SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – The last of the so-called San Antonio Four, lesbians who were convicted based on “junk science” of sexually assaulting two children, were freed Monday.
Judge Mary Roman of the 175th District Court reportedly released Elizabeth Ramirez, 39, Cassandra Rivera, 38, and Kristie Mayhugh, 40, on bond after the defense and Bexar County prosecutors reached an agreement.
“For all those who are here to support the ‘San Antonio Four’ we appreciate you coming,” defense attorney Mike Ware told the crowd outside the courtroom, as reported by the San Antonio Express-News. “The paperwork has been signed and the women will be released on [a no-payment-required] signature bond.”
The fourth defendant Anna Vasquez, 38, was paroled last year.
They were arrested in 1994 after two of Ramirez’s nieces, ages 7 and 9 at the time, accused them of sexual assault. The attack allegedly took place during an alcohol and drug-fuel rampage at Ramirez’s apartment.
Ramirez, the accused ringleader, and was sentenced to over 37 years in state prison in 1997. Her friends were convicted in 1998 and began serving their sentences in 2000.
The cases against the San Antonio Four are some of the first to be questioned in Texas under a law enacted in June that allows state judges to overturn verdicts based on scientific evidence that has since been debunked.
During the defendants’ trials, expert witness Dr. Nancy Kellogg testified that one of the victims had a scar on her hymen that was a result of a tear caused by physical trauma. Kellogg now says her testimony was inaccurate and is contradicted by an American Academy of Pediatrics study in 2007 that concluded hymen injuries do not leave scars, according to a petition filed by Ware.
“They were four gay women and I think in Bexar County in the mid-nineties the prevalent belief was probably ‘they’re gay, they’re capable of anything’,” Ware told the Guardian. “They were gay and that made them ‘the other’ and that made these preposterous allegations believable to some people.”
Furthermore, one of the victims recanted her claims last year.
“I can’t take back what I did, but if I could talk to all of them in one room I would just say I’m sorry,” she told the Express-News in 2012. “I’m sorry for ruining them.”
After Monday’s hearing, Vasquez learned that she was also included in the deal for the bond. After her release last year, she was placed under several parole restrictions for sex offenders that prevented her from visiting her father or seeking relatives, including a niece and nephew.
“I’m exhilarated,” Vasquez told the Express-News after the hearing.” It was very unexpected.”
The defendants’ cases are to be reviewed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the state. Possible outcomes include the ordering of a new trial or the dismissal of all charges. Prosecutors filed a motion for new trial in October.
from Courthouse News
Posts Tagged ‘Lesbian’
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – The last of the so-called San Antonio Four, lesbians who were convicted based on “junk science” of sexually assaulting two children, were freed Monday.
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a woman who donated an egg to her lesbian partner has parental rights to the child and ordered a lower court to work out custody, child support and visitation arrangements.
The case involves two women, identified only by their initials, who had a child together. One donated an egg that was fertilized and implanted in the other, who gave birth in 2004.
But two years later the Brevard County couple split up, and the birth mother took the girl and left the country. The other woman, who identifies herself as the biological mother, used a private detective to find her former partner in Australia, and a custody fight ensued.
The birth mother tried to use a Florida law that prevents sperm or egg donors from claiming parental rights to children born to other couples. Her lawyer also cited a standard form donors are required to sign relinquishing parental rights. The court rejected both arguments, saying the law doesn’t apply in this case because the couple clearly planned to parent the child together.
The court wrote that the case didn’t have to be an “all-or-nothing decision” on which parent had rights to the child.
“The couple’s actions before and after the child’s birth – including their use of funds from their joint bank account, their statements to the reproductive doctor that they intended to raise the child as a couple, the counseling they underwent to prepare themselves for parenthood, the use of a hyphenated last name for the child, and the joint birth announcement – reveal that the couple’s agreement in actuality was to both parent the child,” the court wrote.
The decision doesn’t throw out the Florida law and it can still be applied in cases where anonymous donors provide sperm or eggs to couples.
“If you were a sperm donor, would this help you get parental rights? No, it wouldn’t,” said Elizabeth Schwartz, a Miami Beach attorney who specializes in family law and who advocates for gay and lesbian issues. “They really looked at what was intended … The law wasn’t thrown out, it was just thoughtfully applied.”
