National Briefs

Posted on 01 Feb 2007 at 8:26pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Connecticut governor signed civil unions law but pledges to veto gay marriage bill

HARTFORD, Conn. With advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage gearing up for another battle at the state Capitol, Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Jan. 26 said she’d veto any legislation that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The Republican governor signed the bill in 2005 that allowed same-sex couples to enter into legal civil unions. Connecticut was the first state to voluntarily pass such legislation without court pressure.

“I said … when I signed the civil union bill that I believed it covered the concerns that had been raised. And I believe that that bill was the appropriate way to go and I still do,” Rell told reporters at a state Capitol news conference. “And the answer is yes, I would veto a bill that provides for same-sex marriage.”

Gay marriage advocates were dismayed by Rell’s comments, but still planned to push ahead with legislation this session. A bill still has not been drafted, but the legislature’s Judiciary Committee where such a bill would likely start has an April 13 deadline to vote out bills to the floor of the House or Senate.

“We’re disappointed in the statement, but we are going to continue the dialogue,” said Anne Stanback, president of Love Makes a Family, a same-sex marriage advocacy group in Connecticut. “We hope that she will listen to the stories of the same-sex couples, the children of same-sex couples and why they feel that marriage is different from civil union and is something they should not be excluded from.”

The 2005 civil union law provides same-sex couples with the same rights and privileges under state law as married couples. The law also defined marriage as between a man and a woman in Connecticut.

But eight couples have sued the state, claiming civil unions are an inferior status and violate their constitutional rights to equal protection, due process and free expression and association. The plaintiffs sought a court injunction compelling the state to grant each couple a marriage license rather than a civil union license, which the judge denied.

Man who killed executive he met on gay chat line is sentenced to almost 48 years

SEATTLE A man who killed a Seattle executive recruiter and left the victim’s battered body inside his Porsche has been sentenced to almost 48 years in prison.

Michael Saga Maiava, 24, was convicted Jan. 2 of first-degree murder in the attack on Kevin Shaw, 44, who was beaten and stabbed with an ice pick or similar tool.

King County prosecutors said the men talked on a telephone chat line for gays just before Shaw was killed.

Superior Court Judge Theresa B. Doyle said she believed that Maiava had a traumatic childhood, but her main concern was public safety. On Monday, Jan. 29, she gave him the longest sentence possible under state guidelines.

Maiava’s prior record included more than a dozen felony convictions, including robbery, burglary and car theft. He told police he killed Shaw in self-defense during a disagreement over marijuana, but that claim was not repeated in court and he did not testify.

Shaw ran his own executive recruiting business and supported philanthropic causes.

A native of Billings, Mont., Shaw attended Gonzaga University in Spokane and moved to Seattle in the early 1980s. His body was found in his car on Oct. 21, 2004.

2nd defendant in Colorado gay man’s murder gets 22 years in plea deal

MONTROSE, Colo. The second of two defendants charged in the slaying of an openly gay man in 2005 was sentenced Tuesday, Jan. 30 to 22 years in prison.

Jason Fiske, who had faced a first-degree murder charge in the July 30, 2005, slaying of Kevin Hale, 36, previously pleaded guilty to reduced charges of reckless manslaughter and robbery.

Judge Dennis Friedrich sentenced Fiske, 26, to 12 years for manslaughter, plus an additional 10 years for the robbery. Fiske gets 554 days’ credit for time served.

The other defendant, Adam Hernandez, last year pleaded guilty to manslaughter and theft and is serving an eight-year prison term.

Hale’s body was found in a Montrose park. He had told police he had been threatened because he was gay, and his slaying sparked fears that he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. Advocacy groups had called for hate-crime charges, but prosecutors declined to file them.

Hernandez told investigators he, Fiske and Hale had been at a bar, where Hale made sexual advances toward Hernandez. Fiske told police that he placed Hale in a choke hold while breaking up a fight between the other two men.

The arrest affidavit said Fiske told police he thought Hale was unconscious when they left him in the park.

Nevada prisons shut down rehab program amid charges of discrimination, coercion

CARSON CITY, Nev. The Nevada Department of Corrections is shutting down a drug and alcohol treatment program run by an outside group amid charges including racial discrimination and pushing inmates into religious activities.

