.” He called the attempt to lay flowers a “desecration … a provocation [and] a contamination. People burst through and of course they beat them up,” he said.

Chinese government launches gay Web site to combat HIV

China’s government has launched a gay Web site cystd.com.cn to facilitate communication among gay men in hopes of increasing HIV awareness, the Xinhua news agency reported Aug. 21.

“Forum for Comrades” “comrade” is slang for “gay man” is run by the Disease Prevention and Control Center of Beijing’s Chaoyang District.

One chat room is strictly AIDS-related while two others aim at letting gays communicate with each other.

Amnesty International calls on Iraqi authorities to investigate murders of gays

Amnesty International said Aug. 10 that “gay men or men imputed to be gay” are being killed by Iraqi militias and security forces.

“According to a number of media reports, individuals thought to be gay have been singled out, attacked, and in some cases killed because of what the perpetrators consider their “‘immoral behavior,’” the organization said.

“Alleged perpetrators include militias and members of the Iraqi security forces such as the Wold Brigade, a special police unit which reports to Iraq’s Interior Ministry, and which has been accused of other abuses including detention and torture of Palestinian residents in Baghdad.”

Amnesty called on the Iraqi government to “promptly, thoroughly, impartially and independently investigate these killings and to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.”

The organization also urged “all political, religious and community leaders in Iraq to condemn all civilian killings, regardless of the victim’s gender, race, ethnic background, religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity, and to demand that their followers refrain from such killings and respect without discrimination the rights of all Iraqis.”

Executions of children, gays in Iran gets attention of British MPs

Some 138 members of Britain’s House of Commons signed an “early day motion” Aug. 23 condemning Iran’s executions of gay people.

Introduced by out Labour MP Chris Bryant, the motion says: “That this House commemorates the anniversary of the public hanging on 19th July 2005 of two gay teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, in Mashad in Iran; notes that at the time of their alleged crimes the two boys were at most 17 years and possibly younger; further commemorates the hanging in Nekra in northern Iran on 15th August 2004 of a 16-year-old girl, Ateqeh Sahaleh, on charges of un-Islamic behavior; condemns these and all other Iranian executions of under-age minors, which are in direct contravention of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a signatory; notes that as many as 4,000 Iranians have been executed for their homosexuality since the Islamic Revolution in 1979; and calls on Iran to stop its campaign of torture, harassment and ill-treatment against gays and to end all executions of minors.”

The motion was surprising to some observers because international human-rights activists disagree and have argued at length publicly about whether Asgari and Marhoni were hanged for being boyfriends or for raping a boy, as has been claimed by government-influenced Iranian media. Among the organizations that have expressed skepticism over whether the two were executed for being gay are Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

The claim that a total of 4,000 Iranian gays have been executed since the revolution which has been put forth by gay Iranian exiles also is questioned by some activists, who have sought evidence for the assertion. All sides agree that Iran tortures, harasses and mistreats the nation’s gay population.

According to Britain’s Parliamentary Information Management Services, an early day motion “is a motion put down (“‘tabled’) by Members of Parliament calling for a debate on a particular subject.

Editorial assistance provided by Bill Kelley.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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National Briefs

By Staff Reports

Former judge says wife’s lesbian affair led him to take kickbacks

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. A former Roane County judge who pleaded guilty to extortion charges says his wife’s affair with a woman made him distraught and led him to take kickbacks from two driving schools where he sent traffic offenders.

Thomas Austin, 58, a general sessions judge since 1978, who pleaded guilty in March to three counts of extortion, claims his second wife’s affair drove him to force the kickbacks from men he helped pick to head up a traffic school and probation office.

Austin’s wife acknowledged during marital counseling last year to having a yearlong involvement with the woman, according to a memorandum filed by Austin’s attorney Greg Isaacs.

Isaacs said Austin sought medical help for depression and he began drinking heavily despite earlier struggles with alcohol: “All of the charges that are included in this indictment occurred after this difficult and tumultuous period in Mr. Austin’s personal life.”

Austin, who resigned after his arrest in January, faces up to 20 years in prison on the three federal charges and is set to be sentenced Sept. 7. Prosecutors say about four years behind bars is most likely.

Isaacs and Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley have both filed memorandums with U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips prior to the sentencing hearing.

Isaacs says Austin’s admitted extortion was a temporary lapse of judgment in an otherwise stellar career of public service.

Atchley counters, however, that an FBI probe shows Austin used his power to line his own pockets for nearly a decade.