The biological mother cried when she heard the news, said lawyer Robert Segal, who represents the woman. She has not seen her daughter in six years. The girl will be 10 in January and now is in Florida, but the birth mother has not been cooperative in providing details about her life, Segal said.
“The case represents a recognition of the fundamental right a parent has to parent their child, regardless of that parent’s sexual orientation or the manner by which the child is conceived,” said Christopher Carlyle, a lawyer who assisted on the biological mother’s appeal. “You had a unique situation where there was no intent of our client to donate this biological material and then be out of the picture. They obviously intended to raise the child together.”
The lawyer for the birth mother didn’t immediately return a phone message left at his office.
A trial judge ruled for the birth mother and said the biological mother has no parental rights under state law, adding that he hoped his decision would be overturned.
The 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach sided with the biological mother and said both women have parental rights.
“It would indeed be anomalous if, under Florida law, an unwed biological father would have more constitutionally protected rights to parent a child after a one night stand than an unwed biological mother who, with a committed partner and as part of a loving relationship, planned for the birth of a child and remains committed to supporting and raising her own daughter,” the court wrote.
Schwartz said that if not for the fact that the biological mother donated her egg, the case might have turned out differently. If the birth mother had one of her own eggs fertilized, her partner might not have won parental rights.
“What would be great is if a case like this could then lead to the next case, which would be respecting the intentions to co-parent of a couple even when there is not that biological connection and gestational connection,” Schwartz said. “I think there’s lots of language here that gets us closer to it.”
from The Associated Press
NEW YORK – A prestigious Catholic high school booted a Bronx senior for being gay, the girl claims in a lawsuit.
Amanda Acevedo, 17, says in court papers that a homophobic administrator at Preston HS in Throggs Neck took exception to her bringing a girl as a date to a school dance and embarked on a two-year campaign of discrimination that culminated in her expulsion in September.
“Such a disgraceful act is proof positive of the fact that they got rid of my daughter because of her sexual orientation,” Acevedo’s dad, John, charges in the suit, filed against the private all-girls school in Bronx Supreme Court last month.
“No other reason makes sense. Preston High gains nothing by expelling a traumatized gay child — except a sick sense of pleasure at getting rid of a gay child.”
Dean Joseph De Bona began targeting Amanda when she came to her sophomore-year dance with a girl on her arm, the suit says.
Although she had permission to bring the date, Amanda says, De Bona pulled them aside at the end of the event, separated them and grilled Amanda, asking how they met, where the girl went to school, whether the two were “more than just friends” and warning against “any funny business.”
John Acevedo says the inquiries were inappropriate.
“They’re alone in the room talking about her sexuality? Saying, ‘Let’s keep this between us because we don’t want any funny business’? There’s nothing funny about it,” the dad told The Post.
De Bona’s grilling of Amanda “deserves a sock in the face,” Acevedo says.
This year, Amanda, as a senior, got into a fight with a girl in the locker room on Sept. 17, and De Bona seized the opportunity to get rid of her, the suit says.
“What you think is happening is happening,” he told Amanda, referring to expulsion, according to court papers.
The Acevedo family says De Bona lied about the fight — Amanda’s first at the school — and cast her as the instigator.
Preston, a school of nearly 600 students that costs more than $9,000 a year to attend, kicked both girls out before even investigating or following procedures for expulsion, court papers say.
The other girl remains suspended, the Acevedos say.
“[Amanda] was targeted. There was prejudice against her,” her dad said.
More than 200 of her classmates signed a petition for her return, and City Councilman James Vacca and state Sen. Jeff Klein wrote letters of on her behalf.
Amanda was out of school for nearly three weeks before a judge issued a temporary order on Oct. 10 allowing her to return — for now.
Preston is fighting to expel Amanda for good, and the case is due back in court Nov. 12.
“It just sucks because the punishment does not fit the crime,” Amanda said. “I wish it never happened. I don’t want to go through this at all.”
The school did not return a request for comment.
from The New York Post
LAS VEGAS – A lesbian bowler claims that she was mortified when casino employees cornered her in the ladies’ room and almost made her strip to prove she is not a man.
Susan Ho sued Coast Casinos and Boyd Gaming Corporation, the owners of the Gold Coast Casino, for false imprisonment and assault in Clark County Court.
Ho, who identifies herself as a lesbian and resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, allegedly endured the confrontation while competing in the Advanced Travel Bowling Tournament at the Gold Coast Casino’s bowling center on Oct. 6, 2011.
