National Briefs

Posted on 14 Feb 2008 at 7:06pm
Illinois Supreme Court rules in favor of trans woman seeking name change

The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered the Circuit Court of Will County to file a transgender woman’s Petition to Change Name and Application To Sue As a Poor Person and to render a written decision, according to a press release distributed this week by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Lambda Legal is representing Daunn Turner, a 52-year-old transgender woman who wants to legally change her name to reflect her female identity. Turner is disabled and receives benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Program. The Will County Circuit Clerk declined to file her papers, refusing her an official record or case number.

Turner was instead directed to submit her application to the chief judge, who then denied the application in a phone call, telling Turner the name change was "something that she wanted" rather than something she needed," according to the Lambda Legal press release.

When Turner asked about appealing his decision, the judge told her she did not have the right to appeal and that he was the ultimate decision maker.

Half of Iowa House members support man-woman definition of marriage

DES MOINES, Iowa Many Iowa lawmakers say they support defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, according to a survey.

In a copyright story in The Des Moines Register, a poll shows half of the 100 members of the Iowa House of Representatives would vote in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Of those 50 representatives, 45 are already co-sponsors of a measure that would amend the state’s constitution to limit marriage to being between a man and a woman.

The remaining representatives say they would be against the move.

Among state senators, 21 say they would approve the amendment. But 16 said they would be against it. Another seven are undecided, while six did not answer either way.

Though the Register survey shows that overall most Republicans support the move while Democrats oppose it, some lawmakers fall outside the trend.

Seven Democrats say they’d back amending the constitution, including Sen. Dennis Black of Grinnell. Two Republicans said they wouldn’t endorse a change.

"You don’t need to put discrimination into the constitution ever, no matter what the reason," said Sen. Mary Lundby, R-Marion.

Rep. Chuck Gipp, R-Decorah, also said he doesn’t support the amendment.

"How I look at this is, I’ve been married for 36 years. I have my feelings about what marriage is and what it isn’t," he said. "Is my marriage threatened by what somebody else thinks what marriage is? No, it’s not. If it is, then that’s my problem."

The House bill to amend the constitution has not yet been assigned a subcommittee. The amendment ultimately requires majority approval in both the House and Senate in two consecutive general assemblies, and then must be approved by a simple majority of voters in the next general election.

Episcopal lay leaders in Pittsburgh show support for leaving denomination

PITTSBURGH Nearly 100 lay leaders in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh signed an open letter supporting their bishop in removing the diocese from the national church for a more conservative alignment.

The letter was in response to another letter written last month to Bishop Robert Duncan by 12 conservative clergy outlining their opposition to removing the diocese’s 66 churches from the national Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the United States.

"We were just talking about the letter that the 12 clergy had written openly to the diocese and we were concerned that people might not understand the whole story," said Edith M. Humphrey, a professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

The clergy members said they were concerned about protracted court cases that might stem from realigning with the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The one-page response from the laity says the diocese "can no longer travel with a national Episcopal body that is departing from its foundations," referring to past decisions to conduct same-sex marriages and consecrate the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The response, which Humphrey said would be spread through the diocese, also said the bishop had done everything possible to keep the matter out of the courts.

The Pittsburgh diocese voted in November to realign with the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, which believes the Bible forbids gay relationships, while a majority in the Episcopal Church does not.

Christian files lawsuit against over law banning door-to-door leafletting

MILWAUKEE A man who wants to distribute Christian literature door-to-door filed a federal lawsuit on, Feb. 8, alleging that a law in Kewaskum that bans the practice violates his constitutional rights to free speech and religion.

"Christians should not be penalized for expressing their beliefs," said Nate Kellum, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund. "Our client simply wanted to quietly leave religious literature on door handles of city residents without bothering anyone."

According to the lawsuit, Michael Foht of Monroe went to two neighborhoods in Kewaskum, which is north of Milwaukee, on April 25, to place fliers sharing his religious beliefs on the door handles of homes.

A resident complained and police told Foht that a local ordinance prohibited him from distributing the information.

Told that he could be fined $172 for each incident, Foht left town, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit describes Foht as a "professing Christian and a traveling evangelist" who routinely places information about his religious beliefs on the doors of homes and on parked cars in cities all over the country.

The ordinance, which has been on the books since 1983, says no person shall distribute or post "printed matter" on public or private property or place such literature on motor vehicles without permission of the owner.

According to the lawsuit, a village police officer advised Foht that he could only give pamphlets to people who were home and wanted them.

"Mr. Foht objected that he did not want to knock on doors because that could cause unnecessary confrontations," the lawsuit said. "Mr. Foht leaves contact information in case they wish to engage in dialogue about the things mentioned in the materials."

The lawsuit said Foht’s literature is an attempt to explain to others about the "benefits of his faith" by addressing current social and political topics from a religious perspective, "including but not limited to the issue of homosexual conduct."

He also passed out Bibles, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, which asks a judge to declare the ordinance unconstitutional and block the city from enforcing it, seeks unspecified damages, including some "as an important vindication of the constitutional rights at stake."

Lesbian files discrimination lawsuit against University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY A woman who claims she was fired from the University of Utah because she is a lesbian has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school.

Court papers filed in 3rd District Court allege Heidi Borjesson was fired from her job for "arbitrary personal reasons," including her appearance, sexual orientation and because she "mothered animals" at her home instead of children.

Borjesson, 44, was employed at the university for 12 years and was an associate accountant in the physics department when fired in January 2005. The lawsuit also alleges Borjesson’s supervisor was outspoken about her dislike of Borjesson’s sexual orientation.

University spokesman Remi Barron said Feb. 8 that Borjesson was let go because her position was abolished as part of a staff reduction.

Reno man sentenced for hiring hit man to kill wife so he could live gay life

RENO, Nev. A Reno man who hired a hit man to kill his wife so he live as a gay man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Fifty-year-old James Gau, a father of six, will be eligible for parole in two years under the sentence imposed Feb. 7 by Washoe District Judge Connie Steinheimer.

Sheryl Gau asked the judge to give her estranged husband probation, saying she wanted his financial support and hoped the family could reunite.

James Gau pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder for asking a police informant in July to go to his wife’s American Fork, Utah, home, pretend to be a robber and strangle her.


Woman who blamed lesbian lover for child’s death convicted of murder

NEW YORK A woman who blamed her lesbian lover for the beating death of her 23-month-old son was convicted Feb. 7 of murder in the toddler’s slaying.

Zahira Matos showed no emotion when the jury in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court pronounced her guilty of second-degree murder and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in its third day of deliberations.

Matos, 23, faces a minimum of 15 years to life in prison and a maximum of 25 years to life when Justice Maxwell Wiley sentences her next month for the September 2004 murder of Yovany "Papo" Tellez.

Matos was charged with murder because she recklessly waited as long as five hours to call 911 after her drunken domestic partner, Carmen Molina, gave the boy a fatal beating for soiling his pants.

Assistant District Attorney Kerry O’Connell told the jury that Matos was on trial "for what she did not do."

Testifying in her own defense, Matos said she did not realize the boy had been so seriously injured by Molina.

Molina, 35, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced in May 2007 to 15 years to life in prison for Yovany’s death.

When Yovany died, he had a lacerated liver, broken ribs and a broken leg, and he was covered in feces, prosecutors said during trial. More than 40 bruises covered his body, they said.

Matos’ lawyer, Arthur Friedman, said after the verdict that he will appeal.

Yovany was Matos’ third child. The other two are being raised by her mother.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 15, 2008

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