National Briefs

Posted on 05 Apr 2007 at 8:10pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Ugandan lesbian seeking asylum because of anti-gay persecution in her homeland

ST. LOUIS Olivia Nabulwala says her family in Uganda was so angry and ashamed to learn she was a lesbian that her relatives hurled insults at her, pummeled her and, finally, stripped her and held her down while a stranger raped her.

“I hated myself from that day,” she says in a sworn statement. “I disliked my family for subjecting me to such torture, and yet they felt this was a good punishment for me.”

Now, in a case that illuminates a relatively unexplored area of immigration law, the African immigrant is asking for asylum in the U.S. on the grounds she was persecuted over her sexual orientation. And a federal appeals court ruling last week in St. Louis has raised her hopes of success.

Persecution based on sexual orientation has been grounds for asylum in the U.S. since the 1990s, but such cases are still rare. Most involve gay men persecuted by the government. There are few cases involving women, who are more likely to be persecuted by family members, said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a gay rights group that represents immigrants.

The Department of Homeland Security said it does not systematically track the number of asylum claims based on sexual orientation. Most immigration cases are dispensed without a published opinion.

“That’s why we’re so excited about this case,” Tiven said. “A published opinion gives it greater weight, makes it citable.”

Dodd asks: What would you think about same-sex marriage if your child was gay?

CONCORD, N.H. – Democratic presidential hopeful Chris Dodd told high school students Wednesday, April 4, that people debating gay marriage should ask themselves just one question: What would you do if your child were gay?

Dodd said anyone who would deny a gay child the right to be happy isn’t being honest.

“We ought to be able to have these loving relationships,” the Connecticut senator said.

Dodd, the father of 2-year-old and 5-year-old girls, said his daughters could grow up to be lesbians and that he hopes they would have the opportunity to enjoy marriage-like rights.

Dodd, who opposed a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to man-woman unions, said he supports civil unions but not gay marriage. Asked after his address at Concord High School what he sees as the difference, he said: “I don’t think probably much in people’s minds. If you’re allowing that, all the protections you have there, you’ve covered it.”

Amendment banning gay marriage fails in Indiana House committee

INDIANAPOLIS A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage failed to pass a key House committee Tuesday, April 3, and some lawmakers said the proposal is dead for this year.

The House Rules Committee voted 5-5 on a resolution supporting the amendment, with five Democrats voting against it and four Republicans and one Democrat voting for it. Since there was not a majority of votes for the resolution, the highly contentious measure that has stirred emotional debate for weeks failed to pass.

Committee Chairman Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the emotional issue is over for this legislative session.

“I consider the matter dispensed with,” Pelath said. “We took a vote and the matter is dispensed with.”

Resolution sponsor Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, agreed that the proposal appeared dead.

“I think the voters of the state of Indiana should have a right to express their views on the issue,” Hershman said, “but I have never criticized anyone for their stance either for or against this, and I’m not going to start now.”

The issue could come up again next year.

4 Soulforce Equality Riders arrested at Presbyterian college in Georgia

TRENTON, Ga. Deputies charged four gay activists with trespassing at Covenant College, a northwest Georgia private school affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America.

The group, arrested Monday, April 2, in Dade County, Ga., informed campus administrators months ago they would be visiting as representives of Soulforce, a Lynchburg, Va.-based organization sponsoring a bus tour of colleges to challenge policies they contend discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Brad Voyles, dean of students at Covenant, said the Soulforce group had earlier refused a campus offer of meetings with student leaders, administrators and faculty in a designated room. Administrators refused to allow the group members to “roam campus and meet with anyone of their choosing,” according to a Feb. 8 statement on the college Web site.

Voyles said Covenant students spoke to the group Monday at the edge of the campus and “they were warned if they trespassed they would be arrested.”

The Covenant College Web site says its policy is “clear as it relates to a student’s sexual conduct. When students enroll at Covenant, they voluntarily sign the biblically-based Standards of Conduct, agreeing to abstain from “‘sexual sins (such as premarital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and the use or possession of obscene or pornographic material.)’ We remain firmly committed to our biblically-based standards of sexuality.”

Dade County Sheriff’s Department Officer Shane Russell identified those arrested and in custody Monday night as Jarrett Lucas, 21, of Minneapolis, Minn.; Rachel Loskill, 21, of Southfield Mich.; Adam Todd Britt, 20, of Little Rock, Ark., and Bronwen Tomb, 23, of New London, Conn.

