WASHINGTON, D.C. - A high-ranking Army general won’t be formally reprimanded after urging troops to lobby to keep the ban on openly gay military service.
President Barack Obama supports lifting the ban, and an active attempt to keep it in place could be considered insubordination.
But Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon’s civilian boss says the three-star Army general won’t receive a letter of reprimand or be forced to step down. Army Secretary John McHugh told reporters Wednesday that Mixon has been told by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey that what he did was inappropriate.
“The chief and I believe that he is now prepared to lead in the very distinguished manner in which he has led in the past and that brought him to a very, very high level three-star position,” McHugh said.
“So we will consider the matter closed as of today,” he added.
Mixon’s case underscores the difficulty facing Obama as he presses ahead to repeal the 1993 law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Pentagon officials say they want to hear the opinions of the troops so they can address their concerns.
But unsolicited pushback – particularly by senior uniformed officers – could help to mobilize resistance within the ranks that would make it difficult to lift the ban without dividing military units and hurting troop readiness.
Mixon urged troops to speak up in support of the ban in a letter published in a military newspaper.
McHugh said he didn’t think Mixon deserved harsher treatment because he now “recognizes it is inappropriate for him to become an advocate and try to shape the opinion of the force, rather than reach out and ascertain the opinion of the force.”
Obama says that everyone, gay or straight, should be able to serve their country, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a yearlong review of how to make that happen.
McHugh declined to give his personal opinion on whether the ban should be lifted, saying that he would prefer to wait for the results of Gates’ study. He said he has talked to service members who say they are gay and that they want to serve openly.
Some military officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen, say they agree it’s time to reverse the law. But other uniformed officers with impressive service records, including Marine Corps Commandant James Conway, have said the law is helping to keep order and discipline and that lifting the ban during a time of two wars could be too disruptive.
In an interview this week with Congressional Quarterly, the Army’s Casey said he doesn’t think the majority of troops support a repeal, even though he would conduct the study ordered by Gates to determine if that was true. In a separate interview with Military.com, Conway pointed to logistical hurdles in repealing the ban and said he wouldn’t force Marines to share rooms with gay service members on base.
Mixon’s comments were considered particularly defiant. Whereas the service chiefs reserved their criticism for congressional testimony – they are required by law to give Congress their personal opinions when asked – Mixon sent an unsolicited letter to the newspaper “Stars and Strips” calling his troops to action.
“Now is the time,” Mixon said, “to write your elected officials and chain of command and express your views. If those of us who are in favor of retaining the current policy do not speak up, there is no chance to retain the current policy.”
His letter received a rare public admonishment from Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen for using his rank to advocate a political position and challenge the president.
“The answer is not advocacy. It is, in fact, to vote with your feet,” Mullen said at the Pentagon.
from The Associated Press
Archive for March, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A high-ranking Army general won’t be formally reprimanded after urging troops to lobby to keep the ban on openly gay military service.
MOHAWK, NEW YORK – A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of a gay student alleging that the Mohawk school district failed to protect him from threats and physical assaults and ignored repeated bullying.
The school district, New York Civil Liberties Union (representing the student) and U.S. Department of Justice agreed to terms that will provide more than $75,000 in compensation, implement harassment policy reviews and training and require annual reports on the district’s progress.
Approved Monday by the U.S. District Court federal judge, the settlement includes several measures that bring the litigation to a close.
The student, who was 14 years old at the time of the alleged harassment and is identified in court documents as Jacob or J.L., receives $50,000 from the district. The district is also responsible for up to $100 per week, through June 30, 2013, for the student’s therapy sessions. The student has since enrolled in another school district.
The NYCLU receives $25,000 for attorneys’ fees.
In return, the lawsuit against the school district is dropped and the court dismisses the action against the individual employees named in the suit, including Superintendent Joyce Caputo, high school principal Edward Rinaldo and Cynthia Stocker, equal opportunity compliance officer.