Dorothy North of Vitality Unlimited, the nonprofit group that has run the WINGS program for eight years, said state prisons chief Glen Whorton and his deputies made up the charges.

Whorton said he’s terminating the program because a probe by his inspector general showed inmates being ordered to participate in religious activities and discrimination against minorities including blacks, American Indians and gays.

The report said some inmates even suffered physical abuse from inmate mentors. Whorton said prison officials became suspicious because of bruises and other injuries suffered by inmates participating in the program.

North said most of her staff members are minorities and that discrimination wasn’t tolerated. She also denied the allegations of physical abuse.

Body of murdered gay porn producer found by firefighters battling blaze at his home

DALLAS, Pa. A producer of gay pornographic movies was stabbed to death and his home was set on fire, authorities said.

The body of Bryan Charles Kocis, 44, also known as Bryan Phillips, was found by firefighters Wednesday night, Jan. 24, after they responded to the blaze at his home in Dallas Township, north of Wilkes-Barre.

An autopsy showed his throat had been slashed and he had been stabbed 28 times in the torso. Investigators said the house was set on fire after he was killed.

Investigators found no signs of forced entry or a struggle, suggesting Kocis may have known the assailant, the court filings said.

On Jan. 26, state police said they were looking for the driver of a light-colored SUV that was spotted near the house just before the fire started. The driver “may be a potential witness or may have information needed by investigators,” according to a news release.

Kocis ran the Cobra Video Web site, which produced and sold gay pornography. He was sentenced in May 2002 to a year’s probation for possession of a video showing him having sex with a 15-year-old boy. Charges were dropped when the boy said he misrepresented his age.

Judge upholds dress code prohibiting student from wearing anti-gay T-shirt

SAN DIEGO A federal judge has upheld a San Diego high school’s dress code, rejecting a challenge by a student who got pulled from class for wearing a T-shirt with anti-gay language.

Tyler Chase Harper sued the Poway Unified School District in 2004 to overturn a policy that says the schools will aim to reduce or prevent “hate behavior,” including threats and attacks based on sexual orientation. The student claimed the policy limited free speech.

The front of Harper’s T-shirt read, “Homosexuality is shameful. Romans 1:27.” The back read, “Be ashamed. Our school has embraced what God has condemned.”

U.S. District Judge John Houston ruled Jan. 24 the dress code policy was not overly broad. The judge also dismissed Harper as a plaintiff because he graduated from Poway High School last year but considered the case on behalf of sister Kelsie Harper, who is still a student at the school.

Lesbian couple settles discrimination lawsuit against country club

A lesbian couple their lawsuit against a country club on Jan. 3, more than a year after the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the couple in a landmark anti-discrimination case, according to a recent report in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

B. Birgit Koebke and her registered domestic partner, Kendall French, sued after the club refused to recognize French under the club’s membership rules for spouses.

In 2004, a San Diego-based state appeals court ruled in favor of the club, saying its limitations of benefits to “legal spouses” did not violate state anti-discrimination laws. The couple appealed, and in 2005 they won a victory before the California Supreme Court, which held that the club’s policy violated the state’s Unruh Act, which forbids business from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and several other factors.

The state’s high court ruled that businesses have to give domestic partners the same benefits as legally married spouses.

Former senator who pushed anti-gay amendment offers services to gay group

NASHVILLE Former state Sen. Jeff Miller, R-Cleveland, who sponsored Tennessee’s successful constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, has asked the state’s largest gay rights advocacy organization to consider hiring him as a lobbyist, the group’s president said Monday.

“I suppose he thinks helping pass discriminatory bills would make him an effective advocate for the gay, lesbian and transgender community,” said Chris Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project.

Sanders said the group received a Jan. 23 letter soliciting the group’s business.

The former legislator last week sent out an unknown number of letters soliciting lobbying business, noting he intended to become a lobbyist when his mandatory one year waiting period ended in November. Miller said in the letter that he had served 12 years in the General Assembly and held positions including Senate Republican Caucus chairman.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 2, 2007

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