In Florida, a federal judge upheld the federal law letting states prohibit same-sex marriages, dismissing a lawsuit brought by two women seeking to have their Massachusetts marriage recognized elsewhere, the Associated Press reported. Attorneys for conservative groups hailed the ruling by U.S. District Judge James S. Moody as an important first step in upholding the federal law, but said they anticipated lengthy appeals. Several federal cases nationwide have been filed challenging the Defense of Marriage Act. However, this latest ruling is believed to be the first time a federal judge has ruled on a direct challenge to the 1996 law.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review an Air Force lieutenant's criminal conviction for having sex with a 15-year-old boy, according to AP. The officer contended that the conviction was protected by a previous court decision overturning state statutes that criminalized gay sex. Justices, without comment, rejected the appeal by Second Lt. Ryan W. Davis. He pleaded guilty to consensual sodomy and conduct unbecoming to an officer in military court following an April 1997 meeting with a boy at a park in Gulf Breeze, Fla. Davis was subsequently dismissed from the Air Force; confined for 24 months; and ordered to forfeit all pay and allowances.
President Bush has established a connection with some Black clergy members, according to the Los Angeles Times. The church of a well-known minister, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, received $1.5 million in federal funds through Bush's initiative to support faith-based social services after meeting with the President in 2002. However, Daniels said that it was not the federal money that led him to endorse the Republican candidate last year in his re-election bid, but the values of Bush and other party leaders who champion church ministries, religious education, and moral clarity. The Times stated that Daniels' political conversion—and similar transformations by Black pastors across the nation—formed a little-known part of Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.
The Louisiana Supreme Court reinstated the anti-same-sex marriage amendment to the state constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in September, CBS News reported. Without dissent, the high court reversed a state district judge's ruling in October striking down the amendment on the grounds that it violated a provision of the state constitution requiring that an amendment cover only one subject. Judge William Morvant had ruled that the amendment also prevented the state from recognizing any legal status for common-law relationships, domestic partnerships, and civil unions between both gay and heterosexual couples.
A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., man apologized for exploiting the World Trade Center tragedy to line his pockets before he was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison for a crime that American Red Cross officials called reprehensible, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Patric Ian Henn promised that he would pay back the nonprofit organization the $68,000 in benefits he received after inventing a domestic partner who, he said, died when the twin towers collapsed. The Red Cross provided Henn, 29, with a hotel room —and then an apartment—after the attack and gave him at least $44,000 in checks.
In a New York appellate court, Lambda Legal Defense gave oral arguments on behalf of Bill Valentine, a man who lost his partner of over 20 years in an air crash in November 2001 and is seeking survivor benefits, PlanetOut.com reported. Valentine's partner, Joe Lopes, was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 587, the plane that dove into a Queens neighborhood shortly after taking off from JFK Airport. Although American Airlines treated Valentine as a surviving spouse, paying for death expenses, sending Lopes' last paycheck to his attention and granting him survivor flight privileges, the state of New York declined his request for workers' compensation death benefits.
Responding to criticism that only 22 gay groups were invited to sign a unity statement that was recently released, leaders involved in the drafting and issuing of the document say it was a matter of timing that lead to the limited number of signatories, the New York Blade reported. Gay leaders who were not a part of the statement criticized the document, noting that marriage equality was featured last on the agenda's priority list. One gay leader said the statement appeared to be political cover for criticism the Human Rights Campaign received for seemingly retreating from marriage equality.
By a one-vote margin, the East Point, Ga., City Council approved an ordinance offering benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of city employees, the Southern Voice reported. The ordinance, proposed by Lance Rhodes, East Point's only openly gay council member, failed initially when proposed last Nov. 15.
Same-sex couples should pay special attention when filing their Massachusetts tax returns this year, the Berkshire Eagle reported. For gay and lesbian couples, the operative date is May 16, 2004, when the state recognized their right to be married. For same-sex marriages on or after that date, the state will allow them to file either Massachusetts joint returns or 'married, filing separate' returns.
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted by telephone asked 1,007 adults this question: 'When you think about how the George W. Bush administration may deal with same sex marriage—do you feel mostly hopeful or mostly fearful, or would you say your feelings are mixed?' According to the Post, 35 percent responded that they were hopeful, 27 percent said they were fearful, 35 percent had mixed feelings, and 3 percent had no opinion.
A new TV ad by the Human Rights Campaign highlighted inconsistencies in what President Bush said and did regarding equal rights for LGBT Americans during his first term, according to an HRC release. The ad ran last week on Washington, D.C., cable to coincide with the inauguration.
In Washington State, two new coalitions of liberal people are taking their messages to the public, the Seattle Times reported. Faith Forward is holding forums to discuss what participants' faiths teach about issues such as homelessness and poverty. Religious Coalition for Equality, a lobbying group supported by 200 mainly local Christian and Jewish religious figures, plans to hold a rally in Olympia Feb. 14 to urge passage of a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.