Nearly one in five gay and bisexual men in 21 major U.S. cities are infected with HIV, and nearly half of them do not know it, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.
Young men, and especially young black men, are least likely to know if they are infected with HIV, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“For young men who have sex with men – including young men of color who are least likely to know they may be infected – the future is truly on the line,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said in a statement.
“It is critical that we reach these young men early in their lives with HIV prevention and testing services and continue to make these vital services available as they become older.”
The study tested 8,153 men who have sex with men in 21 cities taking part in the 2008 National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System, which looked at the prevalence of the human immunodeficiency virus and awareness of HIV status among this group of men. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
They found that 28 percent of black men who have sex with men were infected with the HIV virus, compared with 18 percent of Hispanic men and 16 percent of white men.
The incidence of HIV in this group of men is strongly affected by education and income, the authors said, noting that the lower a person’s socioeconomic status, they more likely he was to have HIV, CDC researchers reported in the CDC’s weekly report on death and disease.
Age was also a factor in whether men know they are infected with HIV. Among those aged 18 to 29 who had HIV, 63 percent did not know it, compared with 37 percent for men aged 30 and older.
That is especially dangerous because the CDC estimates that most new sexually transmitted infections are passed along by people who do not know they are infected.
Mermin said the findings show HIV is still a serious problem in America, and called for a renewed national commitment efforts to protect the health of gay men.
The CDC recommends that gay and bisexual men of all ages get an HIV test each year, and men at highest risk — those who have multiple sex partners or use drugs during sex — get tested every three to six months.
“We need to increase access to HIV testing so that more MSM (men who have sex with men) know their status, and we all must bring new energy, new approaches, and new champions to the fight against HIV among men who have sex with men,” Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement.
Archive for September, 2010
Nearly one in five gay and bisexual men in 21 major U.S. cities are infected with HIV, and nearly half of them do not know it, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA — The pastor of a nationally known Atlanta-area megachurch took other young men on trips as part of a mentoring program but stands by his denial of claims that he had sex with three of them, a lawyer for the religious leader said Thursday.
In lawsuits filed this week, three men who were members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church claim Bishop Eddie Long coerced them into sexual relations with gifts including cars, cash and travel when they were 17 or 18 years old.
Long canceled a planned interview on the Tom Joyner Morning Show on Thursday. Instead, Long’s lawyer, Craig Gillen, went on the nationally syndicated radio show.
One of the claims in the lawsuits is that Long had sexual contact with the young men, who were enrolled in New Birth’s ministry for teen boys, during trips he took them on in the United States and abroad. Gillen said the travel was part of a mentoring program that other young men also participated in.
“The mentoring process involving travel is not exclusive to the three plaintiffs making these allegations,” Gillen said.
Gillen also read a statement from Long in which the pastor, a married father of four, said he’s anxious to respond to the allegations but that his lawyer has advised him not to yet.
“Let me be clear. The charges against me and New Birth are false,” Long’s statement said.
Gillen also said the three making the allegations were motivated by money, adding that one of them is accused of breaking into Long’s office.
In addition to canceling the radio show appearance, an expected Thursday news conference with Long was also called off.
Gillen said Long will speak directly about the allegations to his church congregation Sunday.
B.J. Bernstein, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said she opened her investigation after getting a call from one of the men. The Associated Press normally does not name people who claim they are victims of sexual impropriety, but Bernstein said all three — Maurice Robinson, 20, Anthony Flagg, 21, and Jamal Parris, 23 — have consented to making their identities public.
Bernstein said she didn’t trust local authorities to investigate the claims.
“This is a really large church that’s incredibly politically powerful,” Bernstein said. “There are pictures of this guy with every politician around. With something this important, how can I trust that word didn’t get back to the bishop?”
DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown has been a member of New Birth for more than 15 years and sits on the advisory board for Long’s Longfellows Youth Academy. He said he would stand by the bishop and bristled at Bernstein’s suggestion that local authorities couldn’t be trusted.
“I take offense to that,” he said. “It does not merit a dignified response.”
