HIV case causes LA porn industry shutdown

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — An adult film performer has tested positive for HIV, causing porn producers to shut down shoots in Southern California as the diagnosis is confirmed through re-testing, according to an industry group.

Free Speech Coalition executive director Diane Duke told The Los Angeles Times on Monday that her group became aware of the HIV case Saturday.

A series of tests were being conducted on the performer to confirm the case before anyone the performer might have spread the illness to will be notified to get tested, Duke told The Associated Press.

She didn’t know how long that would take.

Duke declined to release the performer’s name, age or gender, citing the person’s federal right to medical privacy. She also declined to say how her group learned of the case.

The case was found in an out-of-state clinic that doesn’t report to California health officials, said Duke.

If the initial case is confirmed, the group will ask two generations of the person’s sexual partners to get tested, meaning those who had sex with the performer and the sexual partners of those who had sex with the performer.

The voluntary industry shutdown affects porn producers in the San Fernando Valley, the heart of the multi-billion dollar American porn industry, and includes Hustler and Evil Angel’s productions.

The porn industry was shut down similarly in late 2010, after porn actor Derrick Burts was diagnosed HIV positive.

Burts has since gone on to advocate for the mandatory use of condoms in porn with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The health advocacy group and state workplace safety officials say state law mandates porn performers to use condoms to protect themselves under the same set of rules that require nurses to wear gloves in hospitals when dealing with bodily fluids.

Cal/OSHA is working to clarify the regulation to make it more specific to porn.

Earlier this month, the health advocacy group announced that it will gather 41,138 petition signatures to get the issue of condoms in porn on the June 2012 ballot.

The ballot measure would ask Los Angeles residents whether porn producers must require performers to use condoms on shoots as a condition of getting a filming permit.

“The question remains how many performers must become infected with HIV and other serious STDs before the industry will clean up its act and government will do the right thing?” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The group has unsuccessfully pushed California and Los Angeles County officials to tighten enforcement of condom use on porn sets through legislative attempts, lawsuits and regulatory complaints.

—  John Wright

President Obama appoints 1st male, 1st openly gay White House social secretary

Jeremy Bernard (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Jeremy Bernard, a native Texan formerly on staff at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, today became the first male AND the first openly gay person to serve as social secretary in the White House,according to this report in the Los Angeles Times.

Bernard worked in the financial industry in California and was a consultant for Obama’s 2008 campaign. He also served on the LGBT Advisory Committee for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office, the L.A. Police Department and the mayor’s office. And he’s done work on behalf of A.N.G.L.E — Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality — and the National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

In appointing Bernard, President Obama said, “Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People’s House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways.”

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Dead birds and DADT repeal; gay shooting hero Daniel Hernandez; Chely Wright

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Whacko preacher Cindy Jacobs, founder of Red Oak-based Generals International, says the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” may be to blame for the recent bird and fish deaths in Arkansas. Others, however, have suggested that Jacobs’ wardrobe is the real culprit. In case you didn’t know, Red Oak is a little town in Ellis County, about a half hour south of Dallas on I-35. Here’s what Jacobs says in the video above: “Well, there’s something interesting we have been watching — let’s talk about this Arkansas pattern and say, could it be a pattern? We’re going to watch and see. But the blackbirds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. Well the Governor of Arkansas’ name is Beebe. And also, there was something put out of Arkansas called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by a former Governor, this was proposed, Bill Clinton. As so, could there be a connection between this passage [Hosea 4] and now that we’ve had the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, where people now legally in the United States have broken restraints with the Scripture because the Scripture says in Romans 1 that homosexuality is not allowed. It could be because we have said it’s okay for people who commit these kinds of acts to be recognized in our military for the first time in our history, there is a potential that there is something that actually happened in the land where a hundred thousand drum fish died and also where these birds just fell out of the air.”