The settlement also does not hold the district and employees to any admission of “liability” or “wrongdoing.”
The DOJ, which filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of the student, also agrees not to pursue the matter further in court, according to NYCLU officials.
Both the NYCLU and school district released statements on the settlement.
“This lawsuit affirms that school districts nationwide have the responsibility to protect children from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender non-conformity,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “No child should live in fear of going to school.”
Responding to the accusations of deliberate indifference to harassment, a statement from Caputo maintained the district’s position.
“The school district has steadfastly and consistently denied those allegations, many of which were wholly unsupported by independent evidence,” she stated in an e-mail.
The federal lawsuit alleged over the past two years, prior to this school year, the student was subjected to relentless verbal and physical abuse, culminating in another student bringing a knife and making a death threat.
A failure by district officials to formally investigate harassment, discipline students, or even inform the student and his parents of their right to file complaints under Board of Education grievance procedures is also part of claims made in the lawsuit.
“Student confidentiality issues and common sense prevent us from defending ourselves against every allegation that has played out in the media,” Caputo’s statement continues. “This has been a difficult experience for everyone in our school district and community, so we are happy to see it settled.”
Part of the settlement also involves the district’s hiring the Anti-Defamation League to train staff and review school district harassment policies. District officials will also compile reports on the training progress. Both stipulations are mandated to continue until June 30, 2013, and the district is then free to make its own decisions on how to proceed.
Caputo declined to give any cost to the district for the training aspect of the settlement. She also refused to answer any further questions on the issue. “My statement will be my statement,” she said when reached by phone.
“Our staff and administrators would never knowingly tolerate discrimination or bullying by anyone. Still, I think it’s important to stress that we continue to remain committed to doing everything in our power to prevent bullying and promote a culture of respect and tolerance in our schools. We recognize there is always room to learn and improve — and we intend to [do] just that,” Caputo wrote in her statement.
Caputo in her statement claims the district has provided sensitivity training to staff on diversity and harassment issues since the fall of 2000. The training has been provided for students since 2000 through the 2009-10 school year, she added in her statement, and the settlement provides additional initiatives and resources for the district to pursue.
Corey Stoughton, NYCLU lead counsel on the case, applauded the district for “making this commitment to protect all students from bullying and harassment. “We look forward to working with the district officials and the Department of Justice on implementing these important reforms, and hope that they will inspire other school systems to confront bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming students,” she said in a released statement.
from The Evening Times
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – The father of a Marine killed in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters was ordered to pay the protesters’ appeal costs, his lawyers said Monday.
On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006.
The two-page decision supplied by attorneys for Albert Snyder of York, Pa., offered no details on how the court came to its decision.
Attorneys also said Snyder is struggling to come up with fees associated with filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision adds “insult to injury,” said Sean Summers, one of Snyder’s lawyers.
The high court agreed to consider whether the protesters’ message is protected by the First Amendment or limited by the competing privacy and religious rights of the mourners.
from The Associated Press
Ricky Martin is no longer denying the rumors: He’s gay.
In a statement posted via Twitter in both Spanish and English, and later confirmed with his representative, Martin said: “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.”
For many, Monday’s announcement will come as no surprise; the “Livin’ La Vida Loca” singer’s sexuality has been speculated about for years. But the Puerto Rican star, who got his start as a child in the teen group Menudo, never directly addressed it and was usually seen at events with beautiful women on his arm.
Martin, 38, said he decided to reveal the truth after working on his memoirs helped him realize that he had to be free with himself, and not keep any more secrets.
“From the moment I wrote the first phrase I was sure the book was the tool that was going to help me free myself from things I was carrying within me for a long time. Things that were too heavy for me to keep inside,” he said. “Writing this account of my life, I got very close to my truth. And this is something worth celebrating.”