Their pastor has been silent and so are most at Long’s 25,000-strong church. But those who will speak say they are supporting him.
Lance Robertson, who joined New Birth nearly two decades ago and has coached youth basketball there, said Wednesday that members were hurting.
“I support and will stand with my bishop, but right now in the court of public opinion, it does not look good,” Robertson said. “This affects too many people. As the bishop goes, New Birth goes. He built New Birth.”
Bernstein said that her case hinges on her three clients’ testimony and that she doesn’t have much physical evidence backing up her complaint. Long sent dozens of e-mails and phone calls to her clients, though they weren’t “overly sexual,” she said. Bernstein said she plans to subpoena records from Long that will show he traveled with the young men to New York, Las Vegas, New Zealand and elsewhere.
Robertson, the church’s youth basketball coach, said he wants to hear Long respond to the accusations.
Long, who was appointed pastor of New Birth in 1987, presides over an empire that claims athletes, politicians and entertainers as members.
President George W. Bush and three former presidents visited the sprawling New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in the Atlanta suburb of Lithonia for the 2006 funeral of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Long introduced the speakers and the Rev. Bernice King, the Kings’ younger daughter, delivered the eulogy. She is also a pastor there.
Today, New Birth sits on 250 acres and has more than 25,000 members, a $50 million, 10,000-seat cathedral and more than 40 ministries.
Not all of his attention, though, has been positive. The church was among those named in 2007 in a Senate committee’s investigation into a half-dozen Christian ministries over their financing.
Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage. In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father’s Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage “between one man and one woman.”
This isn’t the first allegation against a religious leader who has crusaded against gay marriage. Ted Haggard left New Life Church of Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2006 after a male prostitute said Haggard paid him for sex. Haggard denied the allegations but later admitted to “sexual immorality” and launched a new church in June 2010.
from The Associated Press
FLORIDA – A 30-year-old Florida law that prohibits adoption by gay men and lesbians is unconstitutional, a state appeals court ruled on Wednesday, and the state’s governor said the law would not be enforced pending a decision on whether to appeal.
Martin Gill took in two boys as foster children and is challenging a state adoption law.
The decision by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal said that Florida’s adoption law, which bans adoption by gay men and lesbians while allowing them to be foster parents, had “no rational basis” and thus violated the equal protection clause in the State Constitution. Judge Gerald B. Cope Jr. wrote the opinion, which affirmed a 2008 decision from a lower court.
At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Charlie Crist applauded the decision, saying: “It’s a very good day for Florida; it’s a great day for children. Children deserve a loving home to be in.”
Because the decision applies statewide, he said, “We are going to immediately stop enforcing the ban.”
The state, however, has 30 days to appeal. The governor said that he had spoken with the secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, but did not say whether there would be an appeal.
A spokeswoman for Bill McCollum, the state attorney general, who has voiced support of the adoption ban, said his office was representing the department in the case, “and will be in discussions with our client as to whether or not they plan to appeal.”
A spokesman for the department said, “The primary consideration on whether to appeal is finding the balance between the value of a final ruling from the Florida Supreme Court versus the impact on the Gill family.”
Judge Cope wrote that “our ruling is unlikely to be the last word.”
The case involved the efforts of Martin Gill, a gay man, to adopt two brothers he took in more than five years ago as foster children when one was 4 years old and the other 4 months old. They had ringworm at the time, and the younger child had an untreated ear infection. The older boy did not speak for the first month with Mr. Gill and his partner.
“When they came in the door, we were kind of shocked at what bad condition we were in,” Mr. Gill said Wednesday in an interview. “We realized we had our work cut out for us.”
He added, “I would say today they are two happy, healthy, normal kids.”
In a concurring opinion, Judge Vance E. Salter wrote that the steps taken to heal and raise the boys “are nothing short of heroic.”
Evidence presented at the trial by opponents of the ban found no difference in the well-being of children raised by gay parents versus heterosexual parents.
