National Briefs

Posted on 06 Dec 2007 at 9:40pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Sea Scouts leader who sued over free berthing arrested for molesting youth

BERKELEY, Calif. Police have arrested a well known Berkeley Sea Scouts leader on suspicion of sexually assaulting minors over a period of several years.

The scout leader, Eugene Evans, 64, is the same man who sued Berkeley after the city revoked free berthing privileges because the group’s parent organization, the Boy Scouts, bar atheist and gay members.

Police say an investigation determined Evans was responsible for molesting a number of boys ranging in age from 13-17. The retired high school teacher is being held on six felony counts of sexual assault including lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14 and oral copulation with a minor under 16 years of age.

Evans’ bail is $1 million.

The United States Supreme Court let stand last year a state supreme court ruling that upheld Berkeley’s decision to deny free slips. City officials told the Sea Scouts that the group could retain its free berths by breaking ties with the Boy Scouts or disavowing the policy against gays and atheists.

The Sea Scouts, which teaches sailing, carpentry and plumbing, refused to do so.

Philadelphia Boy Scouts ignore deadline to change anti-gay policy or pay rent

PHILADELPHIA The local Boy Scouts chapter on Monday, Dec. 3, moved a step closer to being evicted from its city-owned home after ignoring a deadline to either reverse the organization’s policy on gay scouts or agree to pay $200,000 in rent.

The Cradle of Liberty Council currently pays $1 a year rent for its city-owned headquarters. But last year, the city said it could not continue to legally rent the property for such a nominal sum to a private group that discriminates.

In an Oct. 17 letter, city Solicitor Romulo Diaz Jr. gave the scouts a Dec. 3 deadline for announcing their decision. The city said the council would have to vacate the property by May 31 if it does not reverse the policy or agree to pay the rent.

The city would need time to find a new tenant if the Scouts leave, Diaz wrote.

Jeff Jubelirer, a spokesman for the council, said it cannot go against the national group’s policy and cannot afford $200,000 in rent.

“We do not feel obliged to respond to that date,” Jubelirer said, adding that the group was prepared to go to court if necessary. “We didn’t feel it was urgent to respond.”

Diaz said in a statement Monday afternoon that the city will “respect the right of the Cradle of Liberty Council to respond to the city’s notice before the city considers appropriate next steps.”

“For nearly four years the city has tried to reach an agreement under which the council would renounce its discriminatory policy against openly gay youth and adults,” Diaz said in Monday’s statement. “Unfortunately, the council has stated repeatedly that it cannot change its policy.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts, as a private group, have a First Amendment right to bar gays. The council adopted a nondiscrimination policy in 2003 but was ordered to revoke it by the National Council, which said local chapters cannot deviate from the national rules.

Scottsdale City Council votes to extend job protections to LGBT city employees

PHOENIX Scottsdale City Council members heard from both sides this week and voted to extend the city’s equal-employment protection for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

“I see there is a need for doing this, absolutely,” said Councilwoman Betty Drake Tuesday night, Dec. 4.

Drake was part of the 4-3 majority voting to revise the city’s employment code.

“I think it all boils down to leadership,” she said.

Councilmen Jim Lane, Ron McCullagh and Tony Nelssen voted no. They said it would be expensive and burdensome and would open Scottsdale to a whole new round of litigation.

“This seems to be a solution in search of a problem,” McCullagh said. “I think this goes a long way to explain why Scottsdale is the West’s Most Overstaffed Town.”

Gays, lesbians and transgender people told council members that without protection of the law, employees would be afraid to come forward and complain about discrimination.

The move was hailed as a “historic” by Equality Arizona Executive Director Barbara McCullough.

Those opposed argued that homosexuality and transsexualism are life “choices” that are too vague to place into law.

“Homosexual behavior is not immutable or unchangeable. The city should not take sides in a cultural debate. This ordinance does take sides,” said Peter Gentala, general counsel for the Center for Arizona Policy.

Oregon’s same-sex couples await Jan. 1 implementation of domestic partners law

SALEM, Ore. Kelly Burke remembers well the day in 2004 when she and her partner gathered with hundreds of other same-sex couples in an auditorium in Portland to exchange wedding vows unions made possible by Multnomah County’s move to legalize gay marriage.

Burke recalled: “No one knew if it was going to be shut down in an hour or how long it was going to last.”

It lasted about six weeks until a judge ruled that there was no right to gay marriage under state law, thus invalidating 3,000 marriage licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples.

On Jan. 1, Burke and her partner of nearly 20 years, Dolores Doyle, will be able to gain official recognition of their relationship under a new state law that will allow them to register as domestic partners.

Oregon will join eight states, including California, that have approved spousal rights in some form for gay couples. Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay couples to marry.

Number of couples registering civil unions down significantly in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. State figures show there has been a significant drop in the number of same-sex couples entering into civil unions in the past year.

After civil unions for gay couples became legal in Connecticut on Oct. 1, 2005, there were 649 civil unions during the last three months of that year.

The state Department of Public Health said that in 2006 there were 729 civil unions. However, as of the end of October this year, just 372 civil unions were recorded in Connecticut.

One state lawmaker said many same-sex couples may be holding off for marriage while the state Supreme Court considers claims that denying same sex couples the ability to marry is unconstitutional.

The co-chairman of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, said the drop-off in the number of civil unions in Connecticut doesn’t surprise him.

“There was obviously a pent-up demand,” Lawlor, strong advocate of gay marriage, said.

Lawlor added that there was bound to be a decline in the number of civil unions after many gay couples took advantage of the new law.

But Lawlor said he also believes “a certain number of people are holding off for marriage.” He said if gay marriage were declared constitutional by the state Supreme Court or the legislature acts to legalize it, he would expect to see another surge of same sex couples seeking to be united.

Peter Wolfgang, a spokesman for the anti-gay marriage group, Family Institute of Connecticut, said the fact that only 1,750 civil unions have been entered into since October 2005 demonstrates that the ongoing debate “is about a very, very tiny portion of our population.”

“In part, the novelty has worn off,” Wolfgang said. “Same sex couples in Connecticut already have most of the rights they claim they were being denied [by being unable to marry].”

Library will keep gay-themed children’s books on shelves despite complaints

MACUNGIE, Pa. A children’s book with a gay theme will remain on the shelves of a Lehigh County library, despite complaints about the story.

The Lower Macungie Township Library board is refusing for a second time to remove the book “King & King,” despite objections from one couple and 40 signatures from other residents.

Eileen Issa says she was reading the story to her 21/2-year-old son when she came to the ending where the prince gets married to a man. She says when she saw the illustration of the newlywed men kissing she “was sick.”

Library Director Kathee Rhode says the library seeks to offer a variety of views and ways of life. She says library officials want parents to decide on subject matter for their own children, but not one parent to decide for all children.

GLAAD receives grant from AT&T for work on fair images of LGBT people in media

Los Angeles The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced Wednesday, Dec. 5 that it has received a $25,000 grant from AT&T.

The national LGBT advocacy organization will use the funds to support its ongoing work to “promote and ensure fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation,” GLAAD officials said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 7, 2007

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