National Briefs

Posted on 27 Jul 2006 at 7:15pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Philadelphia tells Scouts to end anti-gay discrimination or prepare to pay rent

PHILADELPHIA The city said it will evict a Boy Scout council from its publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay a fair rent price unless it changes its policy on gays.

The Boy Scouts’ Cradle of Liberty Council, the country’s third-largest, has been battling with the city for more than three years over the policy, which like the national Scouts organization forbids gays from being leaders.

City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. wrote a letter to William T. Dwyer III, president of the Cradle of Liberty Council, stating that the council’s “discriminatory policies” violate city policy and law, and that city officials have not been assured the group will not discriminate.

Unless the city gets a “fair-market rent agreement,” the council will be evicted, the letter says.

Stacey Sobel, executive director of Philadelphia’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, said she’s pleased the city is taking action. “If they are going to discriminate, the taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing it,” Sobel said.

Soulforce rallies outside Focus on the Family headquarters

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. In separate tents 100 yards apart, leaders of Focus on the Family and of Soulforce gave opposing messages on homosexuality on July 22, but they didn’t speak to each other.

Soulforce, which advocates parental rights for gays and lesbians, held a concert outside Focus on the Family headquarters, one day after the end of a five-day march from Denver to Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs.
Soulforce said the rally was to protest the Christian ministry group’s stand on homosexuality.

Focus on the Family officials advocated compassion for the marchers but defended their belief that a family must be headed by a man and woman.

Several hundred Soulforce members listened to music and formed a human chain in front of the Focus campus.

“It’s less about…trying to change their minds and more to show them the families they impact,” said Ryan Acker, advocacy director for the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Center.

Actor Chad Allen and the mother of slain University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was gay, spoke at the Soulforce concert.

Romney abolishes commission on gay, lesbian youth after lawmakers override veto

BOSTON Gov. Mitt Romney issued an executive order on July 21 abolishing the state’s 14-year-old governor’s commission on gay and lesbian youth after lawmakers overrode his veto of a bill creating a new commission out of the reach of the governor’s office.

A spokesman for Romney said he issued the executive order because there was no need for two commissions both focused on the needs of gay and lesbian youth.

Romney angered many gay rights activists and lawmakers when he flirted with the idea earlier this year of abolishing the commission, the first of its kind in the nation.

The bill approved by lawmakers over Romney’s veto would create a new commission, none of whose members would be directly appointed by the governor.

One of the main goals of the commission would be to create “school-based and community-based programs focusing on suicide prevention, violence intervention and the promotion of zero-tolerance policies regarding harassment and discrimination against gay and lesbian youth.”

New Rhode Island civil rights advocate files first complaint

PROVIDENCE, R.I. A woman is accused of making anti-gay comments to a neighbor with AIDS in the first complaint filed by a new civil rights advocate in the state attorney general’s office.

The Office of the Civil Rights Advocate was established under a bill proposed by Attorney General Patrick Lynch and passed last year by the General Assembly.

The newly appointed civil-rights advocate, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Palombo, is responsible for targeting civil rights violations and will also be educating police officers and students.

A civil complaint filed by the attorney general’s office accuses Theresa Deschenes, of Warren, of violating the rights of neighbor Kenneth Potts by using anti-gay epithets and threatening him with violence.

The office says Deschenes violated Potts’ rights under the Rhode Island Fair Housing Practices Act, which guarantees equals housing opportunities regardless of sexual orientation. Violations carry punishments of up to $5,000.

HIV-positive man claiming discrimination by software giant SAS

CARY, N.C. SAS, the world’s largest privately held software company, has built a sterling reputation as a workplace with onsite child care, flexible scheduling, even unlimited M&M candy. Turnover has been less than 5 percent, one of the most stable in its industry.

But Louis DuPree sees a very different SAS.

Since July 11, the 3-D designer has been picketing by the main gate of the SAS complex in Cary. DuPree claims the company is firing him because he complained of harassment by his manager and because he has HIV, which would be costly to SAS in coming years.

According to SAS, DuPree’s job was one of fewer than 100 positions cut recently as the company consolidates two marketing divisions. Those workers will remain on the payroll until mid-September.

Westboro Baptist files lawsuit challenging Missouri law banning protests at funerals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas church known for its rabidly anti-gay stances and its protests at military funerals, has filed suit in federal court, claiming a Missouri law banning such picketing infringed on religious freedom and free speech.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit July 21 in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City on behalf of the church, which has outraged mourning communities by showing up at soldiers’ funerals with anti-gay signs.

The church and its leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps, claim God is allowing soldiers, coal miners and others to be killed because the United States tolerates gays and lesbians.

Point Foundation names Valenci as new executive director

Officials with the Point Foundation announced this week that Jorge Valencia has been appointed as executive director of the organization.

The Point Foundation provides financial support and mentoring to students who have been marginalized because of their sexual orientation.

Valencia has been executive director of The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that operates the county’s only around-the-clock suicide prevention helpline for gay and questioning youth, since 2001. He will take over as executive director of the Point Foundation on Jan. 2.

HRC launches new online resource on courts, coming out guide

The Human Rights Campaign has announced the launch of a new online resource Web site, “Justice For All: The Importance of a Fair and Balanced Judiciary to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community.”

The Web site www.hrc.org/justice is funded by a grant from the Open Society Institute and is intended to educate visitors on why fair-minded judges are important in the GLBT civil rights struggle. The site also includes a way to sign up to receive e-mail newsletters, regularly updated information on attacks on the courts, interactive games and information about the educational resources under development.

The organization also announced the release of its newly updated “Resource Guide to Coming Out,” complete with resources on coming out at work, coming out politically and coming out to your health care provider.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, July 28, 2006.

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