Judge Cope wrote that at the trial, the state presented only two expert witnesses, one of whom undercut the state’s case by disagreeing with the idea of a blanket ban on gay adoption, stating instead that adoptions should be considered case by case. The other expert called by the state, Dr. George A. Rekers, was criticized by opposing experts as having provided research that was rife with “errors in scientific methodology and reporting” and that “did not meet established standards in the field.”
The court did not comment on the fact that Dr. Rekers, who was paid $120,000 for his work in the case, has since been enmeshed in a scandal after he was discovered to have taken a 10-day trip to Europe with a young man who advertised sexual services on a site for gay escorts.
According to the lower court decision cited in the opinion on Wednesday, “Florida is the only remaining state to expressly ban all gay adoptions without exception.”
Howard Simon, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Florida, which represented the Gill family, hailed the decision on Wednesday as a blow against discrimination that means all potential adoptive parents “will be judged on their individual fitness to provide a loving, stable, permanent adoptive home.”
That means, he said, that “some gays will be disqualified, and some heterosexuals will be disqualified,” but that “nobody is going to be categorically excluded because of who they are.”
Conservative organizations attacked the decision. Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law, said in a statement, “Common sense and human history underscore the fact that children need a mother and a father.”
Mr. Gill said that during the long trial process he had been careful to shield the boys from news that might make them fear further disruption in their lives, including threats about being removed from their home.
“I try to keep it all positive, and try to insulate them from the negative,” Mr. Gill said. But, he added, “I’m certainly going to tell them we have a victory today.”
from The New York Times
The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal society founded in New Haven in 1881, does a lot of good work. In a report detailing its charitable giving during 2009, the organization noted that while the “Knights and their families are hardly immune to the economic downturn,” they had once again furthered their proud 128-year tradition of service — a tradition including “helping the widows and orphans of the late 19th century” and “providing coats to poor, cold children.”
Add to that list a donation of a whopping $1.4 million in 2009 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a nonprofit group dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage through the ballot initiative system in California, Maine and other states. In Iowa, the group has already spent $235,000 on an ad campaign aimed at convincing voters to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices over their ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, and before that spent nearly $100,000 on a special legislative election in southeastern Iowa.
While NOM hasn’t yet made public its 2009 fundraising numbers, the amount of charitable contributions it received in 2008 totaled approximately $2.9 million.
The NOM donation eclipses what the Knights of Columbus’ Supreme Council spent on some of its own charitable programs — such as its new effort supporting food banks or its total spending on education initiatives — in the same year, much to the outrage of some observers, including Catholic groups.
“It was a fairly simple, straightforward decision,” says Patrick Korten, vice president for communications for the Knights. “We are pro-family, and believe strongly in the defense of marriage. NOM is the single most important group engaged in defending marriage.”
Less straightforward is the fact that NOM has adopted a policy of refusing to disclose its donors to state election boards, and has sued in the courts rather than complying with existing law — thereby prompting much speculation as to the organization’s sources of funding. (NOM did not respond to repeated requests for comment.) The Knights of Columbus, however, freely disclosed its donation in its August 3 report. The amount was enough to have funded most of NOM’s successful $1.9 million effort to repeal Maine’s same sex marriage law in 2009.
Gay-rights activists have long speculated that the Mormon Church was the primary benefactor behind NOM. But the Knights of Columbus disclosure shows the Catholic group played a pivotal role in funding NOM’s efforts to deny marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.
Here’s the story…of two lovely ladies!
Rosie O’Donnell and new girlfriend Tracy Kachtick-Anders share a whopping ten kids between them! “Tracy has six kids, she lives next door,” O’Donnell, 48, told UsMagazine.com at Monday’s Rosie’s Building Dreams for Kids Gala in NYC. The comic herself has four kids — Parker, 15, Chelsea, 13, Blake, 10, and Vivienne, 7 — with ex partner Kelli Carpenter.
“[Tracy's] oldest is out of the house,” O’Donnell explained. “So it’s nine total. It’s a lot! We’re the Gay-dy Bunch!”