Martin said one of the reasons why he kept his homosexuality hidden was because he was told by some that it would hurt his career. While his U.S. career peaked after the release of his 1999 self-titled English album, a multiplatinum success that included the hits “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “Shake Your Bon-Bon,” he is still a hugely successful Latin artist.
“Because all this advice came from people who I love dearly, I decided to move on with my life not sharing with the world my entire truth,” he said in his statement. “Allowing myself to be seduced by fear and insecurity became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sabotage. Today I take full responsibility for my decisions and my actions.”
Martin, who is the father of two boys born via surrogate in 2008, said he couldn’t continue to hide his sexuality now that he is a father: “Enough is enough. This has to change.”
Martin’s book is still a work in progress.
from The Associated Press
NEW YORK – The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is calling on the Tribeca Film Festival to pull a transgender comedy from its lineup.
The film, “Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives,” pays homage to exploitation films and follows a group of transgender women who are beaten and then seek revenge. It’s to screen at Tribeca in April.
GLAAD alleges the film misrepresents the lives of transgender women and claims the characters are caricatures “written as drag queens.” The organization also objected to the use of the word “trannies” in the title.
Director Israel Luna and producer Toni Miller released a joint statement in response, saying they were surprised by GLAAD’s announcement and that they gave a copy of the film to GLAAD in February.
In a statement, Tribeca said it is “proud of its ongoing commitment to bring diverse voices and stories to its audiences.”
from The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON D.C. – More than 14 percent of gay men in the District are HIV positive, almost five times as high as the overall rate for the city’s adults and teenagers, according to a snapshot of the community released Thursday by the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration.
Interviews with 500 gay men throughout the District found that more than 40 percent were unaware of their diagnosis before the study, even though most had seen a doctor in the past 12 months, and more than a third did not know the HIV status of their last sex partner.
The study also shattered some stereotypes: Younger men generally had safer sex behaviors; men older than 30 were tested less frequently, used condoms less often and had more sex partners.
“This is a wake-up call,” said D.C. Council member David A. Catania (D-At Large), 42, who is gay. “It’s time for my generation to assume greater responsibility for themselves and their partners. Just because we escaped the epidemic of the 1980s doesn’t mean we are immune.”
As a result of the study, city health officials recommended Thursday that men who have sex with men get tested twice a year for HIV.
The study acknowledges that it “may underrepresent some groups” and that more studies are needed to reach a wider population.
The findings come as city health officials and their community partners have aggressively increased testing and condom distribution to address concerns about an epidemic rate of infection in the District. Last year, the city tested 95,000 people and handed out 3.5 million condoms.
Even so, the report found that more than 40 percent of those interviewed said they did not use a condom with their last sex partner. Although men of color used condoms almost twice as frequently as white men, the study found more men of color were HIV positive than white men.
The District was one of 21 jurisdictions to participate in the survey, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to learn more about behaviors that put people at risk for the disease. Even though the numbers for the District, collected in 2008, are high, city officials said the rates in other jurisdictions recorded in 2005 were higher, including San Francisco (24 percent), New York (25 percent) and Baltimore (40 percent).
“We have a serious situation here, but we’ve also had some success,” said administration Director Shannon L. Hader, who was joined by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) at a news conference to announce the report.
Overall, more than 3 percent of D.C. adults and teenagers are living with HIV or AIDS, although new AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths have declined in the past four years, according to a report released last week.
“We know we have a ton of work left to do,” said Fenty, who would not say what level of funding he would provide for HIV/AIDS programs in the budget blueprint he plans to present to the D.C. Council next week.
Participants in the study released Thursday were recruited at gyms, bars, restaurants and clubs frequented by gay men and interviewed at those locations in all four quadrants of the city. The study included only men who had sex with men in the previous 12 months. Of those interviewed, more than half (52 percent) were men of color.
Nearly 60 percent of gay men in the city living with HIV/AIDS are black, according to a 2008 study issued by the HIV/AIDS administration. Fewer than 35 percent are white, an indication that the prevalence rate among gay men in the study might be higher and compare less favorably with other cities if more black men were included in the study.