It was around noon that day when Ho finished the ninth frame of the fifth game and went to the women’s bathroom.
“Upon entering the bathroom, another female bowler wearing a yellow sleeveless shirt and a black bottom also entered the bathroom,” the complaint states.
“The female bowler paused and looked at plaintiff as plaintiff entered. Plaintiff had to explain to the female bowler that she was entering the correct bathroom.
“As plaintiff was in the bathroom, she overheard some conversation about her and knew she was going to be approached as soon as she exited the bathroom.
“When plaintiff stepped outside of the bathroom, she saw a wall of people (approximately five to six individuals) blocking the exit to the bathroom.” (Parentheses in original.)
Ho says she felt intimidated and harassed because of the number of people waiting for her to leave the restroom.
The assembled employees allegedly repeatedly told Ho that she was in the wrong bathroom.
Ho said an employee named Luciana then accused her “of being a man using the women’s restroom,” pointing to the written gender designation near the bathroom entrance and then stating, “women’s.”
“Plaintiff replied, ‘I know; I’m in the right bathroom,’” the complaint states. “Luciana then curtly stated, ‘ladies’ and once again pointed to the gender designation near the bathroom entrance. This time plaintiff replied, ‘I know; I am a lady.’ Luciana again bluntly exclaimed the word ‘Ladies.’”
Ho says there was talk about removing her shirt to prove she was a woman. She said her life partner’s son also offered to bring back Ho’s ID to prove she was in the right bathroom.
At this point, however, the employees “began smirking and appeared to be reveling in plaintiff’s humiliation,” the complaint states.
She says she left the bathroom and finished the rest of the tournament but left her shoes at the alley.
The next day, Ho, her life partner, the tournament manager and Gold Coast manager Ranette Long allegedly met to discuss what happened.
“Ms. Leong was apologetic and believed that there was a language barrier that caused the incident,” the complaint states. “However, she said she found out at that meeting that Ms. Leong did not report the incident to her supervisors.”
Kerrie Burke, the vice president and general manager at Coast Casinos, allegedly sent a letter to Ho acknowledging the restroom incident had occurred.
Burke wrote, “Our efforts to train our employees is ongoing and while I would like to tell you that our training is 100% guaranteed, quite obviously it is not,” according to the complaint.
Ho seeks punitive damages for violations of state law, assault, false imprisonment and negligence.
from Courthouse News
MISSISSIPPI – A rural northeast Mississippi community discriminated against a lesbian woman by denying her a license to reopen a bar catering to gays and lesbians, a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday claims.
The lawsuit was filed by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center and said the town of Shannon discriminated against Pat “PJ” Newton and violated her civil rights to free speech and equal protection.
It accused the town, the mayor and the aldermen of denying the license because Newton’s bar would cater to gays and lesbians, and not because she failed to meet any criteria for opening and operating a business in Shannon.
During the town meeting in June when Shannon aldermen denied the license request, about 40 residents attended to oppose the bar, and delivered a petition with more than 100 signatures from people who objected.
Shannon attorney Gary Carnathan said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment. However, he said there was no mention of sexual orientation at the June meeting.
“There wasn’t ever any mention about gay or straight or anything when it was brought up,” Carnathan said. “It was only brought up after it was initially declined.”
Town officials say they voted against having any other bar in the community of about 1,700 residents. The town has a liquor store and two existing bars.
Newton, 55, operated the bar, called O’Haras, in the community from 1994 to 1998. Now living in Memphis, Newton said she decided to reopen it after numerous gays and lesbians in northeast Mississippi said they wanted a place where they could feel comfortable and unwind without feeling threatened.
Shannon is about 11 miles from Tupelo, home of the conservative American Family Association.
Tension felt by gays in the region was highlighted in the 2006 documentary, “Small Town Gay Bar,” which featured the Shannon bar. It later operated under a different name after Newton sold it, and it closed a few years ago.
Newton said she didn’t know there was any opposition until she appeared at the town meeting to ask for the license.
“If I’d been a straight redneck from Shannon, nobody would have cared,” Newton said recently.
She said she had already signed a lease on the property and had begun making improvements, and pays rent and utility bills even though she is unable to open.
The lawsuit asks the court to award damages for lost revenue and expenses, issue an injunction allowing the bar to open and award legal fees.
David Dinielli, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director, said Newton met all requirements to open the business.
