National Briefs

Posted on 19 Apr 2007 at 4:26pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Colorado governor set to sign bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt jointly

DENVER Colorado is poised to join 10 other states that allow gay couples to adopt children together.

Gov. Bill Ritter plans to sign a bill which would allow the practice, spokesman Evan Dreyer said Thursday, April 12. The Senate gave final approval to the measure (House Bill 1330) earlier in the day, sending the bill to his desk.

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

The proposal simulates the stepparent adoption process for same-sex partners and other unmarried couples.

Republicans charged the measure was aimed at promoting a “homosexual agenda” and paving the way toward civil unions for gay couples. They say Colorado voters rejected gay adoption last fall when they voted against Referendum I, which would have allowed couples who registered as domestic partners to adopt children.

Rosie takes Bermuda off intinerary for R Family Vacations cruises

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico A summer cruise for gay and lesbian families organized by Rosie O’Donnell has cut Bermuda from its planned itinerary because of possible protests by church groups in the British island territory.

O’Donnell’s charter company said it would replace the Bermuda stop with two ports of call in Florida and a stop at a private island. The tour is scheduled to leave New York in July on a ship owned by Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line.

The charter company, R Family Vacations, said on its Web site that it wanted to avoid the type of protests that greeted passengers when one of its cruises stopped in Nassau, Bahamas, in 2004.

In the statement, the company said Bermuda’s prime minister had assured them they would be welcome as tourists and they had also received hundreds of supportive e-mails from people who live in the wealthy British enclave.

Still, organizers felt they could not be certain there would be no protesters greeting them upon arrival. “We feel that our cruise would be more enjoyable with an alternate itinerary to ports where we know we are welcome by everyone,” the statement said.

In 2004, about 100 protesters chanting anti-gay slogans met one of the company’s cruises when it arrived in Nassau with about 1,150 passengers.

Judge OKs school’s ban of anti-gay T-shirt meant to protest Day of Silence

A U.S. District Court Judge on Tuesday, April 17, ruled in favor of Neuqua Valley High School’s attempts to ban a student from wearing a “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirt, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune.

The senior wanted to wear the shirt as part of a national effort ,” by Christian students to publicly oppose homosexuality on Thursday, April 19. The event, called “Day of Truth,” was created in response to the “Day of Silence,” when students around the country remember and honor victims of anti-LGBT violence. The “Day of Silence” was observed this year on Wednesday, April 18.

The student involved in the lawsuit, Heidi Zamecnik, is represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a national group based in Arizona that has filed several similar lawsuits across the country.

The group had asked for a preliminary injunction allowing Zamecnik to wear the T-shirt this week. School officials forbade Zamecnik from wearing the same T-shirt last school year, prompting her lawsuit, attorneys for the Alliance said.

School officials argue that banning the shirt is part of a policy “to preserve the notion that kids shouldn’t make negative or derogatory comments about other students,” said Jack Canna, an attorney for the school district.

Colorado Senate gives initial approval to bill banning anti-gay discrimination

DENVER Gay people would be protected from being fired based on their sexual orientation under a bill given initial approval by the Senate on Monday, April 16.

The measure Senate Bill 25 must pass another vote before it can be sent to the House for consideration.

Lawmakers have passed similar bills in the last two years but they both were vetoed by former Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Sponsor Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said such bills have been introduced periodically since 1975.

The bill would add sexual orientation as well as religion to the list of things employers aren’t allowed to consider when hiring, firing or making promotions. People who are discriminated against on those grounds would be able to file a lawsuit.

Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver, unsuccessfully tried to remove religion from the bill, because she said it could prevent religious groups like Catholic Charities from hiring people who share the same faith. She said she supported protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination.

NJ couples in civil unions still face difficulties in gaining benefits

NEWARK, N.J. Almost two months after a law went into effect allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, some couples say they are being denied health care coverage.

Civil unions offer gay couples the legal benefits of marriage but not the title. New Jersey lawmakers last December passed legislation allowing civil unions in response to a state Supreme Court ruling two months earlier that said it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples access to the protections of marriage.

But Jennifer Bonfilio, who is planning to enter into a civil union with Shannan Hauser, said New Jersey Carpenters Funds, where Hauser is a union carpenter, said it wouldn’t allow her to be added onto their medical plan.

“I called to ask if they were going to be honoring that law and providing me with the same coverage that they would any married couple, and I was told no,” Bonfilio, who pays more than $400 a month for health insurance, told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Sunday’s newspapers. “The woman on the phone actually said to me: “‘We do not have to obey New Jersey law.’”

Attorney David Buckel, who works for Lambda Legal, said he’s received many complaints from people being denied health care benefits. Some employers aren’t familiar with the law, he said, but others, such as self-insured employers or unions, can follow a federal law that allows coverage to be denied for same-sex couples.

George Laufenberg, administrative manager of the New Jersey Carpenters Funds, says his group is subject to federal law.

According to Laufenberg, no written requests for health coverage for civil union couples have been received. Bonfilio said she is considering making that request.

Buckel said the state government is to blame for the problems because the Legislature decided to use the term “civil union” to describe the relationships.

Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality, which lobbies for the rights of same-sex couples, said his group has received 26 similar complaints.

Jesuits closing Boston church that had largely LGBT congregation due to finances

BOSTON The Jesuits are closing a Boston church that serves a largely gay congregation and putting the building up for sale because they can no longer afford to keep it open, the order’s leader say.

The Jesuit Urban Center in the city’s South End will close at the end of July, said the Rev. Thomas Regan, the superior of the New England Jesuits.

The sexual orientation of many in the congregation did not play a role in the decision, and there was no pressure from the Vatican or the Boston Archdiocese to shutter the church, Regan said.

The Jesuit Urban Center costs the order about $350,000 a year to support, and its only significant remaining activity is a weekly Mass attended by 150 to 200 people who generate weekly collections of about $2,400, Regan said. The building, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, was dedicated in 1861 and needs $4 million to $8 million in renovations, he said.

Jesuits would continue to welcome gays and lesbians to worship at St. Ignatius of Loyola, the parish they oversee adjacent to Boston College on the Brighton-Newton line, Regan said.

2 suspects convicted of assaulting gay teen are sentenced, apologize for attack

SANTA FE Two people accused of abducting and beating a gay teenager at a house party in Edgewood last August have been sentenced.

State District Judge Michael Vigil on Thursday, April 12, ordered Cecily Gonzalez, 17, to spend a year in the custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department.

She pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and false imprisonment but wasn’t eligible for a hate-crime enhancement of an extra year because she was sentenced as a juvenile.

Gonzalez apologized to the victim’s family.

“If I could I would take back that night, but it’s done,” she said. “I hope [the victim] could know how deeply sorry I am.”

Uriah Smith, 18, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping, was sentenced to four years in prison.

Prosecutor Donna Dagnall said everyone involved identified Smith as the instigator of the attack. But Smith’s attorney, Steve Aarons, said his client never battered the victim.

Smith apologized and said he needs treatment and counseling. He said he did not attack the victim because he was gay, although he admitted to making anti-gay comments.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 20, 2007.

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