NATIONAL BRIEFS

Posted on 29 Dec 2005 at 9:36pm
By Associated Press

California group abandons effort to put gay marriage ban on ballot
One of two groups competing to put a gay marriage ban before California voters in 2006 has bowed out of the fight for now, saying the timing and political climate are not right to get such a measure passed.
The deadline for ProtectMarriage.com to submit the signatures needed to qualify for the June primary ballot was Dec. 27. The group was presenting one of two proposed overlapping initiatives that would outlaw same-sex marriage and restrict domestic partnership rights.
Andrew Pugno, the group’s legal adviser, said the signature drive had fallen about 200,000 voters short of the 591,105 required signatures.
Pugno said factors in the group’s decision included the difficulty of raising money in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the dimming prospect that the California Legislature will reconsider a bill legalizing gay marriage next year and a lawsuit on the issue that is not expected to reach the state Supreme Court until late 2006.
“It boils down to a recognition that a ballot fight isn’t likely until 2008,” Pugno said. “This doesn’t resolve the issue by any means. It merely delays the resolution.”
VoteYesMarriage.com, the other group seeking to have California join 18 other states that have amended their constitutions to ban gay marriage, has not abandoned the hope of qualifying an initiative for next November, said organizer Randy Thomasson.
However, the group has postponed launching its petition drive while raising money to hire professional signature-gatherers, he said.
“Whether for 2006 or 2008, VoteYesMarriage.com is devoted to giving the people the chance to protect marriage from the clutches of bureaucracy,” Thomasson said.
A rift among conservatives led to two groups promoting dueling gay marriage bans while publicly sniping over which proposal was better. The dispute was centered over how far the anti-gay marriage camp should go in attempting to repeal the signficant spousal rights domestic partaners are now granted in California.
Last summer, California’s Legislature passed a bill legalizing gay marriage, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it.

Eagle Scout convicted of murdering gay man ponders appeal of sentence
A former Eagle Scout convicted in Wisconsin of killing a gay man to see if he could get away with it is still mulling an appeal.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals on Dec. 23 agreed to extend Gary Hirte’s deadline for filing a notice of appeal or a post-conviction motion to Feb. 10. He was sentenced to life in prison in March after a jury decided he shot and stabbed substitute teacher Glenn Kopitske at the teacher’s home in August 2003.
Hirte, who was 17 at the time of the murder, claimed a drunken homosexual encounter with Kopitske sent him into a murderous rage.
Hirte was a track, football and wrestling star and a straight-A student at Weyewauga-Fremont High School. Winnebago County prosecutors said he killed the teacher because he wanted to know how it felt to kill someone and to see if he could get away with it.

Iowa Klan group plans to rally against effort to legalize same-sex marriage
The head of a northern Iowa Ku Klux Kan group is organizing a rally next month to protest attempts to legalize same-sex marriages in the state.
Douglas Sadler, 41, the imperial klailiff of the region’s Klan, said his group is unhappy with lawsuits filed on behalf of six gay couples this month to alter the state’s marriage laws.
“We don’t believe God’s law should be perverted any more than it already has been,” said Sadler, a Charles City resident and father of four. “The further we go away from God’s law, the further we get away from God.”
Sadler said his group will head to Des Moines next month and spread their message.
“We don’t believe they have the right to marry,” Sadler said. “In fact, we don’t think they have the right to exist.”

Los Angeles police to seek new recruits at Chicago’s Gay Games
When the Gay Games open in Chicago next summer, the Los Angeles Police Department will be in town looking for a few good recruits.
The department’s aggressive strategy to fill 400 newly created jobs will include offering a written test during the games, the officials said.
“Our overall crime rate is down, but we have areas of the city that it is not down enough,” said Bruce Whidden, a spokesman for the police department. “In order to take care of some hot spots, we need to grow the department.”
The starting salary to be offered is $52,000 to $55,000.
The Los Angeles Police Department is a cosponsor of the Gay Games VII, scheduled for July in Chicago. Organizers say the week long Olympics-style games could draw 12,000 particpants from 70 countries and more than 50,000 spectators.
Los Angeles police will march in open ceremonies at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, along with members of the city’s team.
“It demonstrates the department’s commitment to diversity,” said Kevin Boyer, an official with Chicago Games, Inc., the local nonprofit group putting on the event.

Kansas school district ordered to pay bullied student $440,000 in damages
A small town teenager who bullied for years by classmates because they thought he was gay was awarded $440,000 in a court-ordered settlement, his lawyer said.
The settlement Dec. 22 ended a long running battle between the Tonganoxie School District and 18-year-old Dylan Theno, who sued in May 2004, claiming he was harassed with homophobic slurs from seventh grade until he quit school his junior year.
“I expect this case will have profound effects nationwide in dealing with with schoolyard bullying and harassment,” said Arthur Benson, the teenager’s lawyer. “Insurance companies will have a very powerful economic incentive to see that districts’ anti-harassment polices are aggressive and effective.”
A federal jury in August had found in Theno’s favor, but the district appealed and a judge ordered a federal mediator to settle the dispute.
Theno said he is not gay.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of December 30, 2005.

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