“The facts and circumstances make it clear that something else was at play here,” he said.
He acts like they never have met.
Bob Dylan’s “secret” daughter, Desiree Dennis-Dylan, will marry her partner Kayla Sampson next August — and it’s unclear if “Mr. Tambourine Man” will attend the nuptials.
Sampson’s mother, Jolene Sampson, said she expects the legendary singer-songwriter will not be there to walk his 27-year-old daughter down the aisle in Mira Loma, Calif.
“Of course he’s invited, but he’s just not going to go. He didn’t say that, but that’s what we are assuming,” Jolene Sampson said.
“It would be sad (if Dylan skips the nuptials), but he is really supportive and happy for her,” the bride-to-be’s mom added.
For 15 years, Dennis-Dylan’s very existence was a secret.
“Desi” is Dylan’s sixth child — and the only one from his second marriage to Carolyn Dennis, a former backup singer.
The couple divorced in 1992.
In 2001, Howard Sounes revealed in his Dylan biography “Down the Highway” that Desiree had been born in 1986.
That prompted Carolyn Dennis to release a statement explaining the secrecy surrounding the enigmatic singer’s youngest known child.
“Bob and I made a choice to keep our marriage a private matter for a simple reason — to give our daughter a normal childhood,” Dennis said at the time.
The couple had agreed their daughter could choose to take her father’s last name when she became mature enough to make a decision, and she did.
The elusive Dylan has never publicly acknowledged Desiree — he never did too much talking anyway.
Even Jolene Sampson had only seen Dylan from the stage.
“I’ve seen concerts, but I’ve not met him,” she said.
For her part, Dennis-Dylan — who plays drums at local gigs in the suburbs of Los Angeles, shared her father’s desire for privacy.
“No decisions have been made about a wedding,” Dennis-Dylan said through a publicist. “We want to keep matters affecting our families private.”
She met her wife-to-be, Sampson, while performing in the Young Americans, a travelling nonprofit performing arts club for young people.
Reached at home, Sampson confirmed there will be a wedding, but it’s uncertain whether the ultimate rolling stone would be there.
“We don’t know yet. We will have to see,” Sampson said, declining to speak further.
Bob Dylan could not be reached for comment.
from The New York Daily News
VERO BEACH, FLORIDA — Kaitlyn Hunt found herself back in jail on the eve of a hearing on her teen-sex case.
Hunt was booked into the Indian River County Jail about 9 p.m. Monday, said Sgt.Thomas Raulen, spokesman for Indian River County Sheriff’s Office.
A representative from the bail/bond company that posted her bail brought her to the jail, Raulen said.
Raulen emphasized that her incarceration was not a result of judicial action but rather done at the discretion of the bail/bond agent.
Hunt plea deal, that would have kept her out of jail, was withdrawn after it was found that she had been communicating with the victim.
At Tuesday’s hearing, she faces the possibility of more criminal charges.
All State Attorney Bruce Colton would say Monday is “a final decision has not been made” on additional charges.
Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said his detectives have completed their investigation and gave their evidence to prosecutors.
The 1 p.m. hearing before Circuit Judge Robert Pegg is on the prosecution’s motion to revoke the 19-year-old Sebastian resident’s bond and return her to the county jail on her current charges: two counts of lewd and lascivious battery on her schoolmate, who was 14 at the time.
Hunt was charged in February, and jailed. She posted $5,000 bail and was released, with a pretrial court order prohibiting her from contact with the victim.
Under Florida law, it is illegal for an older teen — Hunt was 18 at the time — to have sexual contact with a 14 year old, even if the relationship was consensual.
Hunt’s attorney, Julia Graves, declined to comment about the case or Tuesday’s hearing. However, on Friday, a Boston defense attorney met with Hunt and Graves and is offering his legal services.
“The pendulum has swung too far” in the prosecution of youths, attorney William Korman said Tuesday. He specializes in sex offense cases. “Children are being prosecuted for being children:” having a romantic relationship, he said.
On Aug. 9 Hunt was offered a plea deal — to lesser, nonsexual charges — but prosecutors withdrew that on Monday.
According to court records filed on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators say that after Hunt’s arrest on Feb. 16, she violated a court no-contact order by having repeated contact with the victim. In some instances that included their secretly meeting and having physical contact.
Hunt allegedly sent some sexually explicit photos via the Internet, according to court records.