2. The Los Angeles Times draws a comparison between Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern who may have saved the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — and Oliver Sipple, a gay Marine who thwarted an assassination attempt against President Gerald in 1975. It’s sure nice to know that Instant Tea, which broke the story about Hernandez being gay, probably won’t be getting sued like the newspapers that revealed Sipple was gay. And the column is an excellent illustration of how what it means to be gay has changed so dramatically over the last 35 years. …

3. … But we’ve still got a ways to go. Country singer Chely Wright, who appeared at this year’s Black Tie Dinner in Dallas, says the perception that coming out has helped her career is flat out wrong. “My record sales went directly in half,” Wright says in a new interview with Autostraddle.com, adding that she’s also received death threats.

—  John Wright

HIV-positive LA porn actor calls for condom use

Follow-up care was promised but actor says he received none from industry’s clinic

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — An adult film actor who tested positive for HIV says he now wishes he had known more about the risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases in the industry and is calling for mandatory condom use in porn films.

Derrick Burts, 24, identified himself to the Los Angeles Times as the performer who tested positive at the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation in Sherman Oaks in October. He had previously been known as Patient Zeta.

Burts, who performed in straight films as Cameron Reid and gay films as Derek Chambers, described the panicked call he got from clinic staff on Oct. 9 about the infection that sent fears through California’s adult industry.

Clinic staff told him they wanted to perform a follow-up test and begin notifying performers he had worked with since his last negative test result Sept. 3. He was told those performers would be placed on a quarantine list and also would be tested.

When Burts returned to the clinic Oct. 23 to review the second test results, he said he was told that the clinic had traced his HIV infection to someone he had performed a scene with, someone they described as a “known positive.” The clinic would not identity the performer because of patient confidentiality.

Burts said he believed he may have contracted the disease during a gay porn shoot in Florida.

Despite Burts’ account of what he was told, clinic officials released a statement last month that said “Patient Zeta acquired the virus through private, personal activity.”

“That’s completely false,” Burts told the Times. “There is no possible way. The only person I had sex with in my personal life was my girlfriend.”

She tested negative, he said.

An e-mail to the Adult Industry Healthcare Foundation seeking comment this week was not immediately returned.

Burts said the clinic promised to put him in touch with a doctor affiliated with the clinic and promised to arrange for his follow-up care. But he said no one called him back and when he contacted the clinic, he received no response for two months.

In frustration, Burts said he went to an AIDS Healthcare Foundation center in Los Angeles on Nov. 24 but didn’t identify himself as Patient Zeta.

Burts said he was pleased with the care he received there and contacted the head of the organization last week and identified himself as Patient Zeta. He said he wanted to speak out in favor of enforcing mandatory condom use in porn productions.

Burts grew up in Whittier and Hemet and graduated from Hemet High School and a hotel management school in Florida, according to the Times. He worked as a hotel manager and cruise ship magician before becoming a performer in the lucrative porn industry.

“Making $10,000 or $15,000 for porn isn’t worth your life,” he told the Times. “Performers need to be educated.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Gay porn actor calls for condom use

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — An adult film actor who tested positive for HIV says he now wishes he had known more about the risks of contracting sexually transmitted diseases in the industry and is calling for mandatory condom use in porn films.

Derrick Burts, 24, identified himself to the Los Angeles Times as the performer who tested positive at the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation in Sherman Oaks in October. He had previously been known as Patient Zeta.

Burts, who performed in straight films as Cameron Reid and gay films as Derek Chambers, described the panicked call he got from clinic staff on Oct. 9 about the infection that sent fears through California’s adult industry.

Clinic staff told him they wanted to perform a follow-up test and begin notifying performers he had worked with since his last negative test result Sept. 3. He was told those performers would be placed on a quarantine list and also would be tested.

When Burts returned to the clinic Oct. 23 to review the second test results, he said he was told that the clinic had traced his HIV infection to someone he had performed a scene with, someone they described as a “known positive.” The clinic would not identity the performer because of patient confidentiality.

