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National: Hormel vs Ashcroft, AIDS in San Fran, ACLU sues school
by Karen Hawkins

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Hormel speaks against Ashcroft

James Hormel, the nation's first openly gay ambassador, is urging the Senate not to confirm John Ashcroft as attorney general, the Associated Press reports.

Ashcroft was a critic of Hormel's nomination for ambassador and has denied speculation that he was one of three senators who placed his bid on hold for nearly two years.

"I get no satisfaction from this,'' Hormel told AP. "I am extremely disturbed that he was nominated for this very sensitive post, and it concerns me greatly that he might be serving as attorney general, given his stated positions on a variety of issues.''

President Clinton named Hormel ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999 while Senators were on break.

Though Ashcroft has denied that Hormel's sexuality had anything to do with his opposition to him, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited 1998 reports quoted Ashcroft as disapproving to Hormel's "gay lifestyle."

The attack on Ashcroft's anti-gay stances stepped when a healthcare expert said the then-governor of Missouri asked him about his sexual orientation during a 1985 job interview.

"His first question was, 'Do you have the same sexual preference as most men,''' said Paul Offner, of Georgetown University, who at the time was applying for a state job in Missouri. "I was stunned. He launched right into it.'' Offner said he contacted the Senate Judiciary Committee about the 1985 interview.

AIDS infections on rise among gay men in San Francisco

New AIDS infections among gay men in San Francisco are on the rise, Reuters reports, causing fears that the disease is experiencing a rebound.

City researchers and health experts issued the new estimates, which put the current rate of new HIV infections at 2.2% for gay men, up from 1.04% in 1997. That is roughly 748 new infections estimated for this year.

The infection rate for gay men who are also intravenous drug users was 4.6%, up from 1.9% in 1997.

The estimates have been derived from four new studies and have officials worrying that the gay community is dropping its guard against HIV.

Since 1981, more than 18,000 San Franciscans have died of AIDS.

Trans sex worker attacked, robbed in NYC

A New York transgendered sex worker was attacked and robbed by eight men during the early morning hours of Jan. 25, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition ( NTAC ) reports.

Melissa Hart, 20, said she was leaving a hotel when the men attacked her. One man reportedly held her throat and beat her head against the sidewalk while the others beat her with their fists.

The men took her coat, cell phone and approximately $350 from her purse. Passing motorists, including several taxis, did not come to her aid.

Activists said the incident highlights the need for better legal and civil rights protections for trans people and sex workers.

In other NTAC news, the organization has joined a call for continued action against the grocery store chain Winn-Dixie for its firing of a transgendered employee. Peter Oiler, a a 21-year employee of the company, was fired three days after supervisors found out that he dresses in women's clothing when he is away from work.

He is currently being represented by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys in New York.

For more information, visit the NTAC website at .

Maine paper won't rescind ban on gay marriage notices

The Maine Sunday Telegram newspaper is standing behind its ban on running same-sex commitment ceremony announcements, even after its top editor was recently joined in a civil union in Vermont, the Casco Bay Weekly of Portland, Maine, reports.

"Our policy is still the same as last year," said company spokesman Ted O'Meara. "When the unions are legally recognized by the state [ of Maine ] , then we will publish them."

Editor Jeannine Guttman participated in a civil union Sept. 8, 2000, and activists are calling the policy blatant hypocrisy and discrimination.

Christian group urges Bush to ignore gays

The Americans for Truth Project of Kerusso Ministries, a Christian-based anti-gay organization, is calling on President Bush to distance himself from the Republican Unity Coalition ( RUC ) , the newly formed GOP gay-straight alliance.

The Truth Project quotes Charles Francis, a friend of Bush and the RUC's chairman, as saying he hopes sexual orientation will become a non-issue in the Republican Party.

"In other words," said Michael Johnston, an "ex-gay" and the founder of Kerusso Ministries, "they want to get to the point where morality will no longer matter in the GOP, at least with regard to human sexuality. Our Founding Fathers would not have recognized this perspective, which abandons principle for political expediency."

Top Bush aide Mary Matalin is a supporter and organizer of the RUC, which held an inaugural breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, bringing together both gay and straight GOP officials and activists.

In other RUC news, the National Stonewall Democrats are urging the organization to join the efforts to defeat the nomination of John Ashcroft for attorney general.

Frank seeks to repeal part of DOMA

Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., announced last week his intention to bring the U.S. in line with the definition of marriage expressed by Vice President Dick Cheney during his debate with Joe Lieberman.

Cheney said the states should be able to make their own decisions on the recognition of gay marriages. Frank notes, however, that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act establishes a national definition of marriage that excludes same-sex unions.

"I have therefore filed legislation to repeal the section of the Defense of Marriage Act which contradicts Cheney's position," Frank said in a release. "Enacting the legislation ... would not affect the other section of DOMA which purports to allow one state to refuse to recognize any other state's decision on same-sex marriage. That is a separate legal and constitutional question. Indeed, the purpose of this bill is not to impose any state's decision on another state, but rather, in the spirit of Vice President Cheney's statement, to allow each state to make its own decision in this matter."

