National Briefs

Posted on 11 Jan 2007 at 5:45pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

R.I. high court considering case of lesbian couple asking for divorce

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island A lesbian couple married in Massachusetts should have the same right as heterosexual couples to divorce in Rhode Island, lawyers for the women told the state’s highest court on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers wed in 2004, soon after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages. They filed for divorce last year in their home state of Rhode Island, where the law is silent on whether same-sex marriages are legal.

It is believed to be the state’s first same-sex divorce case.

If the women cannot divorce in Rhode Island, their lawyers said the only legal option would be to move to Massachusetts and live there long enough to obtain a divorce.

In arguments before the Rhode Island Supreme Court, lawyers said the only question to consider was whether the state could recognize a valid same-sex marriage from another state for the sole purpose of granting a divorce petition.

They stressed the case has no bearing on whether gay couples can get married in Rhode Island.

“You have a valid marriage in the state of Massachusetts,” Louis Pulner, an attorney for Chambers, told the justices.

“No one is asking the court to address the question of whether such marriages would be valid in Rhode Island.”

The justices did not indicate when they would rule.

Jury convicts 1 suspect of manslaughter, hate crime in gay man’s death

NEW YORK A jury convicted a Brooklyn man of manslaughter and on hate crimes charges Friday, Oct. 5, for an attack on a gay victim at a remote city beach that led to the victim’s death.

John Fox was one of two young men on trial for their roles in the assault on Michael Sandy, who was ambushed and chased into traffic during a mugging a year ago. A car struck Sandy as he fled onto Brooklyn’s Belt Parkway, fatally injuring him.

The jury acquitted Fox of a murder charge, but found him guilty of second-degree manslaughter and attempted robbery. Jurors also found that the offense amounted to a hate crime, a distinction that will add time to Fox’s sentence.

He faces between five and 25 years in prison on the manslaughter charge, Brooklyn prosecutors said.

A lawyer for Fox, John D. Patten, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the verdict.

Fox, 20, was part of a group of young men accused of going into an Internet chat room frequented by gay men last October in order to find a potential robbery victim.

Prosecutors said the men lured Sandy, 28, out to the beach by offering him a date with Fox, who was posing as another gay man.

A second jury is separately considering murder, manslaughter and hate crimes charges against a second member of the group, Anthony Fortunato.

Fortunato’s defense has included a claim that he is himself gay, and had never intended for the episode to turn violent. He said the group initially planned only on conning Sandy out of money and marijuana.

A third man accused of participating in the attack, Ilye Shurov, is to be tried separately. A fourth man, Gary Timmins, who was 16 at the time of the killing, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and testified for prosecutors.

Bayless is first openly gay man elected to public office in Alabama

Howard Bayless has become the first openly gay man elected to public office in Alabama, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed him.

Bayless, a former board chair of Equality Alabama and current co-chair of the Equality Federation, won a special election Tuesday, Oct. 9, for a seat on the Birmingham Board of Education. He follows in the footsteps of State Rep. Patricia Todd, who in an historic election last year became the first-ever openly gay or lesbian candidate elected to any office in the state.

Bayless is a graduate of the Candidate and Campaign Training program run by the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute. Todd also was trained under the program before winning her historic race last year.

Bayless thanked his supporters, saying, “This election was about the future of this community, and … in order to change hearts and minds we all have to roll up our sleeves and work hard for our all our neighbors.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 12, 2007

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