December 2, 2010 | by Staff reports
National