April 15, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
National news in brief

Craig Lowe, who’s gay, appeared to narrowly beat his opponent Tuesday to become the next mayor of Gainesville, Fla. (Photo courtesy of Craig Lowe for Mayor)

Gay man leads in close vote for Gainesville mayor

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The city of Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday appeared to elect an openly gay man as mayor by 35 votes.

Craig Lowe, a 52-year-old gay city commissioner, beat out Don Marsh, a window-cleaning business owner, in an apparent victory in the city’s mayoral runoff election.

County law in the area requires a recount in cases where victories are achieved by a margin of less than 0.5 percent. If Lowe survives this recount, he’ll become the first openly gay mayor in northern Florida, and one of fewer than 30 openly LGBT mayors serving in the United States, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

In a statement provided by Equality Florida, Lowe gave particular thanks to the organization’s political action committee for its assistance in his election.

“I would like to thank Equality Florida Action PAC for their tremendous help in my race,” Lowe said. ”Not only did they endorse my candidacy early on, they also served as a watchdog against the lies about my campaign and put people on the ground to help get our message out to voters.”

According to Equality Florida, Lowe endured “homophobic rhetoric and smear tactics” in the weeks before his win. A local church displayed a “No Homo Mayor” billboard on their front lawn.

In addition to the state LGBT organization, Lowe received endorsements from the Victory Fund as well as other local organizations such as the Gainesville Professional Firefighters’ Association, the African American Coalition for Political Action and the Alligator Newspaper.

Senate passes resolution against anti-gay Uganda bill

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved by unanimous consent a resolution condemning a harshly anti-gay bill pending in the Ugandan parliament.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs, introduced the resolution in February. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) were original co-sponsors.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, but the African nation’s pending legislation would, among other things, institute the death penalty in some cases for LGBT people and require citizens to report LGBT people to the police.

In a statement, Feingold praised “so many political, religious and civic leaders in Uganda and around the world” for speaking out against the Uganda bill.

“Sadly, this legislation is just one example of actions taken around the world to restrict the rights of people just because of their gender or sexual orientation,” he said. “We need to speak out consistently against all such discrimination. The Senate’s passage of this resolution begins to move us in that direction, and I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration to continue to address this issue.”

In addition to condemning the Uganda bill, the Senate resolution calls for repeal of the criminalization of homosexuality in other countries and urges the State Department to closely monitor human rights abuses against LGBT people abroad.

In the House, another resolution condemning the Uganda legislation, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), is pending before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution has 58 co-sponsors.

HRC says Vatican official ‘diverting attention’ on abuses

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign this week accused a Vatican official of “diverting attention away from decades of Vatican cover-ups of pedophile behavior” when he blamed gays for the abuses.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the pope’s top aide, outraged gay advocacy groups, politicians and others with his remarks Monday in Chile.

“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia,” said the Italian cardinal, according to the Associated Press. “But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.”

Harry Knox, an HRC director of religion issues, responded to Bertone on Wednesday.

“Cardinal Bertone’s statement makes clear that he is more interested in diverting attention away from decades of Vatican cover-ups of pedophile behavior than he is in living up to his pastoral role,” Knox said. “He should actually get to know gay people and read the voluminous opinions of medical and psychological experts that make clear pedophilia is not related to sexual orientation.”

Huckabee likens gay marriage to incest, polygamy

WASHINGTON — Mike Huckabee, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said the effort to allow same-sex couples to marry is comparable to legalizing incest, polygamy and drug use.

The Associated Press reported that Huckabee also told college journalists last week that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt. “Children are not puppies,” he said.

Huckabee visited The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., April 7 to speak to the Student Government Association. He also was interviewed by a campus news magazine, The Perspective, which published an article April 9.

Huckabee told the interviewer that not every group’s interests deserve to be accommodated, if their lifestyle is outside of what he called “the ideal.”

“That would be like saying, well there are a lot of people who like to use drugs so let’s go ahead and accommodate those who want to use drugs. There are some people who believe in incest, so we should accommodate them. There are people who believe in polygamy, should we accommodate them?” he said, according to a transcript of the interview.

The 2008 presidential hopeful and former Arkansas governor also said that deciding which lifestyles should be accommodated and which ones should not creates a slippery slope.

“Why do you get to choose that two men are OK but one man and three women aren’t OK?” he asked.

Huckabee added that his goal isn’t to tell others how to live, but that the burden of proving that a gay marriage can be successful rests with the activists in favor of changing the law.

“I don’t have to prove that marriage is a man and a woman in a relationship for life,” he said. “They have to prove that two men can have an equally definable relationship called marriage, and somehow that that can mean the same thing.”

Since the magazine published the interview, Huckabee’s remarks have attracted considerable attention online.

In a statement Tuesday, Huckabee said that while he believes what people do in their private lives is their business, “I do not believe we should change the traditional definition of marriage.” He also said he thought the college magazine was sensationalizing his “well-known and hardly unusual views of same-sex marriage.”

Calif. gay marriage ban repeal falls short

SAN FRANCISCO — Gay rights activists say they have failed to qualify a measure that would repeal California’s same-sex marriage ban for the November ballot.

The Associated Press reported that Restore Equality 2010 chair Sean Bohac said the volunteer-run group fell short of gathering the nearly 695,000 signatures needed to put the initiative before voters. Monday was the deadline for submitting the signatures to the secretary of state’s office.

Bohac said Restore Equality’s failed effort was undermined by the decision of more established gay rights groups not to participate in the campaign. He noted that same-sex marriage supporters now are turning their attention to trying to repeal Proposition 8 in 2012.

A lawsuit to overturn Prop 8 also is pending before a federal trial judge.

Lance Bass, others sponsor gay-friendly prom

TUPELO, Miss. — Green Day, former ‘N Sync member Lance Bass and celebrity chef Cat Cora are among those helping to pay for a gay-friendly prom in Mississippi next month, the Associated Press reported.

Organizers say the event is open to everyone but geared toward gay students. The American Humanist Association also will contribute $20,000 for the May 8 event in Tupelo.

The annual prom is organized by the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition. This year’s event has drawn attention because of the case of Constance McMillen, a high school senior who challenged her school district’s rule banning same-sex dates at proms.

Coalition spokesperson Matthew Sheffield said plans for the event haven’t been completed. But he noted that Bass, who is gay, is among the celebrities expected to attend.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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