Mautner Project joins board of breast cancer organization

The Mary-Helen Mautner Project for Lesbians has been elected to the Board of Directors of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, the organization reports.

"We are very proud of the Mautner Project's role in the founding and nurturing of NBCC and we're pleased and honored to take a visible and active role on the Board," said Mautner Project Executive Director Kathleen DeBold.

NBCC's mission includes increasing awareness about breast cancer, training people to be grassroots activists and increasing federal funding for research.

The Mautner Project has collaborated with the NBCC for years, and Mautner Project founder Susan Hester was involved with its creation.


Ark., Ind. to consider gay adoption bans

Lawmakers in Arkansas and Indiana introduced bills this month that would ban adoption and foster parenting by gays, and Texas will likely face similar action later this session, the GLBT organization Family Pride Coalition reports.

In Arkansas, Republican Rep. Randy Minton introduced House Bill 1026, which would prohibit the Department of Human Services from "placing any child with any adoptive or foster parent who is a homosexual." Arkansas currently bans agencies from placing children with gay foster parents. Similar legislation died in committee during Arkansas' last legislative session two years ago.

In Indiana, Republican Sen. John Waterman introduced Senate Bill 144, which "prohibits homosexuals from adopting or being foster parents."

Currently, Utah, Florida and Mississippi have bans or limitations placed on adoption/foster parenting rights for gay couples and/or individuals.

Gay man turned away from Eagle Scouts

The National Eagle Scout Association ( NESA ) , an organization of men who have achieved the Eagle Scout rank, has revoked the membership of openly gay Scout Mark LaFontaine, less than one month after accepting his membership, Scouting for All reports.

LaFontaine received an official membership letter from the organization on Dec. 28, 2000, that invited him to take part in its activities and programs. That offer, however, was soon revoked.

"This is the first time we have ever heard of a NESA membership being revoked because of a member being gay. One does not have to be a member of the Boy Scouts of America to be a member of NESA. All one has to be is an Eagle Scout. It seems now that NESA members must also be alert that if you are gay NESA will also kick you out," said Scott Cozza, President of Scouting for All.

The rank of Eagle Scout is the highest achievement possible within the BSA.

Arkansas judge to rule on sodomy law

Arkansas Circuit Court Judge David Bogard will hear motions in a case challenging the state's anti-gay sodomy statute this week, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund reports.

Seven gay and lesbian Arkansas residents are claiming the same-sex-only law violates their constitutional rights to equal protection and privacy, Lambda said.

"With this lawsuit, these seven proud and brave individuals are saying that the government should not be peering into Arkansas bedrooms to investigate adult consensual intimacy," said Lambda Supervising Attorney Susan Sommer. "Our plaintiffs are standing up for privacy and equality in their state."

HRC angry over Focus on the Family campaign

The Human Rights Campaign is criticizing the rightwing group Focus on the Family for the organization's recent promotion for its Love Won Out "ex-gay" conference in San Diego.

HRC leaders say FoF has mislead the public by not mentioning in its press materials that its former leader, John Paulk, was found having drinks in a gay bar in Washington, D.C, in September.

ACLU sues school district over homophobia

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed an expanded federal lawsuit against a school district in California's Central Valley, looking to force school reform of its hostile climate for GLBT students.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of a former high school student and the Gay Straight Alliance Network in the Visalia Unified School District. It claims that students are harassed by school administrators, teachers, and classmates based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. The school's response to that harassment, the suit says, is to remove gay kids from campus by improperly placing them in special education programs.

The suit goes on to say the hostile environment is illegal under the U.S. Constitution and California state law.

California's statewide GSA Network—which includes a GSA club in Visalia—is a plaintiff in the suit with former high school student George Loomis.

Anti-gay vandalism at Indiana University

The words "Die Fag" and "Die Homo" were scrawled on an Indiana University dorm over winter break, leading campus to police to say the incident could be classified as a hate crime, the Indianapolis Star reports.

The vandalism at Collins Living/ Learning Center came as a surprise to students and staff; the dorm is known throughout the school as a model of tolerance, diversity and free-spiritedness.

The words were repeated four or five times across the building and were two-feet high, printed in red and blue paint.

University officials have met with Collins staff, who last year dealt with swastikas and racial and sexual graffiti.

NY senator to introduce gay marriage bill

New York Sen. Thomas Duane, D-Manhattan, has introduced a same-sex marriage bill that would make New York only the fifth state in the country to have such a measure in its legislature, Marriage Equality New York reports.

New York now joins Maryland, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Vermont as the only states with a similar measure.

Marriage Equality New York hopes that the bill will advance its two-year "I DO! in 2002!" campaign, which begins Feb. 9 and is designed to gather support of politicians for same-sex unions.

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