Burts said he believed he may have contracted the disease during a gay porn shoot in Florida.

Despite Burts’ account of what he was told, clinic officials released a statement last month that said “Patient Zeta acquired the virus through private, personal activity.”

“That’s completely false,” Burts told the Times. “There is no possible way. The only person I had sex with in my personal life was my girlfriend.”

She tested negative, he said.

An e-mail to the Adult Industry Healthcare Foundation seeking comment late Tuesday, Dec. 7 was not immediately returned.

Burts said the clinic promised to put him in touch with a doctor affiliated with the clinic and promised to arrange for his follow-up care. But he said no one called him back and when he contacted the clinic, he received no response for two months.

In frustration, Burts said he went to an AIDS Healthcare Foundation center in Los Angeles on Nov. 24 but didn’t identify himself as Patient Zeta.

Burts said he was pleased with the care he received there and contacted the head of the organization last week and identified himself as Patient Zeta. He said he wanted to speak out in favor of enforcing mandatory condom use in porn productions.

The Times reported the foundation had scheduled a news conference with Burt on Wednesday.

Burts grew up in Whittier and Hemet and graduated from Hemet High School and a hotel management school in Florida, according to the Times. He worked as a hotel manager and cruise ship magician before becoming a performer in the lucrative porn industry.

“Making $10,000 or $15,000 for porn isn’t worth your life,” he told the Times. “Performers need to be educated.”

—  John Wright

Gay Saudi diplomat in Los Angeles fears execution after being fired, ordered home

Man seeks asylum, goes into hiding

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A gay Saudi diplomat seeking political asylum said his position was terminated and he was ordered to return to his home country where he fears he will be killed.

In an e-mail to news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, Saudi consulate official Ali Ahmad Asseri said his passport wasn’t renewed and his position in the Los Angeles office was eliminated after Saudi officials learned that he is gay and he befriended a Jewish woman.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

“My life is in a great danger here, and if I go back to Saudi Arabia they will kill me openly in broad daylight,” Asseri wrote in the message.

Asseri, who has been in the U.S. for five years, is in hiding, according to supporters.

His lawyer, Ally Bolour, told NBC News — which first reported the story last weekend — that his client applied for asylum because he was a member of a particular social group that would subject him to persecution if he went back to Saudi Arabia.

Asseri was questioned Aug. 30 by a Department of Homeland Security official in Los Angeles, said Bolour, who declined further comment until the case has been decided.

In July, Asseri posted an appeal to King Abdullah on a popular Arabic website in which he railed against the “backwardness” of Saudi officials and “militant Imams who defaced the tolerance of Islam.”

—  John Wright

Federal judge declares DADT unconstitutional

READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE RULING

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

A federal judge in California on Thursday declared the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional, saying it violates both the First Amendment rights to free speech and the Fifth Amendment rights to due process in the U.S. constitution.

The 85-page memorandum opinion came in Log Cabin Republicans v. U.S, a six-year-old lawsuit that has received little media attention compared to most other gay-related trials. The bench trial in Riverside, Calif., in July was overshadowed by a much more high-profile challenge of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, in federal court in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips presided over a two-week-long trial that began July 13 and included many witnesses testifying about the history of DADT and the injury it has caused. Phillips, 52, was appointed to the federal bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton, who signed DADT into law in 1993. LCR filed its lawsuit against the policy in 2004.

“As an American, a veteran and an Army reserve officer, I am proud the court ruled that the arcane ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ statute violates the Constitution,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.  “Today, the ruling is not just a win for Log Cabin Republican servicemembers, but all American servicemembers.”

The opinion strikes down the 1993 law that bars from the military any servicemember who engages in “homosexual conduct,” has a “propensity” to do so, or even just states that he or she is a “homosexual or bisexual.”

