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Monday, February 27, 2006

NewsWrap 2/27/06 (#935)[10:30/1663 words as recorded)

for the week ending February 25, 2006
(As broadcast on This Way Out program #935, distributed 2-27-06)
[Written this week by Lucia Chappelle and Greg Gordon, with thanks to Graham
Underhill and Rex Wockner]

Reported this week by Christopher Gaal and Sheri Lunn

The shocking murder of a young Cape Town-area lesbian has brought home the
sad truth that the progressive attitude of South Africa's Constitution is not
necessarily shared by the people of its townships. According to news reports,
19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana was walking home with a friend in the township
of Khayelitsha earlier this month when they were confronted by another
schoolgirl who called them "tomboys... who want to get raped." Zoliswa replied, "We
are not tomboys, we are lesbians. We are just doing our thing, so leave us
alone." The girl went to a nearby tavern and returned with about 20 young male
friends. Zoliswa's companion, who is in hiding and cannot be identified, says
she implored Zoliswa to run from the attackers. But Zoliswa said, "No, this
is my area. Why must we go?"
As the gang chased them with golf clubs, Zoliswa's friend managed to escape
over a fence. Zoliswa ran for home, but was overtaken just outside her door
and bludgeoned, hit with bricks, and stabbed to death. Six suspects, all
between the ages of 17 and 19, have been arrested in connection with the killing.
About 400 people attended Zoliswa's funeral, and on February 19th Cape Town
Pride marchers paid tribute to the slain teen as they ventured into the
township of Gugulethu for the first time.
Zanele Muholi, a lesbian official with the Forum for the Empowerment of
Women, told the Mail & Guardian newspaper, "Members of our community are
celebrating the Constitution, but it is very different in the society. They should hold
workshops on the Constitution in all the townships -- people are not aware of
our rights and needs."

Adoptions and foster care by lesbians and gay men made news this week in
France, Israel, and the United States.
France's highest court wrote that the country's civil code does not forbid a
single mother from sharing all or part of her parental rights "with the woman
with whom she lives in a stable and continuous union, as long as the
circumstances demand it and as long as the move conforms to the child's best interest."
The case centered around two unnamed women who registered a civil union in
December 1999, after 10 years of living together. One of the partners gave
birth to two daughters through artificial insemination, but only the birth mother
had previously held legal parental rights. In approving the woman's partner
as a second parent, the court ruled that the absence of a legal father left the
girls at risk in case their birth mother becomes incapacitated.

An Israeli Family Court has for the first time approved a same-gender
couple's adoption of each other's biological children.
In addition to parenting a now 15-year-old, Tal and Avital Jarus-Hakak each
gave birth to a child using in-vitro fertilization in 1994 and 1997.
Their case had been in the courts for several years. Israeli queer activists
say that despite the ruling, it will still be a long time before same gender
couples are legally recognized there.

In the U.S., a judge in Missouri ruled this week that the state's
Department of Social Services improperly denied a woman's application to become a
foster parent simply because she is a lesbian.
The rejection was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf
of Lisa Johnston of Kansas City, who happens to hold a degree in child
development from the University of Kansas. Her partner, Dawn Roginski, has a
master's degree in counseling and works as a chaplain at a treatment center for
troubled teens.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Sandra C. Midkiff ruled against the rejection of
Johnston, writing that her sexual orientation "should not be the endpoint of
the Agency's consideration of her application for a foster care license."
Social Services had argued that a child raised by a same-gender couple might face
social disapproval, a position that Midkiff wrote "is unsupported by
competent and substantial evidence, and is arbitrary and capricious."
While there's no written ban on gays and lesbians fostering or adopting
children in Missouri, Social Services reportedly rejected Johnston's fostering
application on the basis of the state's sodomy statute, deeming her therefore to
not be "of reputable character" -- this despite the U.S. Supreme Court's
overturning of all such laws in 2003. There's no word yet on whether or not the
state will appeal the ruling.

A bill to ban adoption and foster care by gays and lesbians was introduced
by 10 Republicans earlier this month in the legislature of the U.S. state of
Ohio, but it's unlikely to see a vote. Republican Jon Husted is Speaker of the
House and is himself adopted. He criticized his colleagues' bill, telling
the Ohio News Network that "We have thousands of children in Ohio... that need a
loving and caring home. I'm trying to expand opportunities for those
children to find a nurturing and caring environment, not close down those
opportunities to them."