Colorado Senate committee backs proposal allowing adoptions by gay couples

DENVER A Senate committee backed a proposal Monday, April 2, to allow same-sex partners to adopt children together despite objections from some adoption agencies.

The Colorado Association of Family and Child Agencies or CAFCA, an organization of both faith-based and secular agencies, opposed the measure, along with Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs and Hope’s Promise, a Christian adoption agency.

Hope’s Promise founder Paula Freeman said the United States is about to sign a treaty requiring more disclosure to foreign nations about where their children are adopted. She fears third world countries that don’t approve of gay relationships would refuse to send children here.

However, bill sponsor Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said 21 states already have second-parent adoption, which allows gay couples and other two unmarried people to adopt.

Current state law allows gay individuals to adopt a child, but not their same-sex partners. Married couples are already allowed to adopt each other’s children as stepparents.

Gay Pride flag displayed outside church is targeted for 4th time by vandals

ANACORTES, Wash. Police in Anacortes are investigating what could be a hate crime, according to a report published online Tuesday, April 3, by KING 5 News.

Vandals have been cutting down flags displayed at Pilgrim Congregational Church, most frequently targeting the GLBT Pride rainbow flag, the article by Rob Piercy said

The church has been a leader in social equality efforts, including an outreach to gays and lesbians begun last year. So it was last year when Rev. Sandy Palmer reached out to gays an lesbians.

The flags which also included an Amnesty International flag, one picturing the Earth as seen from space and one with a dove and the word “peace” on it have been cut down four times, so far. But parishioners and the church’s pastor said the flags would be replaced in time for Easter services this weekend.

Anacortes police are investigating the repeat vandalism and have recovered finger prints from one of the broken flag poles. The prints have been sent to the state crime lab for analysis.

Music professor acquitted in third trial on charges he murdered his lover

OLATHE, Kan. A Missouri professor whose two murder trials ended in hung juries has been acquitted by a Kansas judge and cannot be tried a third time in the 2004 death of his romantic partner.

David Lee Stagg, 59, who teaches music at the University of Central Missouri, was surrounded by supporters Thursday, March 29, as Judge John Anderson III announced the ruling in Johnson County District Court.

In granting a defense motion for acquittal, the judge also denied a request from prosecutors to leave the door open to refiling charges should new information come to light.

“There is not sufficient evidence,” Anderson said. In some cases, the judge said, prosecutors strengthen their evidence over time, but, “This case didn’t get any better.”

Stagg was charged with first-degree murder in the strangulation of William J. Jennings, 51, co-owner of a Johnson County-based court reporting company. Jennings was found April 25, 2004, on the dining room floor of his Shawnee home, his neck wedged between the curls of a decorative wrought-iron bird cage.

Prosecutors contended that Stagg strangled Jennings after an argument about the relationship. Then, aware that the younger man had previously tried to kill himself, Stagg forged a suicide note on Jennings’ computer, prosecutors said.

Defense lawyers focused on the lack of physical evidence linking Stagg to the death. They pointed out there was no match between Stagg and a fingerprint found on a glass, hairs found matted in blood or DNA found under Jennings’ fingernails.

Coroner says Athos dies of natural causes; dead man’s cousin rejects findings

DETROIT Police said Wednesday, April 4, that an elderly gay man whose death became a national focus for gay rights advocates based on reports he had been fatally attacked because of his sexual orientation actually died of natural causes.

“There’s no evidence that an assault occurred,” police spokesman James Tate said Wednesday.

The death of Andrew Anthos, 72, last month drew wide attention, and was cited on the floor of Congress by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., as evidence of the need to extend hate crime legislation to gays.

But the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Anthos fell because he had an arthritic neck, and detectives were unable to find witnesses to a beating, police said.

But a cousin of Anthos said she was shocked at the closing of the case and angry that police didn’t tell her before making it public.

“I’m just livid about this,” said Athena Fedenis of St. Clair Shores. “Andrew didn’t have any reason to make this up.”

According to Fedenis and other family members, Anthos said he was riding a city bus home from the library on Feb. 13 when a young man asked him if he was gay and called him a “faggot.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 6, 2007

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