Ron Simmons, director of US Helping Us, an HIV/AIDS assistance and awareness group for gay black men, said the study was flawed because it targeted gay men at venues that do not attract black men.
“The men in that study tended to be more educated and made more money. It was not really a representative sample,” he said.
from The Washington Post
STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS – A student’s theater assignment at Tarleton State University, which was supposed to be just for classmates, has gained a far wider audience.
For an advanced directing class, John Jordan Otte, 26, chose to present Corpus Christi, a 1998 play that depicts a gay Christ-like character in modern-day Texas. The Christ figure performs a marriage ceremony for two of his disciples, who are also gay.
The play has stirred controversy on the campus of the Stephenville, Texas, university, and beyond. Some who identify themselves as conservative Christians said they were particularly incensed that the play would be performed this Saturday — the day before Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most solemn and sacred of Christian celebrations.
“It’s just sticking a thumb in the eye of the standards of this community,” Carroll Cawyer of Stephenville told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “That’s what a lot of people are upset about.”
Otte, who told the Star-Telegram that he is openly gay, said the play is intended to convey a message of tolerance and love.
“We all share this world,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “We’re no different. Everything Christ has said applies to us as well.”
Tarleton’s president, F. Dominic Dottavio, said in a March 11 letter to the university that he allowed the play to be presented on campus because Tarleton “is committed to protecting and preserving the freedoms of thought, speech and expression.”
Mark Holtorf, an associate professor of theater at Tarleton State, also defended the presentation of the one-act play, which was written by Terrence McNally and which debuted in New York City.
“Having lived in Stephenville for more than 20 years, I am very committed to this community and I take care when selecting productions,” he said in a news release.
Corpus Christi is one of four student-directed plays to be presented Saturday. Seating is very limited, university officials said, and the performances are for students only — not the general public.
The university police department, assisted by other officers, will provide security during the presentaion, said Justin Williams, the campus police chief.
Liza Benedict, a Tarleton State spokesperson, defended the right of Otte to choose the play, and the right of others to object.
“If someone wants to protest, that is part of their First Amendment rights,” she said, “just as it is the student’s First Amendment right to put on the play.
Stephenville is in Erath County, about 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth
from The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to Mike Wilkinson’s datebook, Saturday is the day that history would be made. It’s the day when 400 same-sex couples would stand shoulder to shoulder in a gilded ballroom between the White House and the U.S. Capitol and finally, legally, be wed. The event he organized would break the Guinness World Record for the largest mass-marriage ceremony, and far more important than that, it would become the lasting, internationally recognized image of gay equality in Washington, D.C. Freedom would ring with a giant chorus of “I do.” And the love in the room, Wilkinson hoped, might serve as its own rebuttal to those who oppose gay marriage.
But sometimes, even if you build it, they don’t come.
Or, at least, not so many of them.
Turns out only 15 couples registered for the event.
The thinking was this: The gay marriage equality movement was conducted en masse, so the triumph should be similarly shared.
“We’ve marched together and we’ve advocated for this for so long together,” Wilkinson said two weeks ago. “My dream for this event is for couples to come into this space and look across the room and see other couples who’ve been waiting just as long and be able to celebrate with them and all feel happy together.”
Also, he thought, it would “make a big splash for our company.”
Wilkinson is a 27-year-old, clean-cut, baby-faced Richmond native — a planner by nature and profession. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, he came to the District and got a job putting his organizational skills to use as an events coordinator for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which provides health services for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community.
He moved on to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in recent years, but when it became apparent the same-sex marriage bill would pass in the District, Wilkinson, who is gay, couldn’t resist the urge to get involved.
He reached out to Jenna Mack, owner of the local planning company Event Emissary, and together they set up a GLBT wedding services division. In January, the two found themselves at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, an immense Constitution Avenue NW venue that Event Emissary manages, when Wilkinson turned Mack and described his vision.