Several leading children's health, welfare and mental health organizations
in the U.S. have issued statements declaring that a parent's sexual
orientation is irrelevant to his or her ability to raise a child. Nevertheless,
religious conservatives are increasingly raising the issue, encouraged by the
wholesale bans on marriage equality in the 2004 elections and the continuing actions
on that front. Moves to pass laws or qualify November ballot initiatives to
ban adoptions by gays and lesbians are underway in at least 15 states. Patrick
Guerriero of the GLBT Log Cabin Republicans calls the strategy the next step
by conservatives. "The game plan was first to go to states where it was easy
to pass anti-marriage amendments," he said, "and then launch a second round of
attacks on gay adoption." But skeptical Republican pollster Whit Ayres told
USA Today that "Adoption doesn't have the emotional power of the gay marriage
issue because there is no such thing as the phrase 'the sanctity of adoption.'"

South Korea's Sexual Violence Relief Center has condemned discrimination
against gay men in the armed forces and called for changes to regulations
banning them from duty. The group was joined by an alliance of 35 civic
organizations at a press conference in Seoul this week denouncing the treatment of gay
men in the country's military.
At least 8 soldiers were discharged in 2005 for homosexuality, according to
the South Korea Defense Ministry's first-ever disclosure of such statistics.
Hwang Jang-kwon of Solidarity for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Human Rights
of Korea said a gay soldier sought the group's help earlier this month after
being forced to provide photographic evidence that he was involved in
homosexual relations. He said he was also forced to take an AIDS test without his
All South Korean men are required to serve in the country's armed forces.
The groups urged the Ministry of Defense to take measures to protect the human
rights of gay and bisexual men drafted into the military, and also to consider
alternatives to regular military service for them. Members of the groups said
they will submit the issue to the National Human Rights Commission for
further review. Defense Ministry officials said they will investigate alleged
violations of gay conscripts' mistreatment only if the Commission requires them to
do so.

A commission of U.S. military experts has released a report saying that
implementing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" cost American taxpayers almost 369 million
dollars in the policy’s first 10 years. According to the report, the military
has put millions of dollars into recruiting and training new soldiers and
officers to replace those who were removed from their jobs because they are
openly lesbian or gay.
Issued by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at
the University of California, Santa Barbara, the report's authors include
William Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, former Reagan
Administration Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, and professors from
the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
C. Dixon Osburn of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a queer military
advocacy group, said 369 million dollars would buy body armor vests to outfit
the entire American military now serving in Iraq. He estimates that the
Pentagon has discharged more than 10,000 service members for homosexuality since
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" went into effect in 1994.
And Denny Meyer of the group American Veterans for Equal Rights pointed to
the untold additional costs of the policy through the loss of those who don't
re-enlist. "Many of these service members were senior NCOs," he said, "who
could no longer live in silence with freedom to be themselves just outside the bas
e gates."

And finally, the offensive "God Hates Fags" Fred Phelps and his
mostly-family Westboro Baptist Church is being confronted by a new enemy as they picket
funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq -- a biker gang made up mostly of U.S.
veterans. The otherwise inconsequential anti-queer group has achieved notoriety
for protests at the funerals of Matthew Shepard and other gay men. They're now
demonstrating at military funerals because, they say, the soldiers fought for
a country that embraces homosexuals.
But a diverse group of motorcyclists has been riding, sometimes hundred of
miles across the country, to attend the funerals and counter the Phelps clan's
anti-queer antics. The Patriot Guard Riders is larger than the average biker
group, numbering about 5,000 across more than a dozen states, according to the
Associated Press.
They shield the families of dead soldiers from the protesters, drowning out
the jeers with patriotic chants and a sea of American flags. It's "just the
right thing to do," Kurt Mayer, the Riders' national spokesperson, told the AP.
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Heidi Beirich said that other groups
showing up to counter Phelps haven't been as large or as organized as the Patriot
Guard. "It's nice that these veterans and their supporters are trying to do
something," she said. "I can't imagine anything worse, your loved one is killed
in Iraq and you've got to deal with Fred Phelps."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Newswrap - Week Ending 2/11

for the week ending February 11, 2006
(As broadcast on This Way Out program #933, distributed 2-13-06)
[Written this week by Jon Beaupré and Greg Gordon, with thanks to
Graham Underhill and Rex Wockner]

