National Briefs

Posted on 21 Dec 2006 at 6:09pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

2nd pastor resigns from Haggard’s church over “‘sexual improprieties’

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado A pastor who worked with young adults at New Life Church has admitted sexual misconduct and resigned just weeks after former church leader Ted Haggard stepped down over sexual immorality.

Christopher Beard, who headed the “twentyfourseven” ministry that taught leadership skills to young adults, resigned Dec. 15, said Rob Brendle, an associate pastor at the 14,000-member church.

Brendle said Beard told church officials about “a series of decisions displaying poor judgment, including one incident of sexual misconduct several years ago.”

The church said in a statement that the misconduct was with another unmarried adult several years ago. Beard, who worked at the church for nine years, has since married.

President offers congratulations to Mary Cheney on her pregnancy

WASHINGTON President George W. Bush says he is happy for Mary Cheney, the openly gay daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, who revealed earlier this month that she is pregnant.

“I think Mary is going to be a loving soul to her child,” Bush said in an interview with People magazine. “And I’m happy for her.”

Bush was asked about Mary Cheney’s pregnancy in light of his previous statements that a child ideally should be raised by in a family headed by a married father and mother.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said on Dec. 15 that Bush has not changed his mind. “But he also believes that every human life is sacred and that every child who comes into this world deserves love,” Snow said. “And he believes that Mary Cheney’s child will, in fact, have loving parents.”

Asked if Bush believes that children who are raised by gay and lesbian parents are at a disadvantage, Snow said, “He does not make comments on that and nor will I.”

Mary Cheney, 37, and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, 45, are expecting a baby in late spring.

A number of conservative groups have expressed dismay at Cheney’s pregnancy.

Gay rights group wants Catholic group leader removed after alleged assault

WORCESTER MassEquality, which protested an anti-gay marriage rally here on Dec. 16, is calling on Catholic Citizenship to remove its executive director, Larry Cirignano, who allegedly pushed a female counter-demonstrator to the ground.

Police have filed an assault and battery complaint against Cirignano, 50, whose Boston-based organization backs a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. Cirignano denies pushing Sarah Loy, 27, of Worcester, who was holding a MassEquality sign when he confronted her.

“I did not push anyone to the ground,” Mr. Cirignano said in an e-mailed statement. “I had a portfolio in one hand and escorted the lady back into the crowd and left. I never touched her shoulders and she apparently thought that she could draw a foul like it was a basketball game by falling down. Great theater, not Academy Award material.”

In a prepared statement, MassEquality campaign director Marc Solomon said Loy was within her rights to hold her sign while standing in front of the anti-gay marriage demonstrators outside City Hall, “and this aggressive action by a leader of the opposition should not be allowed to stand.”

Solomon said Cirignano should have asked police to move Loy from the front of the crowd, which numbered about 250. “This was more than intemperance,” Solomon said. “This action demonstrated the deep, anti-gay sentiment that, unfortunately, seems to permeate through our opponents.”

Mr. Cirignano will be summoned to court to attend an as yet unscheduled clerk-magistrate’s hearing on the misdemeanor charge. The clerk-magistrate will determine if there is probable cause to bring the matter into a courtroom.

Columbia City Council to offer benefits to employees’ partners, gay and straight

COLUMBIA, Mo. In February, the city of Columbia will start providing health insurance to live-in partners of municipal employees.

The City Council approved the benefit change Monday night. It applies to heterosexual and same-sex couples.

Some, like Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, questioned whether it is fair to offer benefits to heterosexual “domestic partners” who are able to marry but do not.

Nauser, who is married, was the only council member to vote no on the health plan changes. She said a legal document that partners have to sign for benefits probably won’t be enough to hold off fraud attempts.

Partners have numerous requirements to fulfill before they can receive benefits. They have to live together for at least six months and be at least 18 years old. Each partner has to sign an affidavit and pledge to reside with his or her partner “and share the common necessities of life.”

City human resources officials said BJC HealthCare, the operator of Boone Hospital Center, has similar requirements.

Jim Windsor, chairman of the committee suggesting the benefit changes, said the updated policy ensures equal treatment among all city employees.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said more people might become interested in city jobs because of the changes. “I think it’s a morale booster,” the mayor said.

2 Virginia Episcopal parishes vote to leave denomination, associate with Anglicans

FAIRFAX, Va. Two of the largest Episcopal parishes in Virginia voted overwhelmingly Sunday, Dec. 17 to break from The Episcopal Church and join fellow Anglican conservatives forming a rival U.S. denomination.

Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church in Falls Church plan to place themselves under the leadership of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who has called the growing acceptance of gay relationships a “satanic attack” on the church.

The archbishop hopes to create a U.S. alliance of disaffected parishes called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Truro rector Martyn Minns was consecrated a bishop in the Church of Nigeria earlier this year to lead Akinola’s American outreach.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is saddened by any split from the church and will consult her advisers on how the denomination should respond, said Bob Williams, the national Episcopal spokesman.

Ninety percent of Falls Church parishioners and 92 percent of Truro members who cast ballots in the last week supported cutting ties with The Episcopal Church, parish leaders said Sunday.

Six other Virginia parishes are voting this month whether to leave.

Members of Gay-Straight Alliance say classmates are teasing them

CAMBRIDGE, Pa. The members of a student club for gay and lesbian students at Ambridge Area High School said they have been the target of teasing, and attitudes about gays and lesbians are getting worse, not better.

High school senior Daniel Zak said there have been more remarks and jokes directed toward members of the Gay-Straight Alliance and their friends since the club was formed in October.

The group was founded by senior Adam Smith, who says the mission of the club is to promote diversity and confront discrimination and homophobia.
At a school board meeting Thursday night, Dec. 14, Principal Alan Fritz said the group is just like any other student club at the school and should be treated the same.

Board member Brian Padgett suggested that the entire student body participate in diversity training if they are targeting those who are different from them.

Judges say officers discriminated against man caught in sex-sting operation

FRESNO, Calif. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department discriminated against a man soliciting gay sex acts when undercover deputies arrested him in a 2002 sex-sting operation, a panel of judges said.

Three Fresno County Superior Court judges overturned the misdemeanor conviction against Stephen Lake, 50, and said he should not have been tried.
It was not illegal for Lake to solicit sex in a public location if no one else was around to be offended by the request, the judges ruled.

Lake was arrested as part of a sex sting that netted 60 people who allegedly solicited sex in a city park restroom. Their charges may be dropped or convictions overturned, Lake’s attorney, Bruce Nickerson, said Dec. 14.

A sexual solicitation made in a public place is not breaking the law, he said. “If it was, then any guy who said, “‘Hey baby, let’s get it on,’ would be acting illegally,” Nickerson said.

The judges also said detectives discriminated against the men arrested by using only male undercover deputies and not attempting to crack down on heterosexual lewd activity.

In February, the mayor ordered that the restrooms be torn down and replaced with better-lighted facilities after a local TV station reported that the sexual solicitations were still going on.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, December 22, 2006.

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