“We want to do something with flair and we came up with the idea to break the Guinness World Record for largest wedding,” he recalls, excitedly. “Cause it’s such a big, big space, we have to fill it and we kind of thought, ‘Well what is the record? and would this be something we could do?’ ”
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - Religious groups from around the globe discussed Tuesday how to help the global fight against AIDS by preventing victims becoming outcasts from society.
Canon Gideon Byamugisha, an Anglican priest from Uganda, said the way his church treated him after he discovered he had HIV should set an example for the rest of the world.
“They reacted with support and understanding,” he said in a telephone interview. “There were sections who were annoyed and disappointed I was HIV positive, but a big number opted to give me the love, care and support I needed.”
Byamugisha lost his first wife to AIDS and has since remarried to a woman with HIV. He told church officials in 1992 that he had HIV and was one of the first African clerics to reveal he had the disease.
Earlier this month, Byamugisha was among a delegation that delivered a petition signed by 500,000 people to Uganda’s parliament calling on lawmakers to reject a proposed law that would impose the death penalty on some gays. Byamugisha said the bill teaches intolerance and hatred and is counter to the constitution’s anti-discrimination laws.
Representatives including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were expected to round off two days of talks by pledging to fight discrimination against those with AIDS and HIV.
They were discussing how “do we confront the stigma and shame and denial and discrimination that usually surrounds these issues,” Byamugisha said.
However, some divisions remained among leaders, he added, with delegates “still struggling with how to balance between communicating the religious messages that talk about morality and spirituality (and) public health challenges on the ground.”
The use of condoms to fight the spread of HIV infections also was discussed, but only as a side issue, Byamugisha said.
A year ago, Pope Benedict XVI drew unprecedented criticism when he said that distributing condoms was not the answer to Africa’s AIDS problem and could make it worse.
He said a moral attitude toward sex – abstinence and marital fidelity – would help fight the disease.
Rev. Richard Fee of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, which helped organized the meeting, said that in the past some religious leaders “have spoken and acted in ways that fueled discrimination and stigma.”
But he said that religious groups can now join the front line in battling AIDS and HIV.
“If we are going to deal with this pandemic, the way we are going to get the message to every village in the world through education is through faith based groups which do touch every village in the world,” he said.
from The Associated Press
COCHRAN, GEORGIA — Derrick Martin worried that he could be responsible for getting this year’s prom at Bleckley County High School canceled.
That’s because the 18-year-old senior is gay, and he plans to take his boyfriend to the year’s most anticipated dance.
That’s something that’s never happened in this small Middle Georgia town. A similar plan by two female students in Mississippi this month prompted school officials there to cancel the prom, making national news.
After asking Bleckley County school officials permission in January to take another boy to the prom, Martin got word last week that his high school will allow it. Bleckley’s prom is April 17 in the high school cafeteria.
“I didn’t expect them to say yes,” he said. “It’s who I am. I have the same rights.
“It’s my senior prom, and I wanted to be able to prove not everyone would cancel prom.”
Martin, an honor student who tutors at-risk elementary and middle school students after school, knew the move would be controversial for the town of about 5,200 residents.
At his high school, prom dates from outside counties must be approved in advance, so Martin went to his principal and asked.
“At first she said no, Cochran wasn’t ready for it,” he said.
Then last week, school officials said they have no policy in place against it.
“You don’t have the right to say no,” principal Michelle Masters said. “As a principal, I don’t judge him. I’m taught not to judge. I have to push my own beliefs to the background.”
She’s just hoping it won’t become an issue in the community and distract from juniors and seniors who have looked forward to the event all school year.
As fellow senior Errin Lucas put it, “Have you seen Cochran? There is nothing else to live for.”
Charlotte Pipkin, the superintendent of schools, said the school board didn’t take any votes on Martin’s request, but the board did discuss the matter during a board meeting.