Reported this week by Jon Beaupré and Sheri Lunn

With headlines like "The Queers Are Among Us", tabloid newspapers in
Cameroon have published lists of more than 50 of the country's well-known
entertainers, government officials and sports personalities, claiming each is gay or
La Météo first ran a 3-page feature on alleged homosexuals and their
activities. Nouvelle Afrique and L’Anecdote soon followed with similar, though
slightly different, lists. The papers sold out so quickly that newsstands began
selling photocopies.
L’Anecdote Editor François Bikoro told reporters that his paper's circulation
more than quadrupled. Publisher Jean-Pierre Amougou Belinga defended the
reports, saying that "Men making love to other men... may be normal in the West,
but in Africa — and Cameroon, in particular — it is unthinkable... We had to
ring the alarm bell."
The tabloid frenzy followed a virulent anti-gay Christmas Day homily
delivered by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Yaoundé Victor Tonyé Bakot, who
condemned same gender marriage and adoption by gay and lesbian couples, and denounced
the European Union for "giving legitimacy" to homosexual acts.
The tabloid reports, which name, among others, a well-known tennis
star-turned-singer, 2 other popular Cameroon musical performers and 2 Cabinet ministers,
have angered queer rights activists in and outside of Cameroon, while
sparking gossip all across the West African nation. Well-known British activist
Peter Tatchell called the unfolding events "just the latest homophobic outrage" in
Cameroon, charging that at least 11 gay men have been imprisoned without
trial for several months following police raids on gay venues in the capital city
of Yaoundé.
Paul Nkemayang, a member of Cameroon's National Communications Council, this
week said his group has "simply advised those whose names appeared in the
publication[s] to seek legal redress, if they consider [them] very offending." He
said that the reporters have told him they have a "basketfull of documents"
to back up their stories in court.

The fallout continues in the U.S. over the Bush administration's late
January vote at the United Nations Economic and Social Council to deny hearing
applications for consultative status by the International Lesbian and Gay
Association -- or ILGA -- and a Danish queer advocacy group. Nearly 3,000
non-governmental organizations have such status, which enables them to distribute
documents and speak at meetings of some U.N. bodies and conferences.
Spokespeople for the State Department defended the vote, a reversal of the
U.S. position 4 years ago when ILGA last applied. They cited pedophilia and
ILGA's alleged ties with the North American Man/Boy Love Association -- even
though that group was kicked out of ILGA several years ago. The U.S. supported
ILGA's application when opponents used those same charges to deny consultative
status to ILGA in 2002.
45 Congressmembers -- 44 Democrats and one independent -- signed a letter to
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week calling the January vote a
"drastic reversal" of policy and demanding that she repudiate it. By siding with
Iran's motion to deny a hearing of the queer groups' consultative status
application, the lawmakers wrote, "the United States joined some of the world's most
oppressive regimes, among them China, Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe" and
demonstrated "a reprehensible inconsistency" in the protection of rights based on
sexual orientation.
A group of queer Iranian web-bloggers, including officers of the Persian Gay
& Lesbian Organization, has also written to Rice. They ask if the U.S.
representative voting with Iran "thought about the consequences of such policy on
millions of youth, including GLBT [youth] in Iran that are yearning for freedom?
How do you [expect] them to believe that [the] U.S.A. sincerely want[s] to
spread democracy and human rights in the Middle East and support reform in
Iran?" The letter also noted that Iranian youth were among very few in the Middle
East to hold candlelight marches demonstrating support for the U.S. following
the 9/11 attacks, and called the Bush administration vote "like a slap [in]
our face."