O’Donnell said the blended family arrangement is going “really good…It’s a challenge, but when you fall in love with someone, they come with a whole bunch of things, including children.” An artist, writer, inventor and midwife, Katchick-Anders has one biological child and five adopted kids.
“Part of the reason I fell in love with her was her love of kids,” the comic gushed. “She was a foster mom and took in 12, 13 kids, and adopted a whole bunch as well. She’s pretty amazing,” she said, adding that their relationship is going “very well.”
A rep for the star confirmed the couple’s relationship in late December, about a month after O’Donnell announced that she and Carpenter had been living apart for two years.
Another new chapter for O’Donnell: a new show premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in January. She told Us the series will “be a single topic, one hour, daily strip in the afternoon. Real people, real topics, what America is talking about. It won’t be too much celebrities, or guests promoting something,” she explained. “We’ll do everything from autism to losing weight to what’s happening with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It’ll be a whole spectrum of stuff, similar to what [Oprah] does.”
from US Magazine
WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Republicans dealt a severe and potentially fatal blow Tuesday to efforts this year to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the armed forces.
Democrats were unable to sway a single Republican to begin debate on a defense authorization bill that included the repeal.
The failure to repeal the law, despite White House backing and majorities in Congress, marked a low point in the more than decade-long effort to rid a policy begun under President Bill Clinton. Democrats thought this was their best chance to undo the 17-year-old measure after President Obama had won the support of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other military leaders to get rid of it.
But Republicans objected that Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had attached several politically motivated proposals to the measure.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who led the charge against repeal, called Reid’s plan a “blatant and cynical” political ploy aimed at galvanizing Democratic voters for the midterm elections.
The high-profile failure left some advocates of repeal feeling burned and blaming the White House and congressional Democrats for not acting sooner.
“The Democrats have been against ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for more than a decade and why we allowed this law to remain in effect for another two years is beyond me,” said Richard Soccarides, who served as an adviser to Clinton on gay rights. “The Washington-based gay rights groups made a decision early on that they were better off going along with the president’s timeline and that right now that looks like a serious miscalculation.”
White House officials and Senate Democratic leaders said they hoped to revive the issue after the November elections, when they attempt once again the defense authorization bill.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that he did not think this was the “decisive moment” for the law’s repeal and that the administration would “keep trying.”
But the bill’s fate after the election is murky, given the uncertainty of the outcome at the polls. If Republicans make major gains, it could be difficult for Democrats to push a contentious issue during an end-of-the-term lame-duck session.
A senior Republican Senate aide also said that although some GOP lawmakers don’t necessarily oppose repeal, they don’t want to act before a Pentagon review of the policy change has been completed. That deadline is Dec. 1, leaving little time before the end of the year to revive the issue.
Repeal advocates have pushed since the ban was put into effect in 1993, saying it unfairly discriminates against gays, who have to hide their sexual identity while serving in uniform, and keeps thousands of potential recruits from enlisting.
But opponents say lifting the ban goes against the wishes of many military leaders and would introduce radical social change to the force at a time when it is focused on fighting two major wars. Critics are especially concerned with potential distractions for troops serving on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq if heterosexual troops would have to live and bathe in close quarters with gays.
“The issue isn’t about individuals or liking gay people,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a group opposed to repeal. “The issue is about what’s best for the armed forces.”
UNITED KINGDOM – Burnley-born Anderson, 28, posed nude for next month’s issue and insisted there was no homophobia in the game.
He said: “There’s a perception of lots of committees and old men being quite prim and proper, but I think the game is moving with the times.
“From my point of view, I think doing this could be fantastic for cricket. Hopefully this will attract a new sort of fan.”
Anderson – who is married and has a baby girl with model Daniella Lloyd – admitted he would get “some stick” for the photoshoot, but insisted he was prepared for it.
He said: “If there are any gay cricketers, they should feel confident enough to come out, because I don’t think there is homophobia in cricket.
“Cricket fans are generally there to watch the game and support their team.”
Asked how he would react if a cricketer came out, he said: “I’d throw them a special gay cricket tea.”
