Texas sodomy law ruled unconstitutional
A Texas appeals court last week declared the state's sodomy law unconstitutional, throwing out the case of two Houston men who were arrested inside a home in 1998 for having sex with each other, reports AP.
In a 2-1 ruling, the 14th Court of Appeals said the law violates the Texas Constitution because it made it illegal for same-sex partners to engage in this activity while making it legal for opposite sex partners, AP said.
John Geddes Lawrence and Tyrone Garner were arrested when police entered Lawrence's home and found the men having sex. They were charged with "deviant homosexual conduct,'' a misdemeanor. The men pleaded no contest so they could start the legal challenge.
Daniel McGlinchey, political director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said, "The fact that private sexual activity only between gay people was a crime in Texas, while identical acts of intimacy between straight people was not, shows that supporters of the law like George W. Bush were specifically using the power of the state to punish people they don't like, and that's appalling. We're glad the Court of Appeals ruled the law unconstitutional. "
Suzanne Goldberg, an attorney with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund that helped defend the men, said she was pleased with the decision: "We consider this a tremendous victory for lesbians and gay men throughout Texas."
Little progress for
lesbians at UN
Five years after the UN conference in Beijing, which set women's equality as an achievable goal, 189 nations agreed last week on new measures to accelerate the international campaign to reach it, reports AP.
The new document produced includes tougher measures to combat domestic violence and sex trafficking, and to address the impact of HIV/ AIDS. However, little progress was made on the issues of safe abortion, sexual rights, sexual orientation, and equal rights of inheritance, AP said.
That disappointed grassroots groups, including the Lesbian Caucus, who wrote in an open letter to the UN General Assembly, " ... Five years ago we served notice to the United Nations and the international community that the rights of lesbian and bisexual women, indeed the sexual rights of all women, must be acknowledged as part of the full spectrum of human rights. Now, five years later, we are here to collect.
"Our demand is not just about sex and sexuality, nor is it just about the lives of lesbians. It is about the totality of our lives. It is about recognizing that human rights are universal, interrelated, interdependent, and indivisible. It is about recognizing that human rights must be not only protected and respected, but realized."
In the end all attempts to include stronger language on access to abortions failed, and references to sexual rights and sexual orientation were dropped.
The Lesbian Caucus also stated: "If one woman is denied human rights protections, then the human rights of all women are at risk. When the safety of any group of women is not considered worthy of protection, then no woman is truly safe. The attack on the human rights of lesbians is an attack on the sexual autonomy of every woman. We deplore the undermining of the human rights of lesbians, part of a systematic attack on the rights of all women that is being mounted at this conference."
Court affirms right of trans plaintiff to sue
In a decision with major implications for the business community, a federal appeals court confirmed that sex discrimination laws cover individuals discriminated against because of how they are dressed. In a case brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decided June 8 that federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in lending protects a loan applicant, in this case a feminine-appearing man, who was told to go home and change to appear more traditionally masculine.
The decision reinstated a lawsuit brought by Lucas Rosa who, on July 21, 1998, was told she could not apply for a loan at Park West Bank unless she went home and returned looking more like her ID's. Rosa is transgendered, a biological male who dresses and appears female.
Rosa brought a sex discrimination case against the bank under the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Hate-crimes bill clears New York Senate
After 11 years of failure to vote on similar measures passed by the State Assembly, the New York State Senate last week passed a hate-crimes bill that Gov. George Pataki has pledged to sign.
Activists and lawmakers expect a conference committee to produce a compromise bill that will reconcile versions passed this year by the Senate and Assembly—both of which specify the category of "sexual orientation." New York could join the District of Columbia and 40 other states that provide enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by bias, including 23 other states that have covered sexual-orientation-motivated assaults.
CIA holds pride event
The Washington Post reports that the CIA, once a place gays were locked out of, recently held a gay pride celebration at its Langley headquarters, hosted by gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Frank addressed about 100 gay intelligence workers in the CIA's awards suite and met privately with George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence. The Post reports that gay intelligence officers began to 'come out' after President Clinton signed an executive order in August 1995 prohibiting the denial of security clearances "solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the employee." Gay men and lesbians established a group in 1996: Agency Network of Gay and Lesbian Employees ( ANGLE ) .
The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the town's gay-couple benefits policy resulted in a heated debate at a City Commission meeting, as more than 250 residents turned up to argue their opposing positions on the issue.
Kalamazoo is the second city in Michigan, after Ann Arbor, to allow gay city employees to cover their partners under health benefits.
City Attorney Robert Cinabro said the matter is one of internal policy, and thus residents might not be able to challenge it at the polls.
Former New Mexico Sen. fails to to retake seat
Former New Mexico state Sen. Elizabeth Stefanics lost by only 300 votes in her bid to retake the 39th District state Senate seat based in the Santa Fe area. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund reports that anti-gay flyers attacking Stefanics were among the factors that may have contributed to the outcome. Stefanics, who was endorsed by the Victory Fund, had been New Mexico's first and only openly gay or lesbian state legislator.
Trans elected to DNC
Members and supporters of the Stonewall DFL caucus successfully campaigned at the state Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party convention June 4 to elect Jane Fee, an openly transgender person, to serve as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Stonewall DFL supporters joined the DFL Feminist Caucus and a people of color caucus to elect a diverse group of delegates to the convention. Fee is the first openly transgender Minnesotan, and the third nationally, to serve as a national delegate.
A World War II veteran and cancer survivor, Fee is a member of the VFW who considers veterans' benefits as one of her top priorities.
the Ryan White Act
The Senate voted June 6 for a five-year reauthorization of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Relief Emergency ( CARE ) Act., the largest discretionary federal investment in the care and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.
It supports a wide range of community-based services, including primary home healthcare, case management, substance abuse treatment and mental health services, and nutritional and housing services. It also supports the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which has provided drug therapies to uninsured and underinsured people with HIV/AIDS, thereby lowering the HIV/AIDS death rate to its lowest point in nearly a decade.
Gay center damaged by blaze in Des Moines
The Des Moines Register reports that a fire at the Gay and Lesbian Resource Center in Des Moines has caused about $20,000 damage.
The fire apparently started in the basement near an electrical panel.
Puerto Rican gays
The 10th gay-rights march in San Juan, Puerto Rico, recently took place with marchers demanding that lawmakers legalize homosexuality in the U.S. territory, reports AP.
Speakers decried the law that makes gay sex a crime punishable by 10 years in prison. Although no one has ever been charged under the law, and recently prosecutors refused to arrest a lesbian pastor who offered herself as a test case, advocates complain the law encourages prejudice.