National Briefs

Posted on 18 Jan 2007 at 7:37pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Legislative subcommittee endorses bill requiring parental permission to join GSAs

RICHMOND, Va. A bill that would require public school students to obtain a parent’s written permission to participate in a school club cleared its first legislative hurdle Monday.

A House of Delegates subcommittee voted 8-5 to endorse the measure, which opponents say is a thinly veiled attack on gay-straight alliances. Del. Matthew Lohr’s bill now goes before the full House Education Committee.

The bill would require local school boards to notify parents about a club’s mission, activities and dues or other financial requirements. Parents would have to sign a permission slip before their child could join the organization.

Dyana Mason, head of the gay-rights group Equality Virginia, said conservative activists are pushing the measure to discourage participation in school support groups for gay students. Some students might be afraid to ask their parents’ permission to join, she said.

Washington Free Clinic closes its doors; staff set to join Whitman-Walker Clinic

WASHINGTON The Washington Free Clinic, a pioneer in free and low-cost health care, saw its final patients this week.

The clinic was the first of its kind on the East Coast when it opened in 1968, treating people in the basement of a Georgetown church. But in recent years, it has struggled financially and nearly shut in 2005 after a major loss of federal HIV-AIDS funding.

Though donors helped alleviate the crisis, the board announced last week that the clinic would close. After a final appointment on Friday, Jan. 19, the center’s staff will join the Whitman-Walker Clinic as it expands its medical services in the Washington area.

“It’s really painful, but it’s the right thing for the community,” said board Chair Gardiner Lapham. He added that the unique “collaboration” between the two clinics will provide more security for paid staff members as well as continued medical services for the Washington Free Clinic’s 1,800 patients who may transfer to Whitman-Walker.

Initially, the Washington Free Clinic mostly treated street people, drug addicts, teenage runaways and other at-risk youths. Today, most of its patients tend to be the working poor or recent immigrants from Central America or Africa, who frequently lack insurance.

Whitman-Walker was launched by the Washington Free Clinic in the 1970s as the Gay Men’s VD Clinic. It is now the largest provider of HIV-AIDS services in the region. It has 7,000 patients, facilities in the district and northern Virginia and a $22 million budget 22 times that of the Washington Free Clinic.

Former waiter at New York restaurant files suit claiming anti-gay harassment

NEW YORK A former waiter at one of Manhattan’s finest restaurants claimed in a federal lawsuit he was repeatedly harassed about his sexual orientation, then ignored by managers when he complained about the abuse.

Joseph Bassani, who worked at Jean Georges from February 2004 until January 2006, said in the lawsuit the restaurant’s chef de cuisine and other employees insulted him after learning he was gay. The lawsuit, filed Jan. 12 at a federal court in Manhattan, alleges a litany of ribald behavior at the posh restaurant.

In one instance, Bassani said managers hired a prostitute and threw a wild party for the departing chef de cuisine. The woman performed sex acts on herself and the staff in the plush dining room.

At the urging of the chef de cuisine and another cook, the suit said, the woman “charged at Bassani, pushed him onto the top of one of the dining room tables, straddled him, and began to gyrate … within inches of his face.”

He likened the incident to an assault. When he told management about the party and other demeaning incidents, Bassani said his superiors did nothing. Unable to endure the continued harassment, Bassani said he quit last January.
He also accused the restaurant of giving him a bad reference when he tried to get a new job.

Jessica Kingsland, a spokeswoman for Jean Georges Management, which operates the restaurant, declined to comment on the allegations. Kingsland said the company hadn’t yet seen the suit. Jean Georges is located inside Trump International Hotel and Tower.

Health Department loses grant funds, forced to cut HIV prevention programs

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. Programs designed to prevent new HIV infections in Coconino County have been cut after the county Health Department lost its grant funding.

The department ran the programs aimed at preventing new infections in the gay and bisexual community for more than a decade using state grants.

