National briefs

Posted on 20 Apr 2006 at 8:00pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

California Supreme Court refuses to review domestic partner challenge
The California Supreme Court on April 12 refused to review a lower court ruling upholding the state’s domestic partnership law.

The Third District Court of Appeals had issued a ruling in January that upheld two domestic partnership statutes, including the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act that provides hundreds of legal protections for same-sex couples and their families, but falls short of allowing same-sex couples to file joint tax returns or have access to more than 1,000 federal protections given to married straight couples.

Equality California, a GLBT rights organization, had intervened as a defendant in the case filed by the Campaign for California Families. After the Supreme Court refused to review the case, Geoffrey Kors, Equality California’s executive director, said, “Tens of thousands of California families feel safer today now that the attack on their rights by the Campaign for California Families has failed.”

But, he added, “These families will never be truly safe until full marriage equality is achieved.”

Julia Pell, 52, gay-rights activist, senator’s daughter, dies of cancer
Julia Pell, 52, a GLBT rights activists since the early 1990s and the youngest child of former U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, died of lung cancer on April 13 at Newport Hospital.

Pell, known as “Julie,” came out as a lesbian in the 1980s in a letter to the Newport Daily News and later in an interview with The Journal. After doing so, she was vilified by anti-gay bigots and received many threatening letters
Pell had worked behind the scenes on her father’s campaigns for years. But after coming out, she moved into the spotlight in her work as a gay rights activist. She became president of the Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and worked diligently on behalf of the state law that bans discrimination against gays in housing, employment, public accommodations and credit.

She was a fixture at the State House, often accompanied by her partner, Julie Smith, of Middletown. Her mother, Nuala Pell, also went with her to help her lobby on many occasions.

In 1993, shortly after his daughter came out publicly, Senator Pell took to the floor of the U.S. Senate during a debate over an openly gay Clinton administration nominee to be head of the fair housing and equal opportunity office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

One of the highlights of Julie Pell’s activist career came in 1995 when Rhode Island’s gay rights bill passed the General Assembly.
Pell was a graduate of the University of Rhode Island. She served on the boards of the Newport Museum, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Potter League for Animals.

She was diagnosed with cancer last year.

Besides her partner, Pell is survived by her stepdaughter, Elise McCaffrey, of Middletown; her parents, Claiborne and Nuala Pell, of Newport; her brother, Toby, and sister-in-law, Janet Pell, of Newport; her sister, Dallas Pell, of New York City; her nephews, Nicholas Pell of Boston and Clay Pell of Washington, D.C.; and her nieces, Dr. Tripler Pell of Toronto and Christina Randall of Memphis, Tenn.

A memorial service was held on Wednesday.

Evangelical Network plans annual conference in May
The Evangelical Network, an organization ministering to GLBT people and helping them overcome abuse by organized religion, will hold its annual conference May 4-7 at Glenstone Lodge in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Evangelical Network is comprised of churches, ministers and Christian workers from around the world. The organization supports GLBT rights, including same-sex marriage.

The theme for the conference is “Fully Persuaded,” and the event will focus on understanding that the Bible does not condemn GLBT people, and on exploring relationships, recovery, extreme faith and building bridges between gay and non-gay churches.

The conference is open to the public. Registration is $95. For more information or to register online, go to www.t-e-n.org.

Human Rights Council calls for Palm Beach school board chair’s resignation
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, has demanded that Tom Lynch resign his position as chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board after Lynch used the phrase “protected species” to describe GLBT people.

Lynch was referring to a school district policy protecting students from harassment and discrimination during a public meeting on April 5 when he said, “When we added other protected classes about a year ago, I voted against it and my premise was that we do not have a policy and procedure in place. We were assured that we were going to set up difference procedures about bullying and harassment. Our counsel at the time said we had to do it because we have added a protected species.”

When asked by board member Debra Robinson to clarify what he meant by “protected classes” and the word “species,” Lynch said, “We added sexual orientation.”