Austin has admitted taking roughly $14,000 in kickbacks in a six-month period in 2005. He was accused of using his position as judge to extort a portion of proceeds from two driving schools in Roane County and a private probation firm.

An affidavit alleges that Austin had been extorting kickbacks for a decade and collected as much as $100,000.

Senate candidate expresses regret over anti-gay columns he wrote in college

U.S. Senate candidate Stephen Laffey of Rhode Island said he regrets that he wrote columns denigrating gays when he was a college student.

Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, acknowledged writing the columns in a story published Aug. 26 in the Providence Journal.

The paper reported that it received copies of the columns anonymously in the mail earlier in the week.

Laffey, 44, running a closely watched race against moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, said whoever sent the articles wanted to smear him before the Sept. 12 primary. He called the writings “sophomoric political satire” and said they do not represent his views.

“Do I regret some of these things? Sure,” he said. “But at the time, we were just having fun. We thought it was funny.”

The Republican candidate wrote them in 1983 and 1984 while studying at Bowdoin College in Maine. The articles appeared in a paper published by campus Republicans.

In one column, Laffey said he has never seen a happy gay person.

“This is not to say there aren’t any; I simply haven’t seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet,” he wrote. “All the homosexuals I’ve seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life.”

In another column he wrote that pop music was turning the children of America into sissies, and criticized the singer Boy George, referring to him as “it.”

“It wears girl’s clothes and puts on makeup,” he wrote. “When I hear it sing, “‘Do you really want to hurt me, do you really want to make me cry,’ I say to myself, YES, I want to punch your lights out, pal, and break your ribs.”

Polls have shown Laffey and Chafee running neck-and-neck in a race that has gained national attention.

The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democratic former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse in the November election.

Harris in hot water over comments denying separation of church and state

U.S. Congress-woman Katherine Harris of Florida told a religious journal that separation of church and state is “a lie” and God and America’s founding fathers did not intend the country to be “a nation of secular laws.”

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will “legislate sin,” including abortion and gay marriage.

Harris made the comments in the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, which interviewed political candidates and asked them about religion and their positions on issues.

Separation of church and state is “a lie we have been told,” Harris said in the interview, saying separating religion and politics is “wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers.”

“If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin,” Harris said.

Her comments drew criticism, including some from fellow Republicans who called them offensive and not representative of the party.

Harris’ campaign released a statement Aug. 26 saying she had been “speaking to a Christian audience, addressing a common misperception that people of faith should not be actively involved in government.”

The comments reflected “her deep grounding in Judeo-Christian values,” the statement said, adding that Harris had previously supported pro-Israel legislation and legislation recognizing the Holocaust.

Rainbow Festival organizers in Sacramento prepare for protests from evangelicals

Sacramento’s gay and lesbian Rainbow Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend, but organizers are concerned the event will be picketed by Slavic evangelical Christians, whose anti-gay protests around the capital have increased in size and intensity recently, according to a report published Wednesday in the Santa Rosa Democrat.

Michael Johnson, the festival’s executive director, said organizers had met with Sacramento Police Chief Albert Najera last week to strategize, and that they had “taken steps necessary for our patrons to be safe.”

A spokesman for Bethany Slavic Missionary Church, the area’s largest congregation of Slavic Christians, said he was not aware of any plans to mount a protest at the festival, the Press Democrat reported.

U.S. soldiers use “‘South Park’ movie to “‘entertain’ deposed Iraqi leader Hussein

U.S. Marines guarding deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein have been using repeated screenings of the movie “South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut” to taunt Hussein, according to a report published this week in Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Hussein, now on trial in Iraq on charges of mass murder for killing ethnic Kurds in his own country, is lampooned in the film as a gay nymphomaniac in love with Satan.

The animated film was banned in Iraq when it was released seven years ago.

Police department’s use of anti-gay psychologist prompts inquiry

Minneapolis interim police chief Tim Dolan has ordered an inquiry into his department’s use of psychologist Michael A. Campion, who has been tied to a group that opposes LGBT civil rights and gay marriage and endorses the ex-gay movement, according to a report published this week by 365Gay.com
Campion has been used by the Minneapolis Police Department for more than a year to screen prospective police officers. Campion also has worked for departments in more than 100 cities over the past 30 years.

His involvement with the Illinois Family Institute was brought to Dolan’s attention at a recent meeting with the Police Community Relations Council when it was learned that Campion had made negative comments about single parents.

The Illinois Family Institute is the main backer of a group that is in federal court trying to get a referendum to push the legislature to set in motion a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

In 2003 nine people who were denied jobs with the Springfield, Ill., Fire Department sued the city claiming they were unfairly disqualified by either background checks or Campion’s psychological evaluation.

