National briefs • May 29, 2009

Posted on 28 May 2009 at 6:42pm
By The Associated Press

Religious freedom organization asks IRS to investigate Falwell’s Liberty University
RICHMOND, Va. — A religious freedom organization wants the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether Liberty University violated federal tax law when it withdrew recognition of a student-run Democratic club.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State on Wednesday, May 27 urged the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of the private university in Lynchburg, Va., founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Liberty officials earlier this month informed the fledgling College Democrats club that it can no longer use the university’s name or apply for school funding, saying the party’s support of abortion and gay rights is inconsistent with the conservative Christian school’s moral principles.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said in a letter to the IRS that Liberty has supported a Republican club for years. Such political clubs often work on behalf of candidates, he wrote, and Liberty’s action offers GOP candidates "a type of in-kind contribution" not available to Democrats.

"By banning a Democratic club while permitting a Republican club to exist and offering funding to the latter but not the former, university officials appear to be operating in violation of federal tax law," Lynn wrote.

Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University law school, called the complaint "frivolous" and said the school has not banned the club, which can continue to meet on campus.

"American United simply doesn’t know the facts of the case," he said. "They are filing this to promote their own fundraising agenda and goals, which is frankly disconcerting."

Lynn responded: "I’ve heard this before. It’s a typical diversion tactic to attack the messenger rather than confront the truth, which is that Liberty University has done the wrong thing."

Poll indicates majority of Rhode Island voters favor gay marriage
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — A survey has found that more than half of Rhode Island voters favor a law allowing gay marriage.

Four of the other five New England states have legalized gay marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. New Hampshire lawmakers are working to pass a gay marriage bill the governor will sign.

A Brown University poll released Wednesday shows 60 percent of registered voters in Rhode Island said they would support a law allowing gay couples to marry. Thirty-one percent said they were opposed.

Bills to legalize gay marriage in the state are before legislative committees in both the state House of Representatives and Senate.

The poll was conducted May 18-20 with a random sample of 593 registered voters statewide. The margin of error was plus or minus about 4 percentage points.


Massachusetts man admits attack on gay men in Boston
BOSTON — A Framingham man has pleaded guilty to attacking three gay men and their female friend as they walked in Boston’s South End, but he has avoided prison.

Fabio Brandao on Wednesday, May 27 admitted kicking and hitting the men while using homophobic slurs during the beating last August. Three other attackers have never been identified.

The 29-year-old Brandao received a two-year suspended sentence and won’t spend time in prison if he follows terms set by a Boston Municipal Court judge, including alcohol counseling and paying the victims’ medical bills.

Brandao’s attorney, Francis Doran, declined comment.

Before sentencing, one victim told the court he still had scars from the attack and left the city. The female victim said she no longer believes there’s good in everyone.

Domestic partnership foes challenge ballot wording in Washington
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Conservative activists want to change the wording of a proposed ballot measure that would overturn the Legislature’s latest expansion of domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian couples.

A petition to amend the referendum language was filed Tuesday, May 26 in Thurston County Superior Court by Larry Stickney, president of the Washington Values Alliance.

Opponents of the domestic partnership expansion take issue with the way state attorneys wrote the title and summary that would appear on the November ballot.

Currently, the proposed ballot summary notes that while the bill expands the rights granted or imposed by state law for married couples and their families, "registered domestic partnerships are not marriages, and marriage is prohibited except between one man and one woman." Under the proposed changes, that language would be removed.

The referendum will only make the ballot if proponents collect more than 120,500 valid voter signatures by July 25. But by filing a challenge, referendum supporters have delayed that process, because they can’t start circulating petitions until the challenge is resolved.

Stickney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. But Gary Randall, president of the allied Faith and Freedom Network, said the coalition seeking to overturn the law wanted clarity in the ballot language.

He said that while there is concern that they are delaying their ability to collect enough signatures, they were still certain they could do it.

"But we’re not naive to the fact that it’s going to be a challenge," he said.

Groups that support the domestic partnership law will likely intervene in the lawsuit to make sure the language of the ballot title and concise summary are accurate.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.

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