November 24, 2010 at 8:48 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief




Phyllis Frye (Photo courtesy of Outsmart Magazine)


Transgender Houston attorney becomes judge

HOUSTON — Thirty years ago, Phyllis Frye, a longtime LGBT activist, could have been arrested for wearing women’s clothing in the Houston City Council chamber. The Associated Press reported that Frye, a transgender Houston attorney born as Phillip Frye, fought back tears last week as the mayor appointed her to a municipal bench in the same room where she helped repeal Houston’s “cross-dressing ordinance” in 1980.

The 63-year-old will hear traffic ticket cases and other low-level misdemeanor trials, according to the AP report. Municipal judges are not elected. Frye said she would be the first transgender judge in Texas.

She knows of at least two transgender judges in other parts of the country. Frye applied for the position several months ago and was vetted before being appointed by Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian, on Wednesday with seven other new associate judges.

“I don’t want to underplay this, because I understand it is very significant,” the AP quoted Frye as saying. “But I don’t want to overplay it either. I don’t want people to think I am anything other than an associate municipal court judge.” There was some quibbling over the appointment from the Houston Area Pastor Council, the AP reported. One local minister said she represented an “anti-family lifestyle.”

Fort Worth drops charges in gay bar fracas

FORT WORTH, Texas — More than a year after a controversial bar inspection at the Rainbow Lounge in Forth Worth, Texas, sent protesters to the streets and vaulted the city into the national spotlight, city officials have dropped charges against four bar patrons, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The dismissals came two-and-a-half weeks before Chad Gibson, who suffered a head injury in the June 28, 2009, incident, and George Armstrong had been set to go on trial on public intoxication charges. They had both pleaded not guilty, and Gibson had also pleaded not guilty to assaulting an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the paper said.

In a statement released last week, city spokesman Jason Lamers confirmed that the misdemeanor charges against Gibson and Armstrong had been dropped. Public intoxication cases against Dylan Brown, 24, and Jose Macias, 32, were also dropped. Within hours of the fracas at the Rainbow Lounge, local and national protests erupted as patrons accused the officers of using excessive force and questioned whether the bar was targeted because of its mostly gay clientele. Investigations by Fort Worth police and the alcohol commission concluded that no excessive force was used. The commission, however, fired two agents who participated and their supervisor, citing policy violations, the Star-Telegram reported.

La. hospitals announce new visitation rules

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans state Department of Health and Human Services announced regulations last week that will require hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid financing to drop any visitation policies that discriminate against gays, lesbians and trans people, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

The new rule, which will take effect in January, requires that hospitals have a written policy that must be explained to all patients and allows patients to determine who may visit them, regardless of legal relationships. Hospitals may limit visitation only if there is a clinical reason to do so, according to the rule, which will be added to the conditions for participating in the Medicaid and Medicare programs, the Times-Picayune said.

The rule will trump previous practices in many American hospitals that restricted visitors for some patients — particularly in emergency rooms and intensive care units — to spouses and immediate family, a limitation that often cut off gay and lesbian patients from their partners. The final version, which follows a draft released in June, will go into effect Jan. 16, 60 days after Wednesday’s publication in the federal register and eight months after President Barack Obama first raised the issue in a directive to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

N.J. approves sweeping anti-bullying bill

TRENTON, N.J. — The state legislature voted by overwhelming majorities this week to approve a sweeping anti-bullying bill that could become a model for similar measures across the country, according to media reports and statements from Garden State Equality.

“As someone brutally bullied in my own youth, I can’t even begin to describe how the passage of this bill is a moment of deeply poignant, personal healing for me and thousands of others who have been bullied,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality. “The best revenge is to make the world a kinder place. This legislation will make our state a kinder, safer place for students for generations to come.”

The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights applies to schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, strengthens an existing cyber bullying law, applies to bullying off school grounds that carries into schools, and has a section that applies to the state’s public universities, according to Garden State Equality.

It is the first such bill to set deadlines for incidents of bullying to be reported, investigated and resolved. Teachers and other school personnel will have to report incidents of bullying to principals on the same day as a bullying incident. An investigation of the bullying must begin within one school day. A school will have to complete its investigation of bullying within 10 school days, after which there must be a resolution of the situation, the statewide LGBT rights group announced.

The bill passed the Senate 30-0 and the Assembly 72-1.

Philly’s settlement with Scouts draws ire of gay leaders

PHILADELPHIA — Prominent gay leaders in Philadelphia are voicing criticism of a proposed legal settlement between the city and the regional Boy Scouts organization, and a key City Councilman is balking at the deal, the Philadelphia Gay News reported.

The proposal calls for the Boy Scouts group to pay the city $500,000 to buy its 13,000-square-foot headquarters in Logan Square, the focus of a civil-rights dispute that began over the Scouts’ national ban on gay members. The price tag is less than half the appraised value of the building. But the settlement would end an expensive legal fight and the risk that city taxpayers would eventually have to pay the Scouts’ legal bills, now approaching $1 million.

Gay rights advocates say the city’s lawyers are putting financial concerns ahead of principle, appearing to subsidize the Scouts’ discrimination, Philadelphia Gay News reported. City Solicitor Shelley Smith and the Scouts’ attorney, Sandra Girifalco, had issued a joint statement last week describing their agreement as a “win-win situation” for both their clients, predicting that a necessary ordinance would be introduced the next day in City Council. But Councilman Darrell Clarke, whose district includes the property, said he wasn’t ready to introduce anything. The settlement statement had been “premature,” he said, because there hadn’t been enough communication with neighborhood residents or the gay community.

The dispute began with a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 that upheld the legality of the national organization’s ban on gay Scouts and troop leaders. That put the Scouts organization in conflict with the city charter’s ban on discrimination rooted in sexual orientation.

Former GLAAD official to head S.F. AIDS Foundation

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has appointed Neil Giuliano as its new chief executive. He’ll start Dec. 13.

Giuliano was previously head of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and produced its annual awards programs. He was also the mayor of Tempe, Ariz., for 10 years beginning in 1994. He plans to publish a memoir next year. The Foundation works to end HIV.

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