A judge dismissed the suit, but Springfield City Council declined renew to Campion’s contract.

High-profile professor to leave university over domestic partner benefits

Rob Carpick, associate professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has announced he will leave the school at the end of the year to work for the University of Pennsylvania because the Pennsylvania school offers domestic partner benefits and UW-M does not.

Carpick is a promising researcher who has received $3.4 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, branches of the U.S. military and private companies since 2000.

Tucson mayor, wife announce opposition to anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative

Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup and his wife, Beth Walkup, have announced their opposition to Proposition 107, an initiative on the November ballot in Arizona that would, opponents say, cause cities such as Tucson and Phoenix to lose domestic partner benefits they already offer to same- and opposite-sex unmarried couples.

“Tucson has a strong history of local governance. We decided that we wanted a domestic partner registry for those people who need it. What we don’t need is a group in Phoenix dictating to us how to operate our affairs,” Mayor Walkup said.

His wife added, “I’ve been in the business community for years in Tucson, and I don’t think we should look favorably on an initiative that could undermine business choices about which benefits to offer to our employees. Further, we should be wary of any initiative which has proven in other states to lead to long, drawn-out court battles, thus potentially making it more difficult to do business in Arizona.”

In 2003, Tucson became the first municipality in Arizona to offer a domestic partner registry. By June this year, 438 couples have registered. Three of those couples were unmarried retired couples who are among the 10 couples that have filed a lawsuit against Proposition 107.

Proposition 107 would prohibit the state or any of its political subdivisions from creating or recognizing any legal status similar to marriage for unmarried couples.

Kyrsten Sinema, chair of Arizona Together, a coalition formed to oppose Proposition 107, said that the Walkups join Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Peter Likins, former president of the University of Arizona, in opposing the initiative.

Gay executive, former Giuliani aide found murdered in his own bed

Martin Barreto, 49, a prominent gay public relations executive in New York and a former aide to then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was found strangled to death Aug. 21 in his bed in his Greenwich Village apartment.

News reports said the doorman and superintendent of the building found Barreto naked, with KY jelly and a condom next to his body, after Barreto’s business partner became worried when he failed to answer his phone or arrive at work.

Police said they were looking for two unidentified men seen at the apartment the previous Saturday night.

California Senate passes bill addressing “‘panic defense’ in criminal trials

The California Senate passed the “Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act” on Wednesday, sending the measure to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his consideration.

The bill, authored by Assemblymember Sally Lieber, a Democrat and sponsored by Equality California, directs the Office of Emergency Services to create training materials for district attorneys on the use of bias-motivated defense strategies in criminal trials.

The measure also requires the Judicial Council to adopt a jury instruction telling jurors not to consider bias against people because of sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors in rendering a verdict.

The bill was named in honor of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teen murdered in Newark, Calif., in 2002. Araujo was beaten to death by four men she met at a party who had discovered she was transgender.

Womyn’s Music Festival organizers continue to insist trans women should not attend

Organizers of Camp Trans, an annual gathering of people dedicated to promoting inclusion of all women at women-only events, last week celebrated the end of what they saw as an “anachronistic, divisive policy” that prohibited transgender women from attending the annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival after an openly transgender woman was allowed to purchase a ticket.

The celebration was short-lived, however, as management of We Want the Music Company, the corporation that runs the music festival, later issued a press release affirming their belief that transgender women should not attend the event.

Lisa Vogel, spokeswoman for We Want the Music Company, said in a written press release that the festival box office will now sell tickets to transgender woman ending a 15-year-old ban on such ticket sales but that the only people welcome at the event are “womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn.”

Vogel added, “If a transwoman purchased a ticket, it represents nothing more than that woman choosing to disrespect the stated intention of this festival.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said it is “just sad to see this company continuing to police the validity of women’s identities and experiences . We expect better of those who should know the pain of oppression.”

California Legislature approves bias-free curriculum measure

The California Legislature on Tuesday passed the Bias-Free Curriculum Act, authored by lesbian Senator Sheila Kuhl, that would extend existing laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, nationality and religion in textbooks, instructional materials and school-sponsored activities to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The measure was sponsored by Equality California.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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Presents accounted for

By Libby Post Lesbian Notions

“I got you a present,” my partner, Lynn, told me as she took a large, wrapped item from the back of her Subaru.

My birthday wasn’t for another six months, and I hadn’t done anything really remarkable lately, so I was a bit surprised. Not that we don’t give each other little gifts from time to time, but this was big.