Matthew Todd, Attitude’s editor, said the cricketer’s decision would send a “strong, playful signal” that sportsmen can be comfortable with homosexuality among teammates and fans.
He said: “Jimmy is obviously completely comfortable in his own sexuality to appear naked in a gay magazine.
“In fact it was his wife and her many gay friends who convinced him to do it. We’re very grateful to her.”
from Telegraph UK
CEDAR FALLS, IOWA – Last Thursday, Judy Shepard visited the University of Northern Iowa to spoke at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center about the gay community and the Matthew Shepard Foundation she created in memory of her son. and
Shepard first discussed her victim impact speech she delivered at the sentencing hear of Russell Arthur Henderson, one of the men who plead guilty to killing her son. The trial was held in Laramie, Wyoming on April 15, 1999. Shepard then discussed more about Matthew’s interests and about the horrific news of when she and her husband found out what had happened to their son. She said she was living in Saudi Arabia and on Oct. 8 1998, they received a call that Matthew was in a hospital, with severe injuries, in Fort Collins, Colorado. and After many hours of traveling to get to the hospital, they arrived and she couldn’t even recognize her son because his face was covered in bruises and full of stitches. and and
When Matthew died on Oct.12 1998, Shepard vowed to make something positive come from his death. and She founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which was created to honor Matthew and the foundation seeks to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. and
Later, Shepard discussed how society interprets homosexuality. and She says you have to educate people about the gay community so they know more about it. and Some people are ignorant about the fact that homosexuality is not a choice but a life style. and She questioned the marriage debate and why it really matters who someone else loves. and Shepard emphasized equality for everyone and paying more taxes, losing your job, not being able to get married and not being able to be in the military because someone is gay is wrong. and
“In society, gay people are seen as the outcast group and our society does not understand the truth about the gay community,” Shepard also stated. and She says the greatest responsibility as United States citizens is to be able to vote and get our voices and opinions heard about gay marriage rights.
Shepard also addressed cyber-bullying. and She feels it is wrong to just suspend a bully when they do something wrong. and She thinks we need to get to the deeper part of it because students can not learn if they fear bullies all the time.
There was also a question and answer session towards the end of her speech. and One of the guys asked if Shepard ever feared for Matthew’s safety when he came out as gay. and She said she did not fear for his safety but he was very opinionated. and Another person asked what Matthew would say if he saw what his mother were doing. and
Shepard boldly responded, “You go girl.”
“I find it very interesting for her to be able to do this because of the Westboro Baptist Church and she sends a message that everyone needs to hear about acceptance,” said Sam Koch, a senior geography major, who found Shepard’s speech very uplifting. and
Chelsea Ecklund, a sophomore undeclared major, agreed with everything Shepard said because she has a lot of gay friends and it is disgusting how people can loath them. and After listening to the speech, it made Ecklund want to get involved in many gay activist clubs like Allied and One Iowa.
Right before Judy Shepard’s speech, many students gathered outside of the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center to counterprotest the WBC’s planned protest, which was not carried out once again. and The counterprotest was very similar to last Monday’s protest. and
“I was very heartened by it.” Shepard said, referring to the UNI student’s counterprotest. and “To have that people show up and show their support is just really great.” and Shepard also had something to say about the WBC headed by Fred Phelps. and
“I feel sad for them that their lives are so steeped in hate that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of compassion in their lives,” Shepard said. and Shepard also does not blame Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney for murdering her son. and She blames society for creating an environment that made murdering Matthew appear to be acceptable.
from The Northern Iowan
EDMONTON, AB CANADA – A Yellowknife landlord has been ordered to pay $13,400 to a gay couple he refused to rent a house to because of religious beliefs.
In May 2009, William Goertzen revoked a signed lease for the main floor of a Yellowknife house he had previously agreed to rent to Scott Robertson and Richard Anthony, collecting $1,125 for two weeks rent. When Goertzen discovered they were a couple, he rented the suite to other tenants. The couple filed a complaint with the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission and the case was heard by a panel this past June.
