October 14, 2010 at 4:34 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief

Mormon leader draws ire for anti-gay remarks

SALT LAKE CITY — A Facebook campaign launched in support of a Mormon church leader’s anti-gay sermon has drawn more than 4,500 responses, the Associated Press reported.

The “I support Boyd K. Packer” page was started Oct. 5, two days after the senior leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called homosexual attraction unnatural and said gays can and should change.

Packer, 86, is the second-ranking leader in the church and next in line to be president of the 13.5-million member religion. He was speaking at the church’s semi-annual general conference. When the text of the speech was posted on a church website a few days later, Packer’s remarks had been altered.

In the speech, he said: “Some suppose that they were born pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father.”

On the website, the word “temptations” has replaced “tendencies” and the question about God’s motives has been removed entirely.

Church public relations officials said the changed wording was part of a routine practice that allows conference speakers to edit their speeches to clarify their meaning.

Gay rights activists have denounced the speech as factually inaccurate and dangerous and have called on Packer to recant his remarks. A protest last week in Salt Lake City drew thousands.

Eight arraigned in N.Y. anti-gay attacks

NEW YORK — Eight gang suspects arrested in connection with the New York torture of two teenage boys and a man in an anti-gay attack this month have been arraigned, the Associated Press reported.

The defendants were expected to face charges including robbery, assault and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes at their arraignment Sunday, but no charges were read aloud in court. The defendants didn’t enter pleas.

A ninth and final suspect, who had been expected to surrender with the others, finally surrendered Monday, according to the New York Daily News.

After the members of the Latin King Goonies gang heard a rumor one of their teenage recruits was gay, they found the teen in the Bronx, stripped him, beat him and sodomized him with the handle of a plunger until he confessed to having had sex with a man, police said. The gang members then allegedly found a second teen they suspected was gay and tortured him as well.

Family links suicide of 19-year-old to gay debate

NORMAN, Okla. — The family of a 19-year-old gay man who took his own life last week says the suicide followed by just a week his attendance at a Norman City Council meeting where he heard some strong language directed against gays, according to an AP report.

The Norman Transcript reported that Zach Harrington’s family said he went to a Sept. 28 council meeting where three hours was devoted to public comment on a proclamation recognizing October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month in the city. The council eventually approved the proclamation on a 7-1 vote.

The opponents did not appear to outnumber those who spoke in favor of the proclamation — comment was split fairly evenly.

But Harrington’s family said what they called a “toxic” environment at the meeting may have pushed their gay son and brother over the edge. Nikki Harrington, Zach’s older sister, said her brother likely took all of the negative things said to heart.

“When he was sitting there, I’m sure he was internalizing everything and analyzing everything. … That’s the kind of person he was,” she said. “I’m sure he took it personally. Everything that was said.”

At the Norman City Council meeting, one man said he moved to Norman because he thought it wouldn’t tolerate gay people. A woman said she was tired of gay people comparing their struggle for rights to the struggle by black people for civil rights.

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