I opened it to find a great photo of the Twin Towers with the historic replica ship the “Half Moon” docked right before them. The “Half Moon” was the ship Hendrick Hudson used to sail up the yet-to-be named Hudson River back in the 1600s when he stumbled upon the city I now call home, Albany, N.Y.

I immediately assumed I got the significance of the photo the old world meets the new, progress, growth, industrialism, the glory of capitalism.

Then Lynn told me the real reason she got it for me: “This was taken on Sept. 10 the day before 9/11.”

Talk about capturing a moment in history.

All the memories of that day five years ago came flooding back: Crying with my colleagues at the enormity of the devastation we were seeing on the tiny 13-inch TV we had in the office. E-mailing a friend who worked at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, finding him safe but dazed, and saying that Fifth Avenue and 42 Street, the view from his office window, was pretty much deserted.

When I got home that day, all Lynn and I could do was hold each other and watch the news. The country, our country, was attacked by foreign terrorists hell-bent on killing us because we were Americans.

We cried as we watched one of the few true moments of bi-partisanship of the Bush II years both houses of Congress standing together on the steps of the Capitol singing “God Bless America.”

I even remember finding solace in the president’s speech probably his first and last good one.

No sooner had the feeling settled in that LGBT people were Americans just like everyone else grieving the loss of life than it gave way just like the steel girders of the Trade Center.

First, Jerry Falwell put the blame for 9/11 squarely at our feet. On “The 700 Club,” he told his evangelist buddy Pat Robertson’s TV audience, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, “‘You helped this happen.’”

Sure, he later apologized, but only after his words reinforced the homophobia of his radical Christian right cohorts.

Then, the stories about the lesbians and gay men who perished started to surface.

The most famous names are Father Mychal Judge, the gay New York City Fire Department chaplain who was killed while caring for a firefighter at Ground Zero, and Mark Bingham, the 31-year old gay man who helped to bring down United Airlines Flight 93 before it hit its intended target, the White House.

Of course, there were others, close to two dozen who were known to be gay or lesbian, and probably many more who weren’t out.

But the stories that underscored how LGBT people were second-class citizens even in the face of this national tragedy were the hoops the partners of those who died had to jump through to get the benefits that were quickly given to heterosexual survivors such as spouses and fiances.

Instead, we had to lobby and guilt-trip federal and state officials to treat us with a modicum of respect and equality.

Five years after 9/11, the federal Pension Protection Act which extends two crucial financial protections to same-sex couples who want to leave their retirement savings to nonheterosexual spouse beneficiaries was finally signed into law.

The first provision allows the transfer of an individual’s retirement plan benefits to a domestic partner or other nonspouse beneficiary (sibling, parent, child, etc.) when the individual dies, without incurring the massive tax liabilities we had before.

The second allows gay couples (and others with nonspouse, nondependent beneficiaries) similar access to laws that permit people to draw on their retirement funds in case of a qualifying medical or financial emergency. In the past, only straight, heterosexual couples or their dependents could do this.

I can’t help but think this bill is President Bush’s little present to Republicans in marginal districts targeted by Democrats in the midterm elections, to show that the GOP really isn’t as bad as we think.

Give yourself a present: Make sure your paperwork is in order to take advantage of the new law.

But don’t for a minute believe the Republicans have changed their tune. They may have sung “God Bless America,” but their America still doesn’t include us.

Libby Post is a political commentator on public radio, on the Web and in print.

E-mail LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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Letters

Against male circumcision to slow AIDS

I was disgusted to read that scientists at the AIDS conference in Toronto actually have advocated male genital mutilation as a means to slow the AIDS epidemic (“Male circumcision could be a tool in prevention of HIV,” Dallas Voice, Aug. 25). To hear one of those scientists a woman, no less state that researchers are “excited” about this procedure is equally repulsive.

By their own admission, the conference attendees realize this is not a final solution to the AIDS crisis. Yet, these are the same experts who have railed against female genital mutilation, honor killings and other crimes against women in this same part of the world.

While it may be politically correct to butcher infant males for the sake of protecting women in the future, it’s simply misguided and asinine. You don’t harm or kill one group of people to safeguard another.

Uncircumcised penises are not spreading the AIDS virus; unprotected and casual sex, coupled with inadequate health care systems and blatant ignorance, are the culprits. The AIDS epidemic in impoverished nations will slow only with education about its causes and transmission, better health care and the empowerment of women. Violence whether ritualistic or spontaneous never solves anything.

Alejandro De La Garza

Dallas

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 25, 2006.

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