National Briefs

Posted on 10 May 2007 at 7:06pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Berkeley City Council votes to explore possibility of paying for sex-changes

CALIFORNIA The Berkeley City Council on Wednesday, May 8, voted unanimously to direct City Manager Phil Kamlarz to create a proposal for removing exclusions in their current health plan that deny coverage for medically necessary procedures for those transitioning from one gender to the other.

The motion was sponsored by Council members Kriss Worthington and Darryl Moore.

The vote happened because of Berkeley city employee Lynn Riordan, who said she was began the push for such a change because she was “motivated by my desire to make sure that everyone who comes to work for this great city is treated fairly and equally.”

Bill passed in California to make name changes easier for same-sex couples

The California state Assembly on Tuesday, May 8, passed a measure that makes it easier for a husband to take his wife’s last name upon marriage, and for those in same-sex unions to take a partner’s last name, according to a report posted online at www.BusinessInsurance.com.

The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, would make California the first U.S. state to allow domestic partners to change their names without having to obtain a court order.

Current law allows husbands and domestic partners to legally change their names through a lengthy and expensive process that includes approval by a judge. Under the Name Equality Act of 2007, however, husbands and domestic partners could have their last names changed as easily as a woman does when marrying a man.

There are only seven states Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York and North Dakota in the U.S. that allow a husband to take his wife’s last name upon marriage. Massachusetts allows same-sex spouses to choose their surnames as well.

N.Y. to extend benefits to same-sex partners of participating employees

ALBANY, N.Y.The New York Department of Civil Service is extending health and welfare benefits available under the State Health Insurance Program to same-sex partners of participating employees. The move is part of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s legislative and policy change package, according to a department spokeswoman.

Although participating employees can obtain coverage for their same-sex domestic partners, so far the majority of employees that have enrolled in the program have been heterosexual, the spokeswoman said.

It is not yet known how many employees will enroll their same-sex partners, who are eligible if they are legally married in such places as Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, Belgium, South Africa and the Netherlands. Same-sex marriage is not legal in New York state.

The spokeswoman said she did not know what the cost would be to the state. New York state covers 90 percent of individual employees’ premiums and 75 percent of the additional cost for dependents, she said.

Eligible employees have until May 31 to enroll their partners for this year, but will be able to add dependents at the next and subsequent open enrollments, or if they experience a change in life status, the spokeswoman said.

Missouri Senate rejects measure outlawing anti-gay bullying in schools

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. The Senate rejected an effort Monday, May 7, to expand a state law against bullying in schools to address gay students.

Missouri already requires school districts to come up with a policy against bullying by September. Current law says all students should be treated equally but that policies should not spell out classes of students in need of protection, such as by race, gender or religion.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, proposed changing the wording to require policies to detail the effects of bullying based on certain characteristics, including sexual orientation.

“It’s important that we outline those individuals most in need of protection in this policy,” Justus, who is gay, told the Senate. “There are several kids across the state who are scared to go to school every morning.”

But some Republican senators said it’s wrong to spell out which groups get special protection, and her amendment failed on a 24-9 vote. Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, argued the proposal could require schools to discuss what it means to be gay with children in kindergarten, a claim Justus denied.

Airport fires luggage attendant who played Bible verse over speaker system

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Airport officials have fired a luggage attendant who admitted playing a Bible verse that offended a gay couple over an public speaker system.

Jethro Monestime, 23, who had worked for Superior Aircraft Services at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, acknowledged that he played the message twice early May 1, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

Monestime said he used his cell phone to play a recording that said, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they should be put to death.” The announcement came from Leviticus 20:13.

He told investigators Sunday, May 6, that it was a prank.

“I just want to apologize to everybody who was involved, especially the couple,” Monestime told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Monday, May 7. “I didn’t think it was going to hurt anybody.”

Broward County sheriff’s officials will turn the case over to state prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges should be filed, county Mayor Josephus Eggelletion Jr. said.

Danny Pyne, co-owner of Superior Aircraft, said Monestime was fired Monday, and the company had issued an apology to the couple.

Anthony Niedwiecki, who had been with his partner Waymon Hudson when he heard the message, said he didn’t consider it a prank.

“It was a death threat,” Niedwiecki said. “I appreciate the fact that police followed up on this.”

Man charged with hate crime for fight with 2 gay men agrees to plea

BOULDER, Colo. – A man charged with a hate crime after a fight with two gay men has reached a tentative plea agreement, his attorney said.

Eric William Schorling, 21, is charged with a bias-motivated crime after a March 11 scuffle in downtown Boulder. Defense attorney Michael Cohen disclosed the tentative plea deal in a hearing Monday, May 7, but afterward declined to discuss details.

Boulder County Court Judge Noel Blum scheduled an arraignment for June 1.

A second man, Adam Michael Perez, faces charges of assault and participating in a bias-motivated crime stemming from the same incident. Perez and Schorling are accused of attacking a 23-year-old man after making derogatory comments about his sexuality as he walked with his arm around another man.

Schorling, of Virginia, and Perez, of Colorado Springs, were students at the University of Colorado but were suspended after the incident.

Akinola installs bishop in U.S. despite plea to avoid widening rift

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – A powerful Anglican leader from Nigeria installed a bishop Saturday, May 5, to lead the conservative U.S. parish network he created, despite a last-minute plea from the head of the Anglican Communion that he cancel his visit.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria was already in the United States when a spokesman for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams revealed Friday, May 4, that Williams had tried to intercede. The installation ceremony, held at a nondenominational chapel, went ahead as planned.

Bishop Martyn Minns, a former Episcopal clergyman, was given full leadership of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which Akinola started last December as an alternative to the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church.

Episcopalians form the U.S. wing of the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion, a fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.

The communion is on the verge of splitting up because of differences over Scripture, including whether the Bible bars gay relationships. The theological rift broke wide open in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated their first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Days before the installation, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori had urged the Nigerian leader not to visit the U.S. She said it would violate the Anglican tradition that national church leaders, called primates, only minister to churches within their own provinces.

Akinola responded by saying that “the usual protocol and permissions are no longer applicable” because of what he called the “unbiblical agenda” of the U.S. church.

As the communion’s spiritual leader, Williams does not have the direct authority to stop Akinola. or force a compromise.

As part of a plan to prevent schism, Anglican primates collectively have given the U.S. denomination until Sept. 30 to step back from its support of gays or risk losing its full membership in the fellowship.

Workplace diversity committee members resign after talk by lesbian is cancelled

LINCOLN, Neb. – The forced cancellation of a talk by a lesbian has prompted 13 members of a state workplace diversity committee to quit.

Beth Gillespie was supposed to address a luncheon diversity event for state Health and Human Services workers and talk to the state workers about raising children with her female partner.

Gillespie was going to share some of her insights, she said, so the employees “could be a little more aware when they’re discussing their own issues with their children, so we could stop perpetuating bias and prejudice.”

But HHS administrators told the co-leaders of the committee that Gillespie couldn’t participate, so the co-leaders and 11 other members of the committee resigned in protest.

Said Lupe Hickey, one of the 11 who quit: “I can’t be a part of something that is that hypocritical and definitely discriminates and promotes intolerance.”

Chris Peterson, chief administrative officer for Health and Human Services, said she didn’t make the decision to bar Gillespie but said the diversity committee’s mission was to explore only cultural diversity issues such as race, religion and gender.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 27, 2007. Online game on mobileстоимость рекламных щитов

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