“Students are allowed to bring their date to prom,” Pipkin said. “There’s nothing that says who the date is.
“I want this to be an enjoyable event, and I don’t want anything to take away from that,” she added.
Martin came out as gay during his sophomore year in high school, but even now he said not all his classmates are tolerant.
He expects he may get attention during the prom “lead out,” in which the school announces each senior’s name and the date’s name.
“I’ll take out insurance on my tux,” he said.
It’s a big step for the high school — and the community, many townsfolk said.
“With our town being so small and country, it’s a very big thing,” Lucas said. “It’s unexpected, but I’m glad. We have to move forward.”
A sampling of residents Monday drew plenty of objections to Martin’s plan, but few people were willing to give their name.
Miranda Taylor, who was working behind the counter at a Wendy’s restaurant, said “a lot of people will stare,” but she thinks the move shows Bleckley County is more open.
The high school prom will have security.
Even if there is a backlash, both educators said they won’t cancel or change their plans for the prom. It would not be fair to the students, Pipkin said.
Martin said he could have settled for what he did last year and simply attend the prom with a female friend, but he didn’t want to do that this year. “It’s standing up for the rights thing, especially after the Mississippi canceled prom,” he said. “It’s senior prom. It’s pretty big.”
from The Macon Telegraph
UNITED KINGDOM – Michael Black, 62, and John Morgan, 56, from Brampton, Cambridgeshire, had booked a double room at the Swiss B&B in Cookham, Berks for Friday night.
But when they arrived, owner Susanne Wilkinson turned away the gay couple, insisting it was “against her convictions to let them stay.”
Mr Black said: “[When we arrived] she could see through the windscreen that we were two men.
“And when we got out of the car she was immediately distant and unfriendly and then she said, ’It’s a double room’, and we said ’Yes’.
“She said, ’It’s a large double bed in a double room’ and we said, ’yes’, and then she said it was against her convictions to let us stay.”
He went on: “We said it was illegal to discriminate against people who stay in hotels because that’s all we knew at the time and she said it was her private home and it was against her convictions.
“She said she was sorry and she was polite in a cold way and she was not abusive, so we asked our money back and she gave it to us.”
After the incident, Susanne Wilkinson, owner of the guest house, admitted: “They gave me no prior warning and I couldn’t offer them another room as I was fully booked.
“I don’t see why I should change my mind and my beliefs I’ve held for years just because the Government should force it on me,” she said.
“I am not a hotel, I am a guest house and this is a private house.”
Police are today investigating the alleged “homophobic incident” at Susanne Wilkinson’s Swiss Bed & Breakfast in the Cookham, near Maidenhead in Berkshire.
Mr Black said the couple were “very angry” after the incident on Friday.
After being refused the room, the pair met friends nearby and went to the theatre but decided to drive the 80 miles back to their home with their “adrenaline pumping”.
“We were very shocked, and of course angry, that it happened. Neither of us has ever experienced homophobia before and I have been out since 1974,” he said.
“We felt we were treated like lepers and not fit to be under the same roof as her.”
Mr Black said Mrs Wilkinson has said the men should have warned her, but the self-employed trainer said: “It would be like saying to someone who runs a guest house, ’I’m black or Muslim or blue-eyed’ just in case they have a problem with it.
“There is no reason why we had to make it clear we were two men in this day and age. We have stayed in plenty of guest houses in Britain and abroad and have never had a problem.”
Mr Black said the couple had been interviewed by Cambridgeshire police after they first complained to Thames Valley Police online.
He said they had been advised the offence would be treated as a civil matter and they should take Mrs Wilkinson to county court.
But Mr Black said he understood that under the Equality Act 2006 it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation, even in a guest house.
A spokesman for Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, said turning a couple away because of their sexual orientation was illegal.
