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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."


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