NATIONAL BRIEFS: Lesbian couple says Vt. resort barred them; 831 civil unions in Cook County

Lesbian couple says Vermont resort barred them

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Two New York women say a Vermont inn refused to host their wedding reception because of the owners’ anti-gay bias. The couple is now suing, alleging discrimination under the state’s public accommodations law.

Kate Baker and Ming Linsley say they were turned away by the Wildflower Inn, a 24-room inn in Lyndonville, when they told the inn the wedding would have two brides but no groom.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Wildflower Inn said the owners weren’t taking calls on the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Vermont chapter filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Caledonia Superior Court. It says the inn violated the state Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which bars public accommodations from denying services to people based on sexual orientation.

831 civil unions in Cook County in June

CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County couples rushed to use Illinois’ new civil union law.

The county clerk’s office says 831 civil licenses were issued in June. That was the first month couples could get them.

A civil union gives gay couples in Illinois many of the same rights and legal benefits as heterosexual couples. Unmarried heterosexual couples also are eligible.

Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office says more female couples — about 51.5 percent — applied for licenses compared to male partners, who made up about 43 percent of the licenses. About 5.5 percent of the couples who applied were heterosexual.

Most of the civil union licenses — about 65 percent — were granted to people who live in Chicago.

The office says licenses and other fees generated about $37,000 in revenue.

—  John Wright

No hate crime in Log Cabin assault

The assault of a Log Cabin Republicans member at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas last weekend — during which the suspect called the victim a “faggot” – won’t be classified as a hate crime for FBI reporting purposes, according to Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer.

Instant Tea reported Tuesday that even though the Log Cabin member opted not to press charges against the suspect, the assault could still be classified as a bias-motivated incident to the FBI, which is required to track hate crimes nationwide. However, Martin said DPD’s intelligence unit has chosen not to classify the incident as a hate crime because it doesn’t appear the assault was motivated by anti-gay bias.

Martin said the suspect’s use of the word “faggot” took place in the heat of an argument between two groups that had established contact earlier in the evening.

“There’s no obvious proof that it’s a hate crime, that the entire contact was based on the suspect’s hatred of gay people,” Martin said. “There’s just no evidence of it, and in fact the complainant [victim] agrees with that. … The complainant doesn’t believe that he was targeted simply because he’s gay.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Corpus Christi school refuses GSA; Hawaii governor signs civil unions bill

Nikki Peet, 17, wants to start a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance at Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi. But school officials won’t allow it.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. In an apparent violation of federal law, Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi is refusing to allow students to start a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance. After reading the story, go here to get contact info for the school, then give them a call.

2. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed civil unions into law Wednesday, making Hawaii the seventh state in the nation to offer the legal status to same-sex couples. The law takes effect Jan. 1. “E Komo Mai: It means all are welcome,” Abercrombie said in remarks before signing the bill into law. “This signing today of this measure says to all of the world that they are welcome. That everyone is a brother or sister here in paradise.”

3. Two GOP lawmakers in Tennessee have introduced a bill that would prohibit schools from discussing any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. “The Don’t Say Gay bill raises all kinds of issues about anti-gay bias, free speech and government overreach,” said Ben Byers with the Tennessee Equality Project. “It limits what teachers and students are able to discuss in the classroom. It means they can’t talk about gay issues or sexuality even with students who may be gay or have gay family.”

—  John Wright

LGBT community helps raise money for Oak Cliff artist who needs kidney transplant

Monaliza Morris

Oak Cliff artist Monaliza Morris will undergo a kidney transplant next month. For the last 19 years, she’s lived with lupus, an immune system disease that has compromised her kidneys.

While waiting for the surgery to take place, friends have been helping her do some remodeling in her Winnetka Heights house to make her convalescence easier.

Morris is a volunteer at the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, a non-profit organization that helps refugees who have suffered human rights abuses. They have worked to eliminate the anti-gay bias in immigration laws. Friends said she has worked with the North Texas Food Bank’s Empty Bowls program and done AIDS outreach work as well.

Jenny Vann is Morris’ best friend. They met in middle school in Hawaii. Vann was the first person to be tested as a possible donor. They were a match, so Vann is giving Morris one of her kidneys the first week of March.

A fundraiser is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 23 at Agora Entertainment, 3225 Premiere Drive, Irving from 5 to 8:30 p.m. “The Art of Friendship” will include live music and a silent art auction.