The obnoxiously anti-queer Fred Phelps and his small congregation from the
otherwise insignificant Westboro Baptist Church got the press coverage they
glory in again this week. The Kansas clan turned up at the funeral for civil
rights icon Coretta Scott King, who suffered a stroke in August and died last
week at a Baja California holistic health center. The picketers called her a
"fag enabler," shouting that her advocacy on behalf of GLBT equality meant she
was "doomed to Hell." As shocked mourners passed them, members of an
Atlanta-based transgender group Feminine Outlawz joined counter-protesters yelling
"take your hate back to Kansas."
The Church is notorious for picketing at funerals of people who have died
from AIDS and gay-bashed college student Matthew Shepard. They've lately been
showing up at funerals for U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq because, according to
Phelps' daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper, "they were fighting for a country that
harbors homosexuals and adulterers."
At least 8 states have passed or are considering legislation to ban
demonstrations within 500 feet of funerals specifically because of the Westboro
Church's actions.
Speeches at the lengthy funeral for Mrs. King by President George W. Bush and
his father, and by former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, were
filled with praise for the woman who championed human rights for all. Dr. Joseph
Lowery, who with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. founded the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, was the first to mention her support for gays and
lesbians, reminding the audience that she "frowned on homophobia." Poet and friend
Dr. Maya Angelou underscored that point when she said Coretta Scott King "cared
for gay and straight people alike."

Lesbians and gay men who've wanted to visit the great resorts of the
Caribbean as part of all-queer cruises have received less-than-welcoming receptions
in recent years, but the tide seems to be turning. In a notorious 1998
incident, a Cayman Islands official named Thomas Jefferson, then Tourism Minister of
the tiny British protectorate, turned away an all gay cruise from docking in
the capital George Town. That decision provoked a storm of international
protest and led to diplomatic pressure on the Caymans by the British government.
In 2000, the British Privy Council, which has authority over the Caymans,
repealed the sodomy laws in all U.K. overseas territories. Nevertheless, a cruise
by GLBT families led by entertainer/activist Rosie O'Donnell in 2004 to The
Bahamas caused a major uproar there. But a visit to the Caymans by California
based Atlantis Tours this week brought the first of almost 13,000 queer
tourists to the sunny island northwest of Jamaica without major incident. The
Cayman's current Tourism Minister, Charles Clifford, had issued a plea to Atlantis
Tours urging the passengers on the all-gay cruise to behave "appropriately."
And while some die-hards continued to protest gay tourists strolling down
their streets, by most accounts both local merchants and their new queer customers
thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

After years of denying the existence of queer culture, China has for the
first time in history conducted an assessment of its estimated five to ten
million gay men. The study, entitled "Chinese Men Who Have Sex With Men: Survey On
Sex And The State Of Self-Identity" was supported by the Ford Foundation in
the United States and published by the Beijing Gender Consultation Center. It
not only presents the first comprehensive and in-depth view of the behavior
and current status of China’s gay men, but also reveals their mostly-hidden
social existence, which is little known to the general public. The survey was
compiled by noted Chinese scholar Tong Ge, who studied in-depth the personal
experiences of 400 gay couples. There was no assessment of the status of lesbians
or other sexual minorities. In 2003, the government conducted an AIDS survey
on six population groups across the country, including drug users,
prostitutes, gay men, venereal disease patients, paid blood donors and anonymous people
under examination in hospitals. While that survey uncovered some AIDS
infection patterns, it revealed little about LGBT communities, and this current
survey is seen as a modest first step in understanding the lives of gay men in the
world’s most populous country.

However, China has banned screenings of the multi-award winning movie
"Brokeback Mountain". According to a Xinhua News Agency report late last month,
the movie's "sensitive topic" of gay love makes it too controversial for
theatrical release in that country. And this week the government of the United Arab
Emirates did the same, saying it needed to protect its citizens from
"offensive, abnormal behaviors."

And finally, a survey of another sort, released this week in Australia,
shows that a majority of its citizens support rights for gay and lesbian couples.
When asked the question "Do you personally agree or disagree that the
Federal Government should introduce a new law which formally recognizes same sex
relationships in Australia?" 52% of the 1200 respondents agreed, 37% said they
did not, and 11% said they didn't know.
According to David Scamell of the Secular Party of Australia, which
commissioned the study, it is "unjust, unfair and out-of-touch with Australian society
for the... Government to continue to deny gays and lesbians basic recognition
in areas like taxation, superannuation and social security". The Gay and
Lesbian Rights Lobby said it will be meeting with government leaders in the coming
week to discuss federal recognition of same gender relationships, although
Prime Minister John Howard has repeatedly expressed his opposition to granting
any legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples.
But hot on the heels of Valentine's Day, and in support of recognition for
same gender relationships, queer leaders and their supporters have announced
that on February 19th at Victoria Park in Sydney they'll be conducting a Mardi
Gras Fair Day mass planting of 10,000 pink hearts.