Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Principal Apologizes for Punishing Student for Pro-Gay T-shirt

A principal at a central New York high school who sent a student home for wearing a pro-gay T-shirt has issued an official apology. Heathyre Farnham, a 16-year-old student at Spencer–Van Etten High School, was sent home in September because her shirt, which read "Gay? Fine by Me," was deemed a disruption.

According to a press release from the Student Press Law Center, principal Ann Sincock apologized to Farnham privately after school district officials said that Farnham's shirt was a form of protected expression.

Barrie Gewanter, director of the local chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, pressed the school board on October 23 to issue an apology as well as a public statement that the district would uphold students' right to expression.

"You can't cure the chill of censorship with silence," Gewanter said in a statement.

On November 2, an announcement was made over the school's public address system that the school dress code "does not prohibit students from displaying controversial or political messages" and that tolerant messages are acceptable for expression, according to the release.

Uruguay approves gay civil unions

Isn't it sad that countries around the world continue to pass the states of the United States of America on issues of gay marriage and civil unions!

The Eastern Republic of Uruguay's congress has approved a bill which would allow civil unions for both gay and unmarried straight couples.

It is the first country in Roman Catholic-dominated Latin America to approve such a measure nationwide.

The Uruguayan President, Tabare Vazquez, is now expected to sign the bill into law.

Under its provisions, couples who have lived together for five years will have rights similar to those already enjoyed by married couples.

Couples will have to register their relationship with authorities to gain the cohabitation rights - covering areas such as inheritance, pensions and child custody - and will also be able to formalise the end of their union.

Several cities across Latin America, including Buenos Aires and Mexico City, have recently adopted similar measures.

Gay marriage remains illegal in Uruguay.

Uruguay has traditionally been better off than many other countries in South America, and is known for its advanced education and social security systems and liberal laws governing social issues such as divorce.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

U.S. Church splits over gay rights

A Californian diocese has voted to become the first to break away from the US Episcopal Church in protest at its support for gays in the Church.

Delegates of the San Joaquin diocese in Fresno voted 173-22 to secede.

It follows years of disagreement with Church authorities triggered by the consecration of a gay bishop in 2003.

The Episcopal Church is the US wing of the 77m-member Anglican Communion, which is threatened by a deep split between conservatives and liberals.

The Episcopal Church says that in recent years 32 of its 7,600 congregations had left, with another 23 voting to leave but not taking the final step.

San Joaquin is the first of the Church's 110 dioceses to complete the split.

In a later vote, the diocese accepted an invitation to join a conservative South American Anglican congregation.

'Contrary to teachings'

"This is the first time, I believe, that a diocese has finally said 'enough' in terms of the liberal theology of the Episcopal Church," said Bishop John-David Schofield of the San Joaquin diocese ahead of the vote.

Anglican leaders in many parts of the world were angered by the consecration of openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Conservative churchgoers believe active homosexuality is contrary to the Anglican Communion's teachings, which are rooted in the bible.

However, liberal Anglicans have argued that biblical teachings on justice and inclusion should take precedence.

Rhode Island court won't let gay couple from Massachusetts divorce.

Some people have to try to "rock the boat" and possibly destroy things for everyone else.

In a split decision, Rhode Island's top court said yesterday that it will not allow a lesbian couple who married in Massachusetts to get a divorce in the Ocean State.

The 3-to-2 ruling was viewed by advocates of gay marriage as a setback and by those who oppose the recognition of same-sex unions as an act of wisdom.

The court concluded that a key 1961 Rhode Island law defines marriage as an legal union between a man and a woman, not same-sex couples. Unless and until the Legislature changes the wording, same-sex couples married in Massachusetts cannot get divorced in Rhode Island family courts, it said.

Cassandra Ormiston, who married Margaret Chambers in Fall River in 2004 after Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriages, denounced the ruling, saying it discriminates against same-sex couples.

"There have been people throughout history who have been discriminated against," said Ormiston, 60. "And they have fought the good fight and prevailed. It will be the case with my minority as well."

"It won't stand," she said.

Louis Pulner, the lawyer for Chambers, said his 70-year-old client has stayed out of public view during the high-profile litigation triggered by her failed marriage.

In a statement, Governor Donald L. Carcieri of Rhode Island and at least one group that opposes gay marriage praised the ruling.

"I believe this is the appropriate result based on Rhode Island law," Carcieri said. "It has always been clear to me that Rhode Island law was designed to permit marriage, and therefore divorce, only between a man and a woman."

But Rhode Island's attorney general, Patrick Lynch, and the Boston group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders criticized the ruling. "It is unfair to the couple in question and other couples similarly situated," because they cannot legally end their marriages, Lynch said in the statement. He said the ruling does not affect the status of same-sex marriages of Rhode Island couples not seeking divorce.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gay nonprofit in financial trouble

ANOTHER LGBT non-profit in financial trouble:

A Capitol Hill institution important to Seattle's lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community is in financial trouble and likely will close by year's end at its current location.

The Seattle LGBT Community Center, which last year stepped forward to keep a gay Pride march and festival on Capitol Hill after the traditional sponsors moved the annual event downtown, is struggling to pay its suppliers.

The revelations cap a year that witnessed the financial troubles of Seattle Out and Proud, another gay-focused nonprofit group and the traditional sponsor of Seattle's annual Pride festivities. The group still owes the city more than $100,000 for last year's events.

Now serious questions are being raised about whether the LGBT center — whose director resigned this summer — will be up to staging a Pride celebration on Capitol Hill next summer.

"It's tough all around for nonprofits, particularly gay and lesbian nonprofits," said Breanna Anderson, co-president of the LGBT center's board of directors.

With rents as high as they are on Capitol Hill, finding a new home is the "fiscally responsible thing to do," she said. "So we're looking at a few options right now, including sharing space with other community organizations."

Calls to other board members and the LGBT center's interim director, Dennis Poplin, were not immediately returned Wednesday, and the center's former executive director, Shannon Thomas, could not be reached for comment.

Established in 1996, the LGBT center provides a range of support services to the local gay community.

Last year, Capitol Hill businesses and activists, outraged with Out and Proud's transfer of the Pride parade from Broadway to downtown, asked the LGBT center to restore festivities on the Hill — a march along Broadway and a festival in Volunteer

Several sponsors of the original Pride celebration shifted their event support to the center. Anderson said those and other funds go into a general fund to pay center costs. It gets most of its money from private donors and about $16,000 from the city of Seattle to help run a hotline.

"None of our money is earmarked," Anderson said.

She said that in the spring, a burned-out Thomas told the board she was resigning but was talked into staying long enough to see the June Pride events on Capitol Hill through to completion.

Thomas left shortly after and was compensated for significant paid time off that she had accrued, along with her last month's salary, Anderson said.

The center reportedly owes about $30,000 to vendors that supplied lighting, sanitation and other services during this past summer's Pride events. Anderson said the center is trying to raise money and hopes to pay its debts within the next 45 days.

James Ball, lead technician for AV-Pro Inc., which provided projection lighting, said his company has not been paid.

"We understand that they are going through some hard times, and we're trying to work with them. I hope they can make this whole thing come together," he said.