“The goal of this is to raise $50,000,” said RafiQ Salleh, whose partner, Cannon Flowers, is the Human Rights Initiative’s CEO. The money will help with the cost of surgery and follow-up medical care.

For more information about Morris or to make a donation online, go here.

—  David Taffet

2 arrested in anti-gay beating at famed gay bar

JENNIFER PELTZ  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — A patron at the Stonewall Inn, a powerful symbol of the gay rights movement since protests over a 1969 police raid there, was tackled to the floor and beaten in an anti-gay bias attack over the weekend, authorities said Monday, Oct. 4.

Two men were arrested in the early Sunday beating, which came little more than a day after a group of male friends bidding an affectionate good night to each other were attacked in another anti-gay assault elsewhere in Manhattan, prosecutors said.

The attacks came amid heightened attention to anti-gay bullying following a string of suicides attributed to it last month, including a New Jersey college student’s Sept. 22 plunge off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was secretly streamed online.

But the attack prosecutors described at the Stonewall Inn especially galled and saddened gay rights advocates, some of whom wondered whether a place known for a defining moment in the history of gay rights might spur a new push for tolerance.

For the Stonewall’s owners, the episode was a sharp and upsetting contrast to its legacy.

“We at the Stonewall Inn are exceedingly troubled that hate crimes like this can and do still occur in this day and age. Obviously the impact of these men’s violent actions is even deeper given that it occurred on the premises of the Stonewall Inn,” an owner, Bill Morgan, wrote in an e-mail.

The victim was using a restroom at the Greenwich Village bar around 2 a.m. local time Sunday when a man at the next urinal, Matthew Francis, asked what kind of an establishment it was, prosecutors said. On being told it was a gay bar, Francis used an anti-gay slur and told the victim to get away from him, assistant district attorney Kiran Singh said.

“I don’t like gay people. Don’t pee next to me,” Francis added, according to the prosecutor.

Francis, 21, then demanded money, punched the victim in the face and continued beating him after a co-defendant blocked the door, tackled the victim and held him down, Singh said. The victim was treated at a hospital and was released, she said.

Francis said nothing at his arraignment Monday. A defense lawyer said that Francis wasn’t the aggressor and that the episode wasn’t motivated by bias.

“Mr. Francis is not a violent person. Nor did he try to rob anyone,” said the attorney, Angel Soto. “There may have been a fight, but it certainly wasn’t a hate crime.”

Francis was held on $10,000 bond. His co-defendant was awaiting arraignment.

Just before midnight Friday, Oct. 1 several male friends hugging and kissing each other good night in Manhattan’s gay-friendly Chelsea neighborhood were confronted by a group of more than five people who used an anti-gay epithet and told them to go home because “this is our neighborhood,” according to a court document filed by prosecutors. Two other men lashed out with fists as Andrew Jackson hurled a metal garbage can into one victim’s head, prosecutors said.

Jackson, 20, was arraigned over the weekend on hate crime assault and other charges. His lawyer, Anne Costanzo, declined to comment Monday.

The Stonewall Inn became a rallying point for gay rights in June 1969, when a police raid sparked an uprising in an era when gay men and women were often in the shadows. Stonewall patrons fought with officers, and several days of demonstrations followed, in an outpouring that became a formative moment in the gay rights movement.

“The riots at Stonewall gave way to protests, and protests gave way to a movement, and the movement gave way to a transformation that continues to this day,” President Barack Obama said at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month reception at the White House in June 2009.

The Stonewall riots’ influence also is reflected in the names of some gay resource organizations, including student groups at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

For the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which works to combat attacks on gays and others, assaults like this weekend’s remain all too common problems. But the attack at the Stonewall Inn reverberates with a particularly disturbing resonance, executive director Sharon Stapel said.

“Even in a bar like the Stonewall Inn, which started a huge part of the gay rights movement — even the Stonewall Inn is not immune to this sort of violence, despite all of the work that they do to create a safe and tolerant atmosphere,” Stapel said. “It’s incredibly sad.”

But she said she hoped the incident and the atmosphere of concern about anti-gay harassment would spark new conversations about how to respond.

The Stonewall Inn has raised money for the Anti-Violence Project and other groups, and managers strive to make the bar inclusive, Morgan said.

“We do our best to run a nice, welcoming establishment where anyone can and should feel safe,” he said.

—  John Wright