Phillips’ decision, which has not yet been officially “entered,” could include an injunction against further enforcement of DADT by the government but will almost certainly be stayed and appealed to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Phillips granted plaintiffs Log Cabin until Thursday, Sept. 16, to submit a proposed judgment granting an injunction. After that, the Department of Justice will have seven days to respond with objections.

Log Cabin brought the lawsuit on behalf of many of its members who it said are being denied their constitutional rights. The group specifically identified only two members at trial: Alexander Nicholson, a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence officer who was discharged under DADT and now serves as head of Servicemembers United; and John Doe, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves concerned he may face discharge under the policy.

“This is a historic moment and an historic ruling for the gay military community,” Nicholson said in a statement Thursday night. “As the only named injured party in this case, I am exceedingly proud to have been able to represent all who have been impacted and had their lives ruined by this blatantly unconstitutional policy. We are finally on our way to vindication.”

The Department of Justice tried repeatedly to have the lawsuit dismissed, claiming LCR has no legal standing to serve as plaintiffs. It also tried to have the judge decide the case without hearing testimony from LCR’s witnesses. And it tried to have the judge postpone the trial, arguing that Congress has a measure pending that could significantly affect the DADT law.

That measure is still awaiting action in the Senate as part of a Defense spending bill that is likely to see action later this month. There seems little doubt that the judge’s opinion will now be the subject of the debate around that measure. But Judge Phillips refused to delay action on LCR’s lawsuit, noting that the DADT repeal measure — as it is currently worded in Congress — does not guarantee repeal of DADT. Instead, the legislation requires a sign-off procedure involving the president, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The likelihood the bill would lead to repeal, said Phillips at trial, is “remote, if not wholly speculative.”

Phillips noted that evidence considered at trial, including three historic studies concerning gays in the military, did not identify any legitimate reasons for barring gays. The 1957 Crittenden Report, she said, “is not evidence that discharge of homosexual servicemembers significantly furthers government interests in military readiness or troop cohesion.” The 1988 PERSEREC Report “generally dismisses traditional objections to service by homosexuals in the military as abstract, intangible, and tradition-bound.” And the 1993 Rand Report concludes, “no empirical evidence exists demonstrating the impact of an openly homosexual servicemember on the cohesion of any military unit.”

Using tables of data to demonstrate a point made at trial by DADT opponent Nathaniel Frank, Phillips showed how the military discharged increasing numbers of servicemembers for homosexuality from 1994 to 2001, but that the number “fell sharply” beginning in 2002 as the U.S. began fighting in Afghanistan. In 2001, according to the data, the military discharged 1,227 people for being gay — the largest number per year since DADT went into effect. But in 2002, the number of discharges dropped to 885. Last year, only 275 were discharged.

She also cited data submitted by Log Cabin Republicans’ attorneys showing the Defense Department often suspended investigations of servicemembers it believed to be gay until after the servicemembers had completed their tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. DOD, she noted “deployed servicemembers under investigation … to combat missions or, if they were already so deployed, delayed the completion of the investigation until the end of the deployment.”

“This evidence, in particular, directly undermines any contention that [DADT] furthers the Government’s purpose of military readiness, as it shows [DOD officials] continue to deploy gay and lesbian members of the military into combat, waiting until they have returned before resolving the charges arising out of the suspected homosexual conduct.”

“Taken as a whole,” wrote Phillips, “the evidence introduced at trial shows that the effect of the Act has been, not to advance the Government’s interests of military readiness and unit cohesion, much less to do so significantly, but to harm that interest.“

In her decision, Phillips noted that the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals addressed a similar case, Cook v. Gates, and came to a different opinion and upheld the law. But Phillips said she found the 1st Circuit’s reasoning “unpersuasive” and noted that she, within a 9th Circuit court, is not bound to follow it.

Phillips, however, indicated she was bound to follow a precedent of her own 9th Circuit, rendered in another challenge to the DADT policy and brought by an Air Force nurse, Margaret Witt, in Seattle. On a preliminary matter in that case, the 9th Circuit ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas recognized a fundamental right to “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.” Infringement on a fundamental right requires a law to pass a “heightened” or more stringent judicial review.

