Popular gay bookstore closes

ATLANTA, Ga. — A regional LGBT institution is gone with the Jan. 26 closing of Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse. On the day of the closing, owner Philip Rafshoon told the Georgia Voice, “It’s been a great run, but we’re closed for businesss. For good. We’re not able to relocate. We thought we could. It just didn’t come together. It was a long shot to begin with and we wanted to cling to hope that we could find a new place.”

Rafshoon said the business is “in a big financial hole that it’s just impossible to come out of. This morning we’ll be filing for bankruptcy and Outwrite as a company will cease to exist.”

A letter taped to the store’s windows stated, “For over 18 years, we have been privileged to serve Atlanta residents and welcome visitors from across America and around the world. We sincerely thank you for your patronage.

Mayors come out for marriage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, launched Mayors for the Freedom to Marry at a press conference during the U.S. Conference of Mayors here on Jan. 20. More than 75 Republican, Democrat and Independent mayors from cities across the country have pledged to support gay and lesbian couples’ freedom to marry. By joining the group, mayors hope to expand public and political support for ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.

The broad-based coalition of mayors includes Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Annise Parker of Houston, and is chaired by mayors Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Thomas Menino of Boston, Michael Bloomberg of New York, and U.S. Conference of Mayors President Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

Sarvis to leave SLDN

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Army Veteran Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network since 2007, has announced plans to leave the agency he ably guided through the successful campaign to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Praise for Army veteran Sarvis began to flow as soon as the news went public.

“Without the leadership, vision, and tenacity of Aubrey Sarvis, it’s quite conceivable that getting a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal bill through Congress and signed by the President would not have happened in 2010,” said Iraq war veteran and former Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, the lead sponsor of repeal legislation in the U.S. House.

Sarvis said he will remain in his position until his replacement is named.

Bullied student wins settlement

ABERDEEN, Wash. — A former student who endured severe and persistent harassment throughout junior high and high school has received a major settlement from the Aberdeen School District, the ACLU of Washington announced Jan. 26. The ACLU represented Russell Dickerson III in a lawsuit that charged school district officials were aware of the harassment, but failed to take steps reasonably calculated to end it.

Dickerson, now 20, is an African-American resident of Aberdeen. For six years, from 2003 when he entered junior high until 2009 when he graduated high school, other students harassed him on the basis of his race, sex and perceived sexual orientation. Under terms of the settlement, he will receive $100,000 from the district. Additionally, the ACLU will receive $35,000 in legal fees.

“Public school officials must be held accountable when they fail to meet their responsibility to act decisively when a student is subjected to harassment by his peers. This settlement sends a message to school districts statewide to take strong action as soon as they learn that a student is being bullied,” said Sarah Dunne, ACLU-Wash. legal director

Gay marriage will be $ boon

OLYMPIA, Wash. — It appears that same-sex marriage will soon be legal in Washington and a new Williams Institute report estimates the positive economic impact will be substantial for local businesses and government budgets. According to the report the total spending on wedding arrangements and tourism by resident same-sex couples and their guests will add $88-million to the Washington economy over the first three years. This spending is likely to generate $8 million in tax revenue for state and local governments.

The figures in the report draw upon data on average wedding expenditures in Washington and tourism reports from 2010, along with data regarding marriage expenses by same-sex couples in other states.

According to Census 2010, there are 19,003 resident same-sex couples in Washington State. Of the 19,003 couples, the report estimates that 50 percent, or about 9,500 couples, will choose to marry in the three years following the opening of marriage to same-sex couples in Washington.

Ugandan laws recall Apartheid

KAMPALA, Uganda — On the last Sunday in January, churches around the globe marked the first anniversary of the assassination of Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki was visiting the virulently anti-gay nation during the anniversary. He marked the occassion with a speech comparing anti-gay laws in Uganda to the racist laws that maintained Apartheid for generations in his own country.

“President Mbeki made history in his statement and the world must take note, that the days are gone when persecution of people simply because of whom they love or how they express their gender will go unchallenged,” said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, a LGBT supportive fellowship based in the U.S. with member churches across Africa.

MCC Pastor Joseph Tolton, who attended remembrance events in Uganda, said, “MCC and the Fellowship have joined together to create the Global Justice Institute which is working around the world in places like Uganda, Jamaica, Eastern Europe and China to challenge Christians to live up to the Gospel of love rather than falling prey to self-righteous judging that harms our families and communities.”

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.