Derek Munn, director of public affairs, said: “Stonewall was delighted when the law changed in 2007 so that lesbian and gay couples could go on their holidays like anyone else.
“In open-and-shut cases of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation the law’s quite clear – it’s illegal for businesses to turn away gay customers or discriminate against them when providing goods or services, and this can’t be overridden by personal prejudice.”
Mrs Wilkinson was not answering her phone at the guest house last night.
from The Daily Express
MALAWI, AFRICA – A judge in Malawi says that two gay men arrested in December after getting engaged have a case to answer.
A lawyer said the couple would now call defence witnesses. Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, and Steven Monjeza, 26, deny charges of gross indecency.
They have now spent almost three months in custody in what is being seen as a test case for gay rights in Malawi.
The judge said a full trial would proceed in April. Homosexual acts carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
But the men’s lawyers have argued that their constitutional rights are being violated.
The courtroom was packed for the hearing – the first stage in the legal process. About 50 people were reportedly unable to get in.
“The court has established a prima facie case against the accused persons,” said magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa.
The BBC’s Raphael Tenthani in Blantyre says the two men looked relaxed during the proceedings. They waved to hundreds of on-lookers outside court as they were driven back to the city’s Chichiri Prison.
“We are sad that the couple will continue suffering for choosing to live the way they were born,” said Gift Trapence from the recently formed gay rights group Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP).
Malawi is a deeply conservative society.
But some voices in government have started to call for more openness about homosexuality as the authorities try to tackle high rates of HIV/Aids.
Human rights groups and diplomats have joined the debate, with donors including the UK and Norway warning that the country should respect human rights or risk international isolation.
from The BBC
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RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA - Rapid City’s police chief said in a report released Friday that he regrets his department’s outing of a lesbian Air Force sergeant led to her military discharge, but that his officers followed department protocol.
Chief Steve Allender said the Rapid City Police Department will review policies on sharing information with other agencies and meet with members of the gay and lesbian community in the wake of Jene Newsome’s honorable discharge under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“I trust through discussion and cooperation we can enjoy a mutual goal of healing and understanding,” Allender wrote in the report.
The January discharge came after Rapid City officers saw an Iowa marriage certificate in her home and told officials at the nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the department claiming the officers violated Newsome’s privacy.
Rapid City police have said Newsome, an aircraft armament system craftsman who spent nine years in the Air Force, was not cooperative when officers showed up at her home in November with an arrest warrant for her wife, who was wanted on theft charges in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Police officers spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window and alerted the base. Allender said the license was relevant to the investigation because it showed both the relationship and residency of the two women.
While Allender said the officers acted appropriately under department policy because Newsome was suspected of harboring a fugitive, he added there’s is no way of knowing for sure whether the officers did so with ill intent.
“There have been public accusations that the detective released the information regarding sexual orientation out of vengeance or for punitive effect,” Allender wrote. “I cannot know what is in the hearts of people or what truly motivates them, but I am very concerned with how emotions, prejudices, political or religious views may affect the decisions made by not only our officers, but all people in government positions.”
ACLU South Dakota executive director Robert Doody said the police chief’s report clearly shows that his department turned over the information contained in the marriage certificate knowing it would lead to Newsome’s dismissal under the military’s 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The detective “had an idea it would be detrimental to (Newsome’s) career,” Doody said.
Earlier Friday, Doody e-mailed a letter to Rapid City Mayor Alan Hanks asking for unspecified monetary damages to compensate Newsome for her military career. It also sought an apology, a written reprimand for the officers involved in her outing and a police policy stating the department will not seek to out military members.
Doody told The Associated Press the exact amount of the compensation was being calculated, but estimated it at roughly $800,000. A message left late Friday with Hanks’ office was not immediately returned.
Newsome’s discharge has highlighted concerns over the ability of third parties to “out” service members, especially as the Pentagon has started reviewing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law.
She has since moved to the Fairbanks, Alaska, area.
from The Associated Press