In a written decision released earlier this month, adjudicator James Posynick ruled Goertzen’s actions violated the Human Rights Act. Goertzen was ordered to pay Robertson and Anthony $5,000 each for “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect,” $1,500 each for punitive damages and $400 to Robertson for lost wages.
In his decision, Posynick rejected Goertzen’s argument that his discrimination was justified on the grounds of freedom of religion.
For that argument to be reasonable, Posynick wrote, Goertzen should have shown a willingness to express his concerns, apologize and ensure the couple was able to find alternative arrangements. Instead, Goertzen aggravated the case by keeping the damage deposit. He also began advertising the apartment two days later, which “betrays the suggestion that he gave any thought to engaging in a dialogue or discussion.”
“Mr. Goertzen never returned the two weeks rent paid by the complainants until ordered by a rental officer,” Posynick wrote. “There was no attempt to accommodate the complainants in this case whatsoever.”
Goertzen told the panel that same-sex relationships are “unnatural and against nature,” and that “if he allowed the complainants to live in his house, God would punish him,” according to the decision.
On his decision to reward for injuries and punitive damages, Posynick said Goertzen’s actions may not necessarily have been malicious, but that he “certainly intended to discriminate” against the couple.
Posynick also noted he “heard no evidence that God’s word included ignoring (Goertzen’s) legal obligation” to treat others with respect.
“As far as I could tell from the evidence, Mr. Goertzen made his own choices.”
from The Edmonton Journal
TEXAS – While imprisoned by the state of Texas for a property crime, John was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a prison official. The officer moved John to solitary confinement where no one could see what was happening. There, he forced John to perform oral sex. If John didn’t comply, the officer explained, he would never be paroled and would be denied meals. “It was a nightmare,” said John. “I lived in dread knowing what he could do to me.”
John’s story is far from unique. Based on surveys conducted in prisons and jails across the country, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimates that 88,500 inmates nationwide were sexually abused at their current facility last year alone. The results for Texas are especially alarming.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice runs three of the five men’s prisons with the highest rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual abuse in the country, according to the BJS survey. At the Hughes Unit, in Gatesville, nearly 9 percent of inmates surveyed had been sexually assaulted by another inmate — more than quadruple the national average. The Allred Unit, near Wichita Falls, and the Michael Unit, near Palestine, both had inmate-on-inmate abuse rates more than triple the national average. Texas prison officials also rape inmates at alarming rates. At the Ferguson Unit, in Midway, 7.6 percent of inmates reported sexual abuse by staff in the preceding year – nearly three times the national average. In a similar BJS report released in January 2010, Texas’ juvenile facilities fared just as poorly.
As appalling as these figures are, mere numbers can obscure the real issue. Consider the case of Dwight, a gay inmate at the Allred Unit who has been assaulted again and again by other inmates. Officials have responded to his pleas for help with anti-gay jokes and by stating they don’t believe a homosexual can be raped. Dwight wrote to Just Detention International, “The perpetrators have raped and extorted me, but have not been charged, not punished. I am the victim. I have filed grievances to no avail, have written TDCJ to no avail. Please help … ”
Sexual violence does not happen in isolation. In facilities where such abuse is widespread, violence of every kind – including against officials – tends to flourish. When sexual abuse survivors return home, as the vast majority of them do, they bring their trauma and medical conditions with them, back to their families and communities. Ultimately, Texas taxpayers incur the significant – and avoidable – financial burdens of prisoner rape, including for investigations, litigation and medical care.
The BJS surveys make clear that sexual abuse behind bars is preventable. Such violence flourishes in some facilities, but is rare in others. The differences stem from whether facility leaders are committed to keeping inmates safe, the level of respect among staff for professional boundaries, and the quality of written policies and day-to-day practices.
The federal law that mandated the BJS surveys, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, also required U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to ratify national standards aimed specifically at ending sexual abuse behind bars. These standards were developed by a federal commission and delivered to Holder last year. By law, he should have finalized them by June 23, 2010, but he missed that deadline and no new date has been set.