The Witt v. U.S. case is scheduled for trial beginning Sept. 13 in the U.S. District Court for Tacoma, Wash.

Chad Griffin, president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights which is pressing the case against Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage in California, said the Log Cabin decision “is yet another significant and long-overdue step toward full equality for all Americans.

“It is clear,” said Griffin, “that our nation is moving toward the day when every American will be treated equally under the law, as required by our Constitution.”

Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said: “We’re pleased by the judge’s decision, but this decision is likely to be appealed and will linger for years. Congress made the DADT law 17 years ago and Congress should repeal it. The Senate will have the opportunity to do just that this month and most Americans think the Senate should seize it.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said he hopes the ruling will help spur Congress.

“Today a federal judge affirmed what the vast majority of the American people know to be true — that it’s time for the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law to be sent to the dustbin of history,” Solmonese said. “With this legal victory in hand, Congress is right now in a perfect position to strengthen our national security by ending a law that has discharged thousands of capable service members. With House passage already secured, the Senate can and should vote in the next few weeks to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and allow every qualified man and woman the chance to serve with honor.”

Online editor John Wright contributed to this story.

© 2010 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Did a hunter’s camera catch a UFO?

OK, so this is not “gay” in the least. But the headline of the story in the Los Angeles Times caught my attention: “Did hunter’s infrared camera capture images of UFO?”

It caught my attention for two reasons. First, I am fascinated by the idea of UFOs. I always have been. And the second reason is that I couldn’t figure out why the LA Times is reporting on an ambiguous UFO sighting by a hunter from Archer City, just outside Fort Worth.

Anyway, here is video of an interview with Lisa Brock-Piekarski who saw something strange — and for her, a bit unsettling — in a series of images taken by a stationary infrared hunting camera on her ranch near Archer City.

So, what do you think? Is the truth really out there?

—  admin

Opposition is apoplectic over Prop 8 ruling

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker

Sometimes it’s fun to see what the opposition is saying, especially when they lose.

Tim Wildmon is one of the most vociferous anti-gay crusaders in the country as president of the American Family Association. He wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times about the Prop 8 case in that state.

The argument in his letter is that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker nullified the vote of the people and that the judge imposed his personal opinions.

Here’s the problem with Wildmon’s position. Judge Walker ruled based on the evidence presented at trial. The defense of Prop 8 presented only two witnesses who were completely discredited. Wildmon, himself, would have been a better witness.

One defense witness admitted that the information he gave in testimony was given to him by the attorneys and said that the facts he presented he found on the Internet. The other even admitted under oath that same-sex couples were indeed being discriminated against.

The problem with Wildmon’s argument about the will of the people is that the defense never presented that as an argument in the case. They presented false studies, hearsay and Bible quotes as evidence that same-sex couples should not be treated equally under the law.

Wildmon also argues that the judge is rumored to be gay and so should not have been allowed to hear the case. I’m not sure if that means that heteroseuxal judges should be disqualified in all cases affecting other heterosexuals.

Under his ruling, however, the LGBT community will not have standing to put a proposition on the ballot to invalidate straight marriages either. His ruling protects everyone.

The judge could have ruled that despite all evidence in the trial, the voters do, indeed, have a right to vote on this issue and that they have a right to impose laws that are discriminatory. And the higher courts may rule exactly that way.

Talking to attorneys from Lambda Legal and National Center for Lesbian Rights, two organizations that filed briefs in the case, an evidentiary ruling such as this, is harder to overturn than one based principally on law. In other words, the higher courts will not hear any new evidence and no evidence in the trial supported Prop 8. But the higher courts could rule that despite all the evidence, states have the right to discriminate against same-sex couples and voters have the right to deny equality.

—  David Taffet