News Notes: Beyond the Carolinas
Two movement pioneers pass in Oct.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Frank Kameny and Paula Ettelbrick, both prominent figures for decades in the LGBT rights movement, passed away earlier this month. Kameny, 86, died at his Washington D.C.-area home on Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day, of natural causes. Ettelbrick, 56, passed away from cancer four days earlier in New York City.
In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay, motivating him to become a leading voice in the emerging movement for gay equality and justice. He protested his firing and appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first openly gay person to file a gay-related case before the high court. Although the court denied his petition, the decision prompted Kameny to devote much of his life to LGBT advocacy.
Over the course of a career that spanned three decades, Ettelbrick worked for a number of organizations to further LGBT equality. She was the first staff attorney at Lambda Legal in 1986 and served as its Legal Director from 1988 to 1993. From 1993-1994, she served as policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She also worked with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Empire State Pride Agenda and the Stonewall Community Foundation.
— David Stout
Senator fights for Nat’l Guard rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) (pictured) has called on the Department of Defense to end a discriminatory policy that bans the same-sex spouses of returning National Guard members from participating in official National Guard family events. The call was issued in the form on an Oct. 18 letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
The matter began when Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan of the New Hampshire National Guard, recently returned from deployment in Kuwait and learned she was forbidden from bringing her same-sex spouse of 11 years, Karen Morgan, to a yellow ribbon event in North Conway. The event was part of an official military reintegration program designed to help returning soldiers and their families deal with the transition back to life in the U.S. In recent weeks, Sen. Shaheen’s office has raised concerns on behalf of Morgan with local Guard officials, who said they are hamstrung by federal regulations. The decision to exclude same-sex couples from the yellow ribbon event was based on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the extension of military benefits to same sex couples, and on federal military regulations interpreting that law.
In her letter, Shaheen asked Panetta to get personally involved, and added: “We made the decision as a nation that it was time to allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly in our military. It makes no sense to ask them for the same sacrifice we ask of straight soldiers while denying them the same benefits. We are better than this.”
HRC starts marriage support campaign
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Human Rights Campaign has launched Americans for Marriage Equality, a public engagement campaign featuring prominent Americans who support committed gay and lesbian couples getting married. The campaign will reportedly draw from a cadre of supportive professional athletes, film and music celebrities, political and civil rights leaders — and will have a special emphasis on Republicans, African-Americans, Latinos and elected officials.
Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker (pictured), who appears on this year’s Time magazine list of the 100 most influential people in the world, kicked off Americans for Marriage Equality. In his 30-second spot, he says, “I’m Mayor Cory Booker and I support marriage equality. I support it because from my earliest of ages I made a pledge that we will be a nation with liberty and justice for all. I support marriage equality because I believe in the 14th Amendment: ‘equal protection under the law.’ And, I support marriage equality because I support love and in this nation we need a lot more of it.”
About 53 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, according to a raft of recent polls. Polling organizations continue to underscore the unprecedented surge in support for the issue.
Lesbian gets presidential medal
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Janice Langbehn was one of 13 recipients of the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor. The medals were presented Oct. 20, which would have been the 20th anniversary of Langbehn’s holy union with her late partner, whose tragic death made Langbehn an unexpected activist and ultimately changed hospital visitation policies nationwide.
Langbehn and her partner, Lisa Pond, were about to depart from Miami on a family cruise with their three children when Pond suddenly collapsed. Langbehn and her children were kept apart from Pond by Jackson Memorial Hospital staff for eight hours as Pond slipped into a coma and later died. Lambda Legal filed suit against the hospital on behalf of Langbehn.
Kevin Cathcart, executive director for Lambda Legal, commented, “Because Janice boldly told her story, President Obama heard about her and issued the directive last year that led to the new federal rules that will protect same-sex couples and their families across the country.”
NEW YORK — The Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (TBTS) team is seeking more contributors to help ensure that the project will represent a broad a range of trans experiences. Specifically, they are looking for people of color, people on the feminine spectrum, immigrants and/or poor/low-income people who are willing to contribute their stories, expertise and experiences.
Contributors do not need to be experts. Experience is first and foremost, and they welcome inquiries from any and all people within the trans community who are open to sharing their own truths.
TBTS aims to be as accessible as possible and will use everyday, easily understood language, not academic jargon, so contributors of all educational backgrounds/levels are welcome.
They are requesting a range of short pieces (around 800 words) that are personal narratives and/or that include specific resources and how-to guides; other forms of writing and art; people who would like to share their experiences through interviews with the TBTS team; and authors for chapters on immigration and class.
For more information or to submit, email Amanda Rosenblum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Lainey Millen
High court avoids adoption petition
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court has rebuffed the efforts of a same-sex couple to secure an accurate birth certificate for their Louisiana-born son whom they adopted in New York. The Louisiana state registrar has refused to recognize the adoption and issue a birth certificate listing both fathers as the boy’s parents.
Lambda Legal represented Oren Adar and Mickey Smith in their case against Louisiana State Registrar Darlene Smith. The couple was attempting to get a new birth certificate for their child, in part so Smith could add his son to his health insurance.
Kenneth D. Upton, supervising senior staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, warned, “This decision [to deny a writ of certiorari] leaves adopted children and their parents vulnerable in their interactions with officials from other states. More particularly, this decision leaves a child without an accurate birth certificate listing both his parents.”
Seven jailed on gay sex charges
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Since July, seven men have been arrested on charges of having consensual sex in violation of Article 171 of Chapter 154 (Criminal Code), which criminalizes consensual sex between adult males. The International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe had expressed its concern about the law last December with the Speaker of the Assembly, Hasan Bozer. He maintained then that the Article was no longer being enforced even though it remained on the books.
However, on July 20, two men were arrested and brought to court on an accusation of “unnatural intercourse.” Three more men were taken into custody Oct. 14, including the Former Finance Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Michael Sarris. A day later, further arrests were carried out bringing the number of men in custody to seven.
The reports that have reached ILGA-Europe indicate that the men have been severely abused while in police custody and their dignity was stripped when they were forced to undergo anal examinations to prove that Article 171 had been breached. Even though the medical reports issued by the doctors said there were no signs of anal penetration, at press time the men were still being held without bond or a trial date.
The arrests occured in North Cyprus, an area which has declared itself an independent state. Only Turkey has recognized the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.