Rather than waiting for Holder to get his job done, Texas must now begin implementing the recommended national standards. That’s what Oregon and California have done, and we know that’s what many individual Texas prison officials wish to do.
Rather than yield power to predatory staff members by minimizing the problem of sexual abuse in its prisons, the TDCJ leadership must support the many good men and women in its ranks by providing them with the tools they need to keep inmates safe.
Continued inaction simply costs too much, especially for prisoners like John and Dwight. No matter what crime someone may have committed, rape must not be part of the penalty.
The Houston Cronicle
HELENA, MONTANA — At a time when gays have been gaining victories across the country, the Republican Party in Montana still wants to make homosexuality illegal.
The party adopted an official platform in June that keeps a long-held position in support of making homosexual acts illegal, a policy adopted after the Montana Supreme Court struck down such laws in 1997.
The fact that it’s still the official party policy more than 12 years later, despite a tidal shift in public attitudes since then and the party’s own pledge of support for individual freedoms, has exasperated some GOP members.
“I looked at that and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” state Sen. John Brueggeman, R-Polson, said last week. “Should it get taken out? Absolutely. Does anybody think we should be arresting homosexual people? If you take that stand, you really probably shouldn’t be in the Republican Party.”
Gay rights have been rapidly advancing nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy law in 2003′s Lawrence v. Texas decision. Gay marriage is now allowed in five states and Washington, D.C., a federal court recently ruled the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional, and even a conservative tea party group in Montana ousted its president over an anti-gay exchange in Facebook.
But going against the grain is the Montana GOP statement, which falls under the “Crime” section of the GOP platform. It states: “We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.”
Montana GOP executive director Bowen Greenwood said that has been the position of the party since the state Supreme Court struck down state laws criminalizing homosexuality in 1997 in the case of Gryczan v. Montana.
Nobody has ever taken the initiative to change it and so it’s remained in the party platform, Greenwood said. The matter has never even come up for discussion, he said.
“There had been at the time, and still is, a substantial portion of Republican legislators that believe it is more important for the Legislature to make the law instead of the Supreme Court,” Greenwood said.
Critics say the policy is a toothless statement, the effect of which is simply to make gays feel excluded. A University of Montana law professor says Montana’s 1997 case and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision means there’s no real chance for the state GOP to act on its position.
“To me, that statement legally is hollow,” said constitutional specialist Jack Tuholske. “The principle under Gryczan and under Lawrence, that’s the fundamental law of the land and the Legislature can’t override the Constitution. It might express their view, but as far as a legal reality, it’s a hollow view and can’t come to pass.”
Montana Human Rights Network organizer Kim Abbott said the GOP platform statement does not represent the attitudes of most Montanans, and it shows that the party is out of touch with the prevalent view of the people they are supposed to represent.
“It speaks volumes to the lesbian and gay community how they are perceived by the Republican Party,” Abbott said. “It would be nice if Republicans that understand that gay people are human beings would stand up and say they don’t agree with that. But I don’t know how likely that is.”
Brueggeman suspects that the vast majority of the party believes, as he does, that the Republican party should remove statement. It’s against every conservative principle for limited government and issues like this exemplify how a political party can interfere with the relationship between lawmakers and their constituents.
“I just hope it’s something that’s so sensitive that people don’t want to touch it,” he said. “Even if there wasn’t a Supreme Court decision, does anyone really believe that it should be illegal?”
from The Associated Press
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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA — Backers of California’s same-sex marriage ban urged a federal appeals court to overturn the trial judge who struck down Proposition 8 by arguing late Friday that his consideration of evidence was “egregiously selective and one-sided.”
In written arguments to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for the ban’s sponsors alleged that Chief U.S. Judge Vaughn Walker “quite willfully” disregarded a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court precedent and other relevant information when he decided the voter-approved measure was an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians’ civil rights.
“The district court based its findings almost exclusively on an uncritical acceptance of the evidence submitted by Plaintiffs’ experts, and simply ignored virtually everything — judicial authority, the works of eminent scholars past and present in all relevant academic fields, extensive historical and documentary evidence — that ran counter to its conclusions,” they wrote in their 134-page opening brief.
