National Briefs

Posted on 22 Mar 2007 at 9:36pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt under discussion in Nebraska Senate

LINCOLN, Neb. Unmarried couples including gay partners could jointly adopt children under a bill discussed by senators on Tuesday, March 20.

Lesbian couples were among those who testified in support of the bill, telling members of a legislative committee that joint adoption would provide children more protection by assuring them they would have a legal parent if one member of the couple died.

Currently, only married couples can jointly adopt children, and gay marriage is not allowed in the state. The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis refused last summer to reconsider a ruling by its three-judge panel that reinstated Nebraska’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Sen. Lowen Kruse of Omaha, who introduced the bill, said it also would help unmarried heterosexual couples who want to adopt children.

Civil union bill approved by committee in Illinois House of Representatives

The Illinois House Human Services Committee passed The Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act this week, sending the measure on to the full House for a vote.

The move drew praise from Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which announced the vote in a written statement on Wednesday, March 21.

Jim Bennett, regional director of Lambda Midwest Regional Office in Chicago, said, “Lambda Legal applauds the bill’s authors for addressing some of the serious threats that same-sex couples face everyday when they can’t get married. By not even offering the most basic protections, Illinois views same-sex couples, some together for decades, as strangers under the law.”

He added, “The way to correct this injustice is to treat all of us fairly and equally by allowing committed same-sex couples to marry. But until we reach the goal of marriage equality, efforts such as House Bill 1826 help reduce the harms to loving families by offering some critical legal protections that help our state take better care of all our citizens.”

School district suspends teacher after paper publishes editorial on tolerance

WOODBURN, Ind. School district officials have suspended a high school journalism teacher two months after the student newspaper published a sophomore’s editorial advocating tolerance for gays and lesbians.

Woodlan Junior-Senior High School teacher Amy Sorrell said she was told Monday, March 19, she had been placed on paid leave while school district officials review whether her contract should be terminated.

Dozens of people who attended a school board meeting Tuesday night, March 20, to support Sorrell left frustrated when they were not allowed to speak.

School Board President Stephen Terry told those attending the meeting they would not be allowed to discuss Sorrell’s suspension, saying the board might in the future hear an appeal if she was fired.

“It’s to preserve the rights of the teacher,” Terry said.

He said his decision was based on state law, but when a teachers union representative asked for the specific law, Terry ruled the question out of order.

“I think it’s kind of ridiculous that they’re not going to listen to the parents and students and taxpayers that are here,” Sorrell said after leaving the board meeting.

After the editorial ran in the Woodlan Tomahawk’s Jan. 19 issue, school district officials told Sorrell and the newspaper’s staff that Principal Ed Yoder would need to approve all content before future issues were printed. Yoder also gave Sorrell a written warning for insubordination and failing to carry out her responsibilities as a teacher.

Sorrell said students submitted an edition for review on March 6 but did not receive it back until late March 8, leaving students only one day to make revisions or miss their publication deadline.

The students decided not to print that edition rather than include outdated stories and also did not like the idea of listing the principal as the paper’s publisher as Yoder requested, Sorrell said.

Cortney Carpenter, a junior who was editor of the Woodlan Tomahawk, said she and at least two other students quit the newspaper staff Tuesday, March 20, after Yoder told the class that it must resume publishing the school paper and print a district policy naming the principal as the publisher.

“We decided that it was wrong and we couldn’t do it, and all the things we had done up to that point would be meaningless if we decided to back down,” she said.

School district officials have said newspaper classes are expected to publish newspapers as part of the curriculum.

Sorrell said students were now studying court cases related to freedom of the press instead of working on a new edition of the paper for the 700-student school about 10 miles east of Fort Wayne.

Gay man says police ignored hate crime against him that occurred in Denver mall

A Denver police officer is under investigation after a gay law student accused him of failing to arrest a man for an alleged hate crime.

Nima Daivari, 24, of New York, filed a complaint against officer Richard Boehnlein, saying the officer told him to “go home” after he was attacked by a stranger on the 16th Street Mall.

Daivari, who was visiting a cousin in Denver, said the March 18 incident began shortly after midnight when a man walked past him and made a derogatory, anti-gay statement.

Daivari turned around and asked the man what he had said. That confrontation turned into a fight, with both men throwing punches.

When officers arrived and separated them, Daivari said he repeatedly asked Boehnlein to press charges. Instead, his attacker was let go without any consequences, he said.

Boehnlein, who has been with the department since 2006, did not file a report when the fight occurred. A police report, stamped with a later time, shows statements by the victim and witnesses were taken at the police district Sunday night.

Daivari, his cousin and her boyfriend went to the District 6 police station after the fight because Daivari was determined to file a report about the officer’s conduct and the incident.

The entire incident is being investigated by the police department’s internal affairs division, said Detective Virginia Quinones.

Murder of gay man in central Florida being investigated as a hate crime

BARTOW, Fla. Authorities are investigating the killing of a central Florida man as a hate crime after interviews with people who knew him revealed he was gay, officials said.

William David Brown Jr., 20, and Joseph Bearden, 21, were being held without bond in the Polk County Jail Saturday, March 17, after being charged with first degree murder in connection to Ryan Keith Skipper’s death, authorities said.
They are also charged with the armed robbery of Skipper’s car and computer. If convicted of murder, the two men would be eligible for the death penalty under Florida law.

The body of the 25-year-old Winter Haven man was found on a rural road in Wahneta early on the morning of March 14, said Polk County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Donna Wood. He had been stabbed about 20 times, she said.

A witness came forward and said Skipper was killed because he made an advance toward Brown, Wood said.

Authorities are treating the killing as a hate crime, according to a sheriff’s office statement.

Skipper was driving around Wahneta on March 13 and offered Bearden a ride around midnight, the statement said. The two went back to Skipper’s house, where they smoked marijuana and discussed using Skipper’s computer to copy checks, the report said.

The two left Skipper’s house and went to another home where they met Brown and they all left in Skipper’s car, officials said. Once at the remote location, Brown and Bearden allegedly attacked Skipper in his own vehicle, stabbing him and leaving him along the roadside, Wood said.

The suspects allegedly attempted to clean the bloody vehicle and later drove Skipper’s car around and bragged to friends, Wood said.

Skipper’s car was later found abandoned on a dock near Lake Pansy in Winter Haven and Brown’s fingerprints were found inside, she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 23, 2007

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