And there was almost daily contact via an iPod Hunt is alleged to have put in the younger’s girl’s locker before Hunt left Sebastian River High School. Investigators said there were 20,000 text messages.
Prosecutors also said Hunt’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, had been communicating with the victim — telling her to delete the texts so no one would find out. Smith is being represented by the Menz & Battista law firm.
The younger girl’s parents found out, Sullivan said, leading to an investigation and Tuesday’s hearing.
According to the court records, the younger girl conversed and met with Hunt until as recently as three weeks ago.
Yet, “morally and legally she is not complicit,” Sullivan said because minors can’t consent to sex with someone 18 year old, which Hunt was at the time.
“She (the victim) is not doing well,” said Charles Sullivan Jr, attorney for the victim and her family. She has been undergoing therapy and “school is starting,” the attorney said. “She needs to focus on that.”
Sullivan said her family agrees with Hunt being put back in jail.
The only way to keep Hunt and the victim separate is if Hunt is in custody, he said. “A judge’s order was not effective.
“No one expected this to happen,” he said. “This is a shock” and could lead to Hunt having a lifelong criminal record.
from TC Palm
It’s Two and a Half Men…and a Lesbian!
Don’t worry, that’s not the show’s new title. However, E! News can exclusively report that the pivotal new role of Charlie Harper’s (Charlie Sheen) illegitimate daughter has been written as 21 years old, “sexy and gorgeous,” and gay. The new character, Jenny, will share many traits with her deceased father, including her love of women, per our sources.
Though earlier reports indicated that the new actress coming on to play Charlie’s daughter would be a series regular, we are told this will be a recurring character with the possibility of becoming a regular. Producers want to see first how she gels with the cast before committing to full-cast-member status.
Jenny will first appear in the season premiere, coming on the scene because she has relocated from New York to Los Angeles. It’s possible we may also meet her mother, an old flame of Charlie’s. The role of Jenny has not yet been cast.
In May, the news broke that the show’s “half man,” Angus T. Jones (who famously slammed the CBS comedy as immoral), would not be returning as a series regular. Producer Chuck Lorre has since said that Jones will be back whenever he has a few days off, so he will be appearing in a recurring fashion.
Introducing a gay character on one of its biggest shows should help improve the network’s image with the LGBT community. According to GLAAD’s most recent Network Responsibility Index (August 2012), CBS came in last among the major networks, with only 8 percent of its programming featuring gay people or characters.
The network is also receiving heat this week for racist and homophobic remarks said on the current season of Big Brother.
Men goes back into production mid-August and will air this fall on CBS.
WNBA legend Chamique Holdsclaw just pled GUILTY in that crazy attack on her ex-GF — where she FIRED A GUN inside the woman’s car — but she won’t spend a single day behind bars.
TMZ broke the story … Holdsclaw — one of the WNBA’s all-time greats — was arrested in Atlanta last year. Cops say the 35-year-old trailed Jennifer Lacy’s car in November, then attacked it with a baseball bat and fired a gun into the backseat while Lacy was inside the vehicle.
Earlier today, Holdsclaw pled guilty to 2 counts of aggravated assault, 4 counts of criminal damage, and 1 count of illegal firearm possession.
But despite the fact she FIRED A GUN … Holdsclaw wasn’t sentenced to any jail time … instead, she got 3 years’ probation, a $3, 000 fine … and is not allowed to possess a gun for the next 3 years.
She’s also been ordered to stay away from Lacy and complete anger management … along with 120 hours of community service.
Chamique Holdsclaw Indicted
Ex-Basketball Star Chamique Holdsclaw Arrested
Glee star Jane Lynch and her wife, Dr. Lara Embry, are getting a divorce, the actress tells PEOPLE exclusively.
“Lara and I have decided to end our marriage. This has been a difficult decision for us as we care very deeply about one another. We ask for privacy as we deal with this family matter,” Lynch says in a statement.
Lynch, 52, and Embry, 44, met at a 2009 fundraiser in San Francisco at which Embry was being honored. Shortly after confirming their engagement, the women married on Memorial Day in 2010 in an intimate ceremony in Sunderland, Mass., one of the few states where gay marriage is recognized.
The wedding was attended by 19 friends and family including Embry’s daughter, Haden, with whom Lynch has gotten very close.