Lawyers for the two couples who successfully sued in Walker’s court are due to file their responses next month. A three-judge 9th Circuit panel has scheduled oral arguments in the case for the first week in December and put Walker’s order requiring the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on hold until it renders its own decision.
The court papers filed Friday contained unbridled criticism of Walker’s handling of the first federal trial to examine if the U.S. Constitution prevents states from limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
The appealing attorneys, who called two witnesses compared to 18 for the plaintiffs, asked the 9th Circuit to ignore the trial testimony on which Walker laboriously based his opinion, calling it “unreliable and ultimately irrelevant” to whether Proposition 8 passes constitutional muster.
“Having blinded itself to the genuine animating purpose of marriage, the district court was obliged to offer a different rationale for the institution, presumably one that is entirely indifferent to the gender of the spouses,” they wrote.
They also characterized as defamatory the judge’s conclusion that “moral disapproval” of gay men and lesbians was the main reason voters passed Proposition 8 in November 2008.
“The district court decision is an attack on the many judges and lawmakers and millions of Americans who rightly and reasonably understand that marriage is the unique union of a man and a woman,” said Alliance Defense Fund attorney Brian Raum, who is part of the legal team fighting to uphold Proposition 8. “The Hollywood-funded opposition wants to impose — through a San Francisco court — an agenda that America has repeatedly rejected.”
American Foundation for Equal Rights President Chad Griffin, whose organization organized and funded the lawsuit that led to Walker’s ruling, said he remains confident that it would be upheld in the 9th Circuit and ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The fact remains that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, as was proven conclusively and unequivocally through a full federal trial,” Griffin said. “There is no getting around the fact that the court’s decision was based on our nation’s most fundamental principles, and that the Constitution does not permit unequal treatment under the law.”
from The Associated Press
A lawsuit filed by a student at L.A. City College who claimed a professor violated his right to free speech by stopping him from finishing a speech against gay marriage was dismissed Friday by a federal appeals court.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned a lower court decision allowing Jonathan Lopez’s lawsuit to go forward.
Lopez, a self-described Christian, claimed a professor stopped him mid-speech, deeming his words sexual harassment under the Los Angeles Community College District’s code of conduct.
He sued the district in February 2009 in Los Angeles federal court, claiming the code was so broad that it limited his right to free speech.
U.S. Circuit Court Judge Sandra S. Ikuta wrote in the opinion handed down today that Lopez, “failed to make a clear showing that his intended speech on religious topics gave rise to a specific and credible threat of adverse action from college officials under the college’s sexual harassment
Lopez gave his classroom speech just weeks after California voters approved Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in November 2008.
from NBC Los Angeles
SANTA MARIA, CALIFORNIA – A Santa Maria man was arrested early Thursday morning on charges of attempted murder and committing a hate crime after an employee at a Denny’s Restaurant was stabbed in the neck and throat.
Police responding to the call of battery at 3:28 a.m. found the victim, an adult man in his 30s, outside the restaurant at 1019 E. Main St. with a laceration to the side of his throat. He also had been stabbed in the side of his neck. The man was specifically targeted by 24-year-old Curtis Martin because of his perceived sexual orientation, police said.
The victim was transported to Marian Medical Center by ambulance for treatment.
“The injuries were not life-threatening and he’s expected to fully recover,” said Santa Maria police Lt. Dan Ast, noting that the knife did not pierce any vital body parts.
Ast said that Martin knocked on the window of the restaurant, which was closed, and asked to use the restroom. He was let in and approached a group of Denny’s employees sitting at a table. Martin asked the victim, a waiter, if he was gay and when the victim replied that he was, he was attacked, according to Ast.
Martin used a knife he had brought with him, Ast said.
After the assault, Martin ran to his vehicle and was seen fleeing the scene westbound on Main Street, police said. His vehicle was located a short time later and Martin was arrested and booked into county jail.
from The Santa Maria Times