National Briefs

Posted on 02 Aug 2007 at 5:42pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Steakhouse angers activists, residents with anti-gay messages on marquis

City officials concede they are powerless to stop an eastside steakhouse from putting up messages some residents call homophobic slurs.

A steakhouse in Flagstaff, Az., has gay rights activists and some non-gay residents up in arms after posting derogatory messages on its marquis, according to a report published online Wednesday, Aug. 1, by the Arizona Daily Sun.

But city officials say regardless of how upset some people are by the sign, Crazy Bill’s Saloon and Steakhouse has broken no laws a fact that has some people calling for the city to pass an nondiscrimination ordinance protecting LGBT people.

Over the last two weeks, the steakhouse has put up two messages on its marquee: “Flagstaff has too many queers and not enough beer” and another simply saying “Fagstaff.”

A third and more recent message taunted readers offended by previous messages to direct complaints to “1 800 blow me,” before it was removed.

Sgt. Tom Boughner from the Flagstaff Police Department said the police received a complaint last week, but an investigation found the steakhouse had broken no laws, the Daily Sun reported. The city’s code enforcement officers also reviewed the marquee and found the sign conforms to city codes and a permit for the sign was valid.

Boughner added that the city attorney’s office is reviewing whether the messages violate the city’s public nuisance ordinances or whether other case law could be applied to future messages.

Judge rules that gay couple are family, allows them contact after jail sentences

PHILADELPHIA A federal judge issued an opinion on Wednesday, Aug. 1, that allows a long-term gay couple to resume contact with each other while completing the period of supervision imposed on them as part of a drug sentence, according to a statement released Wednesday by the ACLU.

The ACLU, which represented the couple, called the court’s decision a historic recognition that same-sex couples are equally protected by the Constitution and must be treated the same as other families.

“I’m elated,” said Daniel Mangini, 42, of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, who learned the news earlier Wednesday and promptly passed on the news to his partner, Steven Roberts. Until that moment, Mangini had been barred from speaking with Roberts for more than a year.

Mangini and Roberts have been in a committed relationship for more than 20 years. They built a home together and took in Robert’s niece and raised her to adulthood after the niece was removed from her home by the Department of Human Services.

But the men were arrested in December, 2003, after becoming addicted to methamphetamine and resorting to selling the drug to support their addiction. They eventually pled guilty to possession with the intent to sell, and each man were sentenced to jail, followed by five years of supervised release.

It is customary for the U.S. Probation Office to bar people on supervised released from associating with known felons, but officials ordinarily make exceptions for close family members. Mangini and Roberts, however, were told that same-sex couples were not considered family, and that they would not be allowed contact with each other.

The couple appealed the decision, but Judge Marvin Katz, who issued the ruling on Wednesday, initially sided with probation officials. The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, however, overturned that ruling and sent the case back to Katz. At a hearing before Katz on July 31, the couple testified about their commitment to one another, their recovery from addiction and what it meant to live their lives apart.

After acknowledging the long-term commitment that the couple has made to each other and noting the great strides both have made in their recovery, Judge Katz ruled that the couple can no longer be barred from having contact with each other. Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas that overturned the Texas sodomy law, Judge Katz ruled that same-sex couples have the same right to form intimate relationships as opposite sex couples and that it is unconstitutional to treat same-sex couples differently.

Former St. Louis public defender pleads guilty to arranging sham marriage

ST. LOUIS The former head of the St. Louis public defender’s office pleaded guilty Monday, July 31, and admitted arranging a sham marriage between one of his female employees and his Peruvian boyfriend to keep the boyfriend in the country.
The former chief, Eric Affholter, admitted that he and his boyfriend, Pedro Cerna-Rojas, recruited their friend Collette Lewis in the late summer or early fall of 2004 to marry Cerna-Rojas. Lewis worked for Affholter as an assistant public defender.

Cerna-Rojas is from a small town in Peru, Affholter said in an interview in June, and had originally come to the United States in 2000 for a postgraduate education. The two met in 2003.

Human Relations Commission chair, bar owner face off over ban on trans patrons

MESA, Ariz. A bar fight is brewing between one Scottsdale establishment and the chairwoman of the city’s Human Relations Commission.

At issue, a ban on transgendered people at Anderson’s Fifth Estate nightclub.

Michele deLaFreniere believes its wrong to treat gay and transgendered people differently in the City of Scottsdale. DeLaFreniere, 52, has lived as a woman since 2004. DeLaFreniere filed a discrimination complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office against the Old Town Scottsdale night spot.

Owner Tom Anderson acknowledges banning transgender people from the club, but he said it was the best solution he could come up after female customers objected to having “men in dresses” using the women’s restroom.

Anderson said he couldn’t have them using the men’s restroom, because men harassed them and took their pictures.

Since he’s liable for his customers’ safety, Anderson said he had no choice but to ban transgendered people from the bar.

“There was no place I could put these people,” he said.

While deLaFreniere charged Anderson with bigotry, Anderson said that deLaFreniere threatened to use her position with the city against him, an accusation she denies.

DeLaFreniere said Anderson rudely refused her and one of her friends entry into the club a couple of days after Thanksgiving: “He grabbed the money from my hand and said, “‘I don’t want your business or your kind here,” she said. “That, to me, is discrimination.”

Anderson said he never told deLaFreniere that “her kind” were not welcome in his club. “That’s a dramatization she wants to make to further her cause. I don’t use that kind of language,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with [transgender people]. If that’s the way your life is going, so be it. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest.”

Homeless man pleads guilty to murder of gay talk show host in Seattle

SEATTLE A transient pleaded innocent Monday, July 30, to first-degree murder in an ax attack on former radio talk show host Mike Webb.

Scott Brian White, 28, who previously lived for a time with Webb but was in a homeless encampment when he was arrested, remained in custody with bail continued at $1 million after a brief appearance in King County Superior Court.

If convicted, White would face a standard sentencing range of 22 to nearly 29 years in prison.

Webb, 51, an outspoken liberal and gay rights advocate, was last seen on April 13 and was reported missing on May 14. His remains were found on June 28 by a property manager in a basement crawl space of his rented house.

An autopsy showed he had been stabbed five times in the shoulder and chest, had been hit five times in the face with an ax or similar weapon, and had a fractured skull.

White and Webb met in November and lived together for a time, according to court filings. No motive was listed, but police had evidence that White stole a car and money from Webb and had pawned several electronic items from his home, prosecutors wrote.

Webb hosted a late night talk show on Seattle’s KIRO Radio for 10 years before being fired in December 2005, shortly after he was charged with insurance fraud involving a car wreck. He was convicted of insurance fraud in February, sentenced to 240 hours of community service and fined $1,000.

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