“My greatest pleasure is Haden, my stepdaughter,” Lynch told PEOPLE at The Moms Mamarazzi event in New York City last March. “I am surprised how much love you feel and how you would do anything for your children.”
Lynch, who is currently starring as Miss Hannigan in Annie: The Musical, performed at the Tony Awards in New York City Sunday.
from People Magazine
CINCINNATI, OHIO – A jury found an Ohio archdiocese discriminated against a teacher fired after becoming pregnant via artificial insemination, leaving legal experts expecting an appeal they say could have a much wider legal impact.
Christa Dias, who was fired from two schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati in October 2010, was awarded more than $170,000 Monday after winning her federal anti-discrimination lawsuit against the archdiocese.
Dias’ attorney, Robert Klingler, argued she was fired simply because she was pregnant and unmarried, a dismissal he said violated state and federal law.
Steven Goodin, the attorney for the archdiocese and the schools, contended Dias was fired for violating her contract, which he said required her to comply with the philosophies and teachings of the Catholic church. The church considers artificial insemination immoral and a violation of church doctrine.
The case, viewed as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees’ lives, is the second lawsuit filed in the last two years against the archdiocese over the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher.
While Goodin said a decision would be made later on whether to appeal the verdict, legal experts believe it will definitely end up in an appeals court.
Jessie Hill, a professor of civil rights and constitutional law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, believes the “ministerial exception” issue could be raised on appeal.
The archdiocese argued before trial that Dias, who was a computer technology teacher, was a “ministerial employee,” a position that has not been clearly defined by the courts.
The Supreme Court has said religious groups can dismiss those employees without government interference. But Klingler insisted Dias had no such ministerial duties, and the Cincinnati court found she was not a ministerial employee and that the issue couldn’t be argued at trial.
Hill said the Supreme Court has left “uncertainty about who is and who isn’t a ministerial employee,” and she expects the case would be “closely watched at the appellate level.”
David Ball, co-chairman of the Religious Organizations Subcommittee of the American Bar Association, doesn’t think Dias fits the definition of a ministerial employee. He believes an appellate court may have to decide whether the case involves “impermissible pregnancy discrimination or permissible religious discrimination, when in fact it’s both.”
Ball believes the case could potentially be precedent-setting at the appellate level in dealing with “the conflict of religious employers’ rights versus the rights of women seeking to reproduce.”
Dias told The Associated Press in a phone interview after the verdict that she was “very happy and relieved” with the outcome of the lawsuit she said she pursued for the sake of other women who might find themselves in a similar situation. She said she also pursued it for “my daughter’s sake, so she knows it’s important to stand up for what’s right.”
The jury said the archdiocese should pay a total of $71,000 for back pay and compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. Dias had also sued the two schools, but the jury didn’t find them liable for damages.
Klingler had suggested damages as high as $637,000, but Dias said she was satisfied with the jury’s award.
“It was never about the money,” she said. “They should have followed the law and they didn’t.”
Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said that for the archdiocese, it was “a matter of principle” and about “an employee who broke a contract she signed.”
Dias, who is not Catholic, had testified she didn’t know artificial insemination violated church doctrine or her employment pact. She said she thought the contract clause about abiding by church teachings meant she should be a Christian and follow the Bible.
Klingler said the case shows jurors are willing to apply the law “even to churches and religious organizations when non-ministerial employees are discriminated against.”
But Goodin said he thinks the verdict could result in churches and religious organizations making their contracts “lock in” employees so specifically that it could be “hard to bring these types of lawsuits in the future.”
Goodin had argued that Dias, who is gay, never intended to abide by her contract. She kept her sexual orientation a secret because she knew that homosexual acts also would violate that contract, he said.
Neither Dias nor the archdiocese claim she was fired because she is gay, and the judge told jurors that they could not consider sexual orientation in determining motivating factors for the firing.
Dias, formerly from a Cincinnati suburb, now lives in Atlanta with her partner and 2-year-old daughter, who she said “means everything to me.”
Dias vowed to continue her fight “for what’s right,” even if the case is appealed.
from The Associated Press
HONOLULU — A judge has ruled a Hawaii bed and breakfast violated the law when two women were denied a room because they’re gay.
The Hawaii First Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of a Southern California couple who sued Aloha Bed & Breakfast for discrimination in 2011, Lambda Legal announced Monday. In 2007, Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford tried to book a room at the bed and breakfast because it’s in Hawaii Kai, the same east Honolulu neighborhood where the friend they were visiting lived.
