National Briefs

Posted on 26 Jan 2006 at 2:52pm

Metro Transit changes stance on driver’s opposition to buses with gay ads

MINNEAPOLIS Metro Transit said Oct. 20 that it inadvertently sent the wrong message about tolerance in trying to accommodate a bus driver’s religious objections to driving buses that carried gay-themed ads.

Metro Transit spokesman Bob Gibbons said the company made a temporary accommodation to the driver on Oct. 12, allowing her to not drive buses that carried an ad for Lavender, a local magazine aimed at the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

The ad showed the face of a young man with the slogan, “Unleash Your Inner Gay.” Fifty buses carried it periodically.

The ad contract ran only through Oct. 18, Gibbons said, and buses no longer are carrying the ads.

However, in reviewing the issue, Gibbons said the company likely would not make the same decision again.

“We are not persuaded that advertising, per se, infringes on religious practices and would be reluctant to make similar accommodations in the future,” Gibbons said.

The woman is still driving for Metro Transit, he added.

Metro Transit had come under fire from a union leader and some other drivers, who said the company was condoning intolerance.

“We deeply regret any impressions of intolerance,” Gibbons said in a written statement. “Metro Transit employs and serves a diverse population, and we do our best to be respectful of all views.”

The bus controversy followed news of many Muslim taxi drivers serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport refusing to accept passengers carrying alcohol and some pharmacists across the country insisting on the right to refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions.

Teacher criticizes move to omit language protecting gay students from handbook

OKLAHOMA CITY A high school teacher says Oklahoma City Public Schools administrators are “nuts” for removing from the student handbook language that he pushed for to protect gay students from bullying and discrimination.

“They are telling students, “‘We were thinking of protecting you, but we changed our mind.’ Student safety should be paramount,” said Joe Quigley, a teacher at Northwest Classen High School.

Quigley served on a revision committee that came up with the language.

It was posted Oct. 18 on the district’s Web site as part of the student-parent handbook. But school officials took the handbook off the Web site the next day, saying the policy hadn’t been approved by the school board.

“The language in the handbook has to be consistent with board-approved policy language,” said district spokeswoman Sherry Fair. “The book was not reviewed well enough before we posted it and sent it to the printers.”

Fair said the handbook had not gone to press but is scheduled to be printed later this month and will not include the language protecting students from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Quigley said a letter he received from Superintendent Bob Moore in 2003 states, in part, “Our bullying regulation protects gay, bisexual and transgender students who may be the victims of name calling and violence because of their sexual orientation.”

Quigley said Moore’s letter doesn’t match what the district is claiming now.

“Either the superintendent lied in 2003 and the district never corrected that lie, or they’re lying now,” Quigley said.

Fair said the district’s bullying and discrimination policies cover all students. Groups that are specifically mentioned as protected by the policy race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin and gender are required by federal law to be mentioned in such policies.

“Other than that, our language is inclusive of all children and employees,” Fair said.

Undercover cops in New York “‘playing gay’ arrest man who threatened, harassed them

Two New York City police officers on Monday arrested a man who, they say, threatened and harassed them because he thought they were gay, according to a report published on Advocate.com this week.

The two officers were sitting on a bench in Union Square Park when Tyrone George, 20, approached them, yelling that he hated “homos” and “faggots,” and then made a rude hand gesture at one of the officers.

George later returned and continued yelling at and insulting the two men before threatening to attack. He also spit on one officer’s foot, reports said.

Police said the officers were in the park primarily to curb violence from gangs and students from a nearby high school and the Union Square subway station. But they purposefully exaggerated their relationship by snuggling, reports said.

Center for Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military renamed in honor of Palm

The Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara has been renamed in honor of philanthropist and activist Michael D. Palm, the center’s director, Professor Aaron Belkin.

The name change also “reflect[s] the generous support [of the center] given by his [Palm's] foundation in the form of a $1 million donation,” Belkin said.

Although the center is changing its name, the think tank will continue to focus on studies surrounding sexual minorities in the military and is considering expanding its data-driven focus on topics in the public policy realm, Belkin said.

A special ceremony was held Monday to celebrate the name change.

NJ Lesbian and Gay Coalition, Personal Liberty Fund hold 18th Honor Awards

The New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition and the Personal Liberty Fund will present the 18th annual Honor Awards on Nov. 4 at the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway.

The Honor Awards recognize individuals in New Jersey who “do their part in advancing the rights of LGBTI citizens within the state,” officials said.

This year’s Honor Awards will be presented to Staci L. Andree and her partner, Laurel A. Hester, Donna Cartwright, Catherine Hecht, Joe D’Andrea; Peter Frycki and Mickey Suiter.

In addition, Leslie Farber will be presented with the Legal Pioneer Award for her “consistent and longtime dedication to promoting civil rights in the LGBTI community,” and J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo will be presented with the D. Bennett Mazur Award in recognition of his commitment top fighting for LGBTI civil rights while he was director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.

Weill resigning position as executive director of DignityUSA

Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, has announced that the organization’s executive director has resigned, effective Oct. 8, upon mutual agreement with the DignityUSA board.

DignityUSA is an organization for LGBT Catholics and their families and friends,

“We are grateful for Debbie’s service to DignityUSA and her commitment to the goals of equality and inclusion for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics in the church and in society,” Sinnett said.

Sinnett said operations at the national office will continue for now with the current staff, as the board and executive committee consider strategic priorities and staffing options.

Advocacy organization for transgenders releases voters guide for Nov. 7 election

The National Center for Transgender Equality has released a new voters guide designed to educate and empower transgender voters about their rights to access the polls, center officials have announced.

The new voters guide is “particularly urgent given the recent passage of several bills around the country that would require all voters to show government-issued IDs at the polls,” officials said.

“The ID requirement is of tremendous concern to many, especially for transgender voters who may have ID that does not match in name or current gender expression.”

The guide includes information and resources to help individuals overcome voting barriers related to gender identity and expression, as well as other common obstacles such as racial or ethnic discrimination, felony disentrancement, homelessness, language barriers, college voter barriers and limited disability access, officials said.

The complete guide is available online at www.ntcequality.orgvoting%20guide.pdf.

NGLTF to honor 6 activists with Creating Change Awards at conference

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will honor six activists at the 19th annual Creating Change Conference Nov. 8-12 in Kansas City, Mo. The six are being recognized for their efforts to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Those being honored are gay rights pioneer Franklin Kameny; Wick Thomas who co-founded the first Gay-Straight Alliance at Paola High School in Paola, Kan.; Eli Clare a disabled, genderqueer poet and essayist who walked across the country to promote peace and coordinated a rape prevention program among other accomplishments; Jovan Savage, a student teacher and volunteer in Kansas City; and Dave Rhodes, publisher, editor and owner of The Leather Journal.

Terri Worman will receive the Allan Morrow Community Service Award in recognition of her leadership, vision and commitment to LGBT aging work.

GLBT National Help Center to receive $200,000 grant from K-Y Brand

K-Y Brand has announced that it will donate $200,000 over the next three years to the GLBT National Help Center, a nonprofit organization best known for operation of the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline.

The donation is the largest in the organization’s 10-year history and makes K-Y Brand its first-ever corporate sponsor.

The donation will be used specifically for special projects that are designed to help more people learn about the Help Center’s services, to grow its resource database and to enhance the community’s ability to contact the Help Center, officials said.

In addition to the cash donation, K-Y Brand will run advertising for the Help Center and hold promotional events in markets across the country. Marketing support will continue 2009.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 27, 2006.

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