But the money went instead this year to two outreach programs in Tucson and two in Phoenix, Health Department Director Barbara Worgess said.

Worgess said she is consulting with the Arizona Department of Health Services in hopes of restoring funding in the future.

The county program used volunteers telling stories of risky sex or continuous condom use based on real life events. It ran on about $96,000 in state grant money last year.

Health Department employees Cheryl Has No Horse and David Fiss held events attended by 150 to 300 people about every month. The goal was to encourage people to be more aware of safer sex practices to avoid infection with the virus that causes AIDS.

Michigan Supreme Court hears arguments in suit challenging school’s benefits policy

LANSING, Mich. The Michigan Supreme Court again heard arguments Jan. 11 in a lawsuit challenging the Ann Arbor school district’s same-sex benefits policy.

But the justices didn’t focus on the constitutionality of providing health insurance and other benefits to workers’ gay partners. The case involves whether 17 taxpayers followed the proper procedure to stop Ann Arbor Public Schools from offering benefits to gay couples.

The high court first heard the case in October and scheduled full oral arguments on whether the taxpayers had standing, or the legal right to sue.

The state appeals court dismissed the case in 2005 and ruled the taxpayers didn’t “demand” that the district stop providing the benefits to gay partners before filing suit, as required under state law. They had sent letters to school board members asking them to stop the policy.

The broader same-sex benefits issue stems from a 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment making the union between a man and a woman the only agreement recognized as a marriage “or similar union for any purpose.”

The appeals court heard arguments over the constitutionality of same-sex benefits in April and could rule in that case soon.

Lesbian judge won’t challenge state’s decision to remove her from the bench

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. Former Superior Court Judge Diana Hall won’t challenge the state’s decision to remove her from the bench, a newspaper has reported.

Hall, 56, was ousted last month by the state Commission on Judicial Performance for three counts of wrongdoing, including election fraud. Wednesday was the deadline to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court. Hall lawyer Rebecca Lizarraga said Hall wants to end legal troubles that have entangled her for four years.

“She’s not admitting anything or agreeing to it,” Lizarraga told the Santa Barbara News-Press. “She acknowledged certain wrongdoing in the pleadings, but she just doesn’t agree with the disposition or what the disposition is based on.”

On Dec. 12, the state commission ordered Hall removed from the bench for moral turpitude and corrupt intentions while performing her judicial duties. The wrongdoing included allegations of election fraud, a drunken driving conviction and inappropriate remarks to a prosecutor who did not want her to hear a case.

The election fraud stems from Hall failing to report a $20,000 contribution from her then-partner Deidra Dykeman. Hall testified she wasn’t aware she had to report the contribution.

Yale male singing group victimized in anti-gay attack in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO Members of an all-male singing group from Yale University say they were taunted with anti-gay slurs, attacked and beaten after singing “The Star Stangled Banner” at a New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco. At least three members of the Baker’s Dozen a cappella group were hurt. One suffered a broken jaw. No arrests have been made. Police said they are investigating.

The trouble started when a couple of partygoers began mocking the 16 student singers who wore sports jackets and ties as preppies, witnesses said.

“You’re not welcome here,” Sharyar Aziz Jr., an 18-year-old Baker’s Dozen member whose jaw was broken, quoted one partygoer as saying. “He called a few members of the group, whether it was fag or homo, very, I would say, juvenile taunting.”

Reno Rapagnani, a retired San Francisco police officer whose daughter hosted the event, shut down the party. As the singers headed back to a nearby home where they were staying, another group of young men got out of a van and jumped them, according to Rapagnani.

“They were surrounded, then tripped and when they were on the ground, they were kicked,” Rapagnani said.

Two other Yale students needed medical treatment following the fight, one for a concussion and the other for cuts and a swollen ankle.

Police said they arrived and found about 20 people fighting in the street. They interviewed some of the participants but let them go after taking their names.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 19, 2007

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