When Cervelli specified they would need one bed, the owner asked if they were lesbians. Cervelli responded truthfully and the owner said she was uncomfortable having lesbians in her house because of her religious views, the lawsuit said.
The bed and breakfast violated the state public accommodations law and is ordered to stop discriminating against same-sex couples, according to the ruling dated April 11. The public accommodations law prohibits establishments that provide lodging to transient guests from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, race, color, ancestry, religion, disability and sex —including gender identity or expression.
Jim Hochberg, a Honolulu attorney representing the bed and breakfast’s owner said Monday the ruling doesn’t consider her First Amendment rights. “The public needs to be aware of this decision because it has far-reaching consequences,” he said.
The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission joined the lawsuit.
“The court’s decision is based on Hawaii’s strong state civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination,” commission Executive Director William Hoshijo said. “When visitors or residents are subjected to discrimination, they suffer the sting of indignity, humiliation and outrage, but we are all demeaned and our society diminished by unlawful discrimination.”
from The Associated Press
No Lesbians Allowed At B&B
The Los Angeles City Council approved a $1.25-million payout Wednesday to a lesbian LAPD officer and a lesbian retired officer to settle claims by the women that they were subjected to repeated sexual harassment by a supervisor.
The agreement marks the latest in a long string of six- and seven-figure settlements and jury awards the city has had to pay in cases of discrimination, retaliation and other workplace strife that LAPD officers have brought against one another with some frequency.
In an 11-1 vote, the council signed off on the payout to avoid a trial in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by now-retired Officer Linda Gotham and Officer Lynn Whitey.
The two women, both openly gay, were assigned to the department’s Van Nuys Division in 2010, where they were supervised by Sgt. Randy Hoffmaster, a 25-year veteran of the force.
On several occasions, the women charged in court documents, Hoffmaster made vulgar sexual comments and propositions. Their repeated complaints to more senior officials led to nothing, the women said in the lawsuit.
After the officers filed suit, department officials opened an internal investigation, said Matthew McNicholas, the women’s attorney. The findings have not been made public, but according to McNicholas, Hoffmaster resigned at the conclusion of the inquiry.
Hoffmaster could not be reached for comment. Department spokesman Lt. Andy Neiman confirmed that Hoffmaster was no longer with the LAPD, but declined to comment on the suit.
Along with the findings of the LAPD’s investigation, the women’s claims were supported by officers who witnessed the abuse and who were prepared to testify at trial, McNicholas said.
The apparent failure of department officials to address the women’s complaints until after a lawsuit was filed underscores an ongoing struggle within the LAPD. Top police officials and the civilian board that oversees the force have come under increasing pressure to improve the department’s ability to quickly and effectively resolve workplace conflicts before they result in costly litigation.
from The Los Angeles Times
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO – In a case that tests anti-discrimination protection for gays, a religious rights group told the New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday that a photographer who declined to shoot the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple was exercising her rights to free speech and artistic freedom.
The First Amendment should exempt Elaine Huguenin and her Albuquerque business, Elane Photography, from state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the high court.
He said gay marriage is against the photographer’s religious beliefs, and she should not be required to promote a message that violates her conscience.
An attorney for the couple, however, argued that the business openly advertises its wedding photography services, and as a public business is required to follow the same anti-discrimination laws as any other company.
After the hearing, Lorence called it an unusual case that takes the gay marriage debate to a new level.
“Nationally, there is a lot of debate about should marriage be defined as between a man and a woman,” he said. “One of the consequences is that it creates these rights of conscience cases.”
In another case, Catholic Charities in Boston has declined to allow gay couples to adopt children, he said.
Lorence said the case involving Elaine Huguenin is one of the first in which free speech rights were used as a defense.
“The point we are trying to make is that even people who have views that are contrary should not be silenced by the government,” he said.
Tobias Wolff, a University of Pennsylvania law professor representing the couple, said the only thing unusual about the case was the defense.
“The nature of the discrimination claim is very straightforward,” he said after the hearing.
Questions from the Supreme Court justices during the hearing centered on how to differentiate between photography being a business or protected artistic expression.
“Are there no limits to this?” asked Justice Richard Bosson. “Can you force an African-American photographer to take photos of the Ku Klux Klan?”
Justice Charles Daniels noted the Klan is not a protected class. But he did say the questions in the case revolve around the rights of the couple and the photographer.
