National Briefs

Posted on 13 Dec 2007 at 6:20pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Court rules lesbian couple married in Massachusetts can’t divorce in R.I.

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island A lesbian couple that married in Massachusetts cannot get divorced in their home state of Rhode Island, the state Supreme Court ruled.

The court, in a 3-2 decision issued Dec. 7, said the state’s family court lacks the authority to grant the divorce of a same-sex couple because Rhode Island lawmakers have not defined marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.

“The role of the judicial branch is not to make policy, but simply to determine the legislative intent,” the court wrote.

Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers wed in Massachusetts in 2004 and filed for divorce last year in the nearby state of Rhode Island, where they both live. But opponents of same-sex marriage said the court correctly avoided taking a step toward recognizing such unions.

Massachusetts, the only state where gay marriage is legal, restricts the unions to residents of states where the marriage would be recognized, and a Massachusetts judge decided last year that Rhode Island is one of those states.

No law specifically bans same-sex marriages in Rhode Island, but the state has taken no action to recognize them. The justices said Rhode Island laws contain numerous references to marriage as between a woman and a man.

Lambda Legal files suit against school that wouldn’t let boy wear dress to prom

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed papers this week in the Northern District Court of Indiana, charging that West Side High School violated Kevin “K.K.” Logan’s First Amendment rights when it barred him from his prom for wearing a dress.

Logan attended West Side High during his junior and senior year and expressed a deeply rooted femininity in his appearance and demeanor, Lambda Legal officials said in a written statement released this week. They said both classmates and teachers at the school supported Logan in his daily attendance dressed in clothes typically associated with girls his age.

But on May 19, 2006, Principal Diane Rouse refused to allow Logan to enter the senior class prom because he was wearing a dress, even though his classmates and friends rallied to his defense and even though a female student was allowed entrance dressed in a tuxedo.

Rouse has stood by a school policy that deems inappropriate any “clothing/accessories that advertise sexual orientation, sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, profanity, negative social or negative educational statements,” Lambda Legal officials said.

“The fact that sexual orientation is lumped in with drugs and profanity in the school’s dress code is just plain offensive, but even more troublesome is that the whole policy is in violation of students’ First Amendment rights,” said James P. Madigan, staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. “There are ways to write policies that both create rules for student behavior and also respect their rights but this isn’t one of them.”

Lambda Legal argues that Logan’s First Amendment rights were violated, including the freedoms of speech, symbolic action, and expressive conduct. The school district also engaged in unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex and gender.

Tucson fire chief suspended over e-mails disparaging to gays, lesbians

TUCSON, Ariz. A Tucson Fire Department battalion chief is fighting a suspension she received for inappropriate e-mails to a subordinate.

The suspension was handed out in July to Battalion Chief Sharon McDonough after she engaged in e-mail conversations with a fire captain that disparaged gays and lesbians, said Assistant Chief Randy Ogden.

The department also suspended Captain Roger Lee, however, Lee retired before the suspension took effect, Ogden said.

Tucson Fire Chief Daniel Newburn told civil service commissioners during a hearing Monday, Dec. 10, that there were no allegations of an inappropriate relationship between McDonough and Lee.

It was the e-mails between a commander and subordinate that were seen as inappropriate, Newburn said.

McDonough’s attorney, Michael Storie, said he had no comment on the case while it was in progress. Storie instructed McDonough not to comment either.

A personnel form said McDonough failed in her responsibility to stop inappropriate communications with Lee and to take disciplinary action against him.

It said McDonough’s actions showed a lack of leadership, poor judgment and a failure to heed the directions of the city’s equal opportunity director.

Engineer Michelle Maliniak learned of the e-mails and included them in a presentation she made to the Tucson Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender Commission, Ogden said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 14, 2007

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