National Briefs

Posted on 25 Jan 2007 at 7:36pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Judge rules against Christian protestors at Philadelphia’s 2004 Outfest

PHILADELPHIA A federal judge dismissed a freedom-of-speech lawsuit by members of a conservative Christian group who were arrested while picketing a street festival for gays and lesbians.

“There is no constitutional right to drown out the speech of another person,” U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel wrote.

Organizers of the 2004 Outfest event tried to block the bullhorn-wielding, anti-gay protesters from entering the festival. Police allowed them to enter, but at each location they were surrounded by gay activists blowing whistles.

Eleven demonstrators affiliated with a group called Repent America were arrested after they refused a directive to move to another spot. The gay Pride event’s organizers said the protesters were attempting to incite the crowd.

Stengel said the Outfest event had received proper city permits, and the evangelists failed to take appropriate measures to communicate their message, including applying for a permit to hold a counterprotest.

“This is an important decision that supports the First Amendment rights of organizers of all permitted events,” said Jeremy Frey, attorney for Philly Pride Presents.

Ted Hoppe, an attorney for the Christian activists, said the Jan. 18 decision allows the government to deny free speech in public areas.

Robinson, gay bishop, says reports of schism in Episcopal Church exaggerated

HARTFORD, Conn. The openly gay bishop whose election spurred a schism in the Episcopal church that has played out in Connecticut and elsewhere said the scope of the rift has been exaggerated in the media.

Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire, said there are a small minority of parishes at odds with the national church’s liberal stance on homosexuality. The parishes are “seeking to get themselves recognized as the true expression of Anglicanism in this country and not inconsequentially get the Episcopal Church I don’t know what the word is unrecognized as that legitimate expression. And I think they are using more conservative churches around the globe to support that claim,” he said.

Robinson, leader of a 15,000-member diocese, was in Hartford Monday, Jan. 22 to speak at a luncheon attended by local church leaders.

“In a world facing 40 million people dying of AIDS and an increasing gap between rich and poor, this seems like a waste of our time and energy, debating the rightness and wrongness of gay and lesbian people and their relationships,” he said. The current division over homosexuality in the church is not much different from an earlier split over ordaining women priests, he said.

“I think it breaks God’s heart that we would be focusing on such an internal issue, instead of focusing upon the world which, as I understand it, Jesus called us to,” Robinson said.

Robinson said after his stop in Hartford he was headed to the Sundance Film Festival, where a documentary, featuring his story and those of four other gay families, titled “For the Bible Tells Me So,” has been nominated for a grand jury prize.

Former assistant professor files federal discrimination suit against Penn State

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. A former assistant professor has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was denied a promotion and tenure at Penn State University because of her gender, open homosexuality, or advocacy on equity issues.

All three factors may have played a part, Constance R. Matthews, 51, said in the civil lawsuit filed Monday, Jan. 22, seeking back pay, compensatory damages, attorney fees and reinstatement.

Bill Mahon, a university spokesman, said Penn State generally does not comment on pending litigation.

Matthews, of State College, joined Penn State in 1998, applied for tenure in 2004, and was denied tenure in February 2005 by David Monk, dean of the education college, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the college hosted an offensive, hostile or intimidating environment for women and sexual minorities.

The college hired three tenured men to be faculty members in its counselor-education program from 1998 to 2004, but hired no tenured women to teach in the program, the lawsuit claims, saying Matthews opposed such an environment. Katie R. Eyer, of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, said her positions put her in frequent opposition to Monk.

Conservative favorite Brownback officially launches campaign for Oval Office

TOPEKA, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback began a long-shot bid for president on Saturday, Jan. 20, hoping his reputation as a favorite son of the religious right can help him outdistance better known Republican rivals.

“I am a conservative and I’m proud of being a conservative,” he proclaimed.

The two-term senator said he will fight to renew America’s cultural values and pledged to focus on rebuilding families.

“Search the record of history. To walk away from the Almighty is to embrace decline for a nation,” Brownback said. “To embrace Him leads to renewal, for individuals and for nations.”

Brownback laced his speech with the themes that have made him a leader of the Republican Party’s conservative wing and a strong spokesman in Congress for socially conservative Christians.

A fierce foe of abortion, he planned to return to Washington to participate in an anti-abortion rally Monday, Jan. 22, marking the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that established a nationwide right to the procedure. Brownback also opposes embryonic stem-cell research and gay marriage.

Wyoming lawmakers introduce bill to void gay marriages granted by other states

CHEYENNE, Wyo. Gay couples who marry in Massachusetts and move to Wyoming would suddenly find themselves single if some Wyoming legislators have their way: A bill has been introduced that would allow Wyoming to void same-sex marriages granted by other states.

Massachusetts is the only state that currently grants marriage licenses to same-sex couples; others permit civil unions but the proposed law only pertains to gay marriages. Wyoming already has a law in place that mandates marriages conducted in the state must be between a man and woman.

Bill requiring parental permission to join school clubs is revived in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. Legislation requiring students at public high schools to have a parent’s permission to participate in certain extracurricular clubs got new life Monday, Jan. 22.

The measure died in the House Education Committee last week on a tie vote, but was revived and passed Monday after it was changed to include middle-school students and to require parents to identify clubs they do not want their children to participate in rather than making them give written permission for each club their child could join.

Gay-rights advocates have said the legislation is intended to undermine gay-straight alliances clubs formed to encourage tolerance and provide a safe haven for gay students to discuss their problems.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 26, 2007

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