The case stems from Huguenin’s refusal in 2006 to photograph a commitment ceremony between Vanessa Wilcock and another woman.
Wilcock found another photographer to shoot the ceremony but filed an anti-discrimination claim with the Human Rights Commission, which found Huguenin’s studio violated state law and ordered her to pay nearly $7,000 in attorney fees. A state district judge and the New Mexico Court of Appeals have upheld that ruling.
The couple has waived payment of the attorney’s fees. So the only issue before the high court is the declaration of discrimination, Wolff said.
It was unclear when the New Mexico Supreme Court will issue a ruling.
from The Associated Press
Photography Studio Can’t Turn Down Gay Weddings
TOKYO — The wedding was a fairy-tale affair, with flowing dresses and a three-tiered cake set in the most coveted of Japanese venues: the Tokyo Disney Resort.
Koyuki Higashi and her partner of one and a half years tied the knot in front of 30 well-wishers on Friday, but much more of the country was in on the celebration, the first same-sex wedding at the theme park here.
Ms. Higashi, a stage actress turned gay rights activist, and her partner, Hiroko, who has not revealed her full name, posted frequent social media updates of their wedding plans and from their Christian-style ceremony, with a romantic gondola ride.
“My partner Hiroko and I just held a gay wedding at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Even Mickey and Minnie are here to celebrate with us!” Ms. Higashi, 28, wrote in a Twitter post that also had a picture of the newlyweds posing with the big-eared Disney characters and a flower-festooned cake. Her entry was reposted more than 6,000 times, drawing largely positive responses.
“Congratulations,” replied Masaki Koh, a Japanese gay porn star. “Your wonderful wedding will bring inspiration and hope to many people who still hesitate to take the first step. I was also encouraged that Tokyo Disney Resort was so understanding.”
But on the Naver Matome site, which collects and curates social media entries, a user who identified himself as Nizo Hakoda remarked: “I don’t particularly mind homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but watching the news made me wonder why they had to hold their ceremony at a crowded place like Disney. It’s fine for the people who accept it, but there are others who don’t.”
The Walt Disney Company had long allowed same-sex celebrations in a limited way on its grounds, like in banquet halls. But in 2007, it began allowing same-sex couples to buy high-end wedding packages, which can include elaborate ceremonies, Disney characters and public displays at its theme parks and on its cruises.
Despite that change in policy, Ms. Higashi found that no same-sex wedding had ever occurred at Tokyo Disney Resort. She reported on her blog and on Twitter that she had inquired about weddings at Tokyo Disney Sea, a part of the Disney Resort. But when it became apparent to the organizers that her partner was female, Ms. Higashi reported, she was asked if one of them could wear a tuxedo — so that other visitors to the park would not feel uncomfortable.
Her posts set off the first stir on Japanese social media sites.
A week later, the organizers at Milial Resort Hotels, a subsidiary of the company that runs Tokyo Disney, got back to Ms. Higashi with good news: both brides were welcome to wear wedding dresses (or both tuxedos, for that matter). “Mickey Mouse supports gay marriage!” Web headlines declared.
Milial Resort Hotels issued an apology. “Initially, there was an incomplete understanding on the part of our staff over the requirement for dresses,” said Jun Abe, a Milial spokeswoman. “If we caused them sadness and discomfort, we are sorry.”
Of course, their dream wedding did leave something to be desired for the couple: legal standing.
Japan does not recognize same-sex marriages, though there is little in the way of religious opposition from Buddhism, imported from China, or Japan’s native Shinto religion. Japanese historical texts contain references to same-sex relationships.
Some local governments, including Tokyo, ban discrimination at work based on sexual identity, but even so, in this group-conscious, relatively conformist society, most gay residents remain in the closet. Gay public figures tend to be in TV entertainment, where gay men win laughs as flamboyant queens.
Ms. Higashi came out less than three years ago after a short-lived stage career, while Hiroko says she cannot use her full name widely because some family members are not fully comfortable with her sexuality.
Hiroko said, however, that she was emboldened by the response the couple had received from friends, family and social media, and that she hoped that her wedding helped create a public discussion.
“This could prompt Japan to question why it so often ignores or discriminates against minorities,” Hiroko said. “Mostly we just want people to know that gay people exist for real, and we would like to throw weddings like everyone else.”
from The New York Times