Rand Hoch, founder of the Human Rights Council, sent Lynch an e-mail the following day, explaining that whether it was intentional or not, Lynch’s comment was dehumanizing to GLBT people and asking for an apology.

Lynch later told one newspaper he had received no request for an apology, and another newspaper that he did not recall making the statement.

Lynch later acknowledged to a third newspaper that he had made the statement and would respond. But he never issued an apology.

Task Force to honor Feingold, Conyers, Proulx at Leadership Awards
The National Gay and Lesbian Task will honor U.S. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, U.S. Representative John Conyers of Michigan, Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx and the organization Food and Friends during the 17th annual D.C. Leadership Awards on May 6.

The Leadership Awards are designed to pay tribute to people and organizations that fight for GLBT equality through their leadership, advocacy and action.

Feingold, a Demo-crat, announced earlier this month that he supports full marriage rights for same-sex couples. Conyers, also a Democrat and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, introduced a bill proposing explicit transgender-inclusive hate crimes protections and led the successful effort to get it passed in the House.

Proulx is the author of the short story “Broke-back Mountain,” the inspiration behind the critically-acclaimed movie of the same name that depicts a love affair between two cowboys.

Food and Friends prepares, packages and delivers meals and groceries to people living with HIV and other chronic and terminal illnesses in the Washing-ton, D.C. area.

The awards ceremony will be held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. General admission tickets are $250 and VIP tickets are $350.

For more information visit www.thetaskforce.org/dcla2006.

Key West Gay, Lesbian Community Center announces PrideFest Key West
PrideFest Key West, presented by the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Key West, is set for June 3-11.

The event schedule includes a performance by lesbian comedian Vickie Shaw, tours of unique island homes, the Mr., Ms. and Miss PrideFest contests, dances, parties, a street fair, a Rainbow Tea Dance and a parade down Duval Street.

PrideFest Key West is a fundraiser for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. For a complete schedule of events or for more information, go online to www.pridefestkeywest.com. For information about accommodations in Key West visit www.gaykeywestfla.com or www.fla-keys.com.

Scott, Toole receive National Legion of Honor award at American University
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Resource Center of American University in Washington, D.C., presented the fourth annual Richard L. Schlegel National Legion of Honor Award to GLBT activists Gunner Scott and Jay Toole on Tuesday.

Scott is director of organizing and education at The Network/La Red: Ending Abuse in Lesbian, Bisexual Women’s and Trans-gender Communities. He is also treasurer for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and focuses his advocacy on issues of equal access to affordable and safe housing and shelter, especially for GLBT survivors of partner abuse and for low-income transgender people.

Scott is a trainer for law enforcement, policy makers, healthcare workers and service providers on GLBT issues, and is also creator of Gender Crash, an open mike night for transgender and genderqueer performers.

Toole is an advocate for homeless GLBT people, using her own experience of battling addiction for 37 years and being homeless for 25 years. After getting clean and sober, Toole co-founded Queers for Economic Justice, and she is founder of the GLBT homeless group within the New York City shelter system. She is currently shelter organizer for Queers for Economic Justice and volunteer shelter monitor for the Coalition for the Homeless.

The award is named after Richard L. Schlegel, an American University alumnus who was the plaintiff in a case of employment discrimination that was appealed to the Supreme Court during the 1960s after he was fired from a federal government position. Schlegel funded the awards.

Schlegel died in February at the age of 79. Activist Frank Kameny, who helped Schlegel with this case, spoke at the awards ceremony.

Task Force to honor NYC Council speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning author
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force honored New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham at its 17th Annual Leadership Awards.

Quinn is the nation’s most powerful openly lesbian or gay official. and Cunningham is author of “The Hours,” which was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Merylt Streep.

Also receiving honors were former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, celebrated comedian Kate Clinton and performer Billy Porter.

The ceremony was held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in midtown Manhattan on Thursday.

The Leadership Awards are designed to acknowledge leaders in the GLBT community and the GLBT equal rights movement, and to raise funds to continue the work of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

The Task Force is the nation’s leading advocacy organization dedicated to building lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political power from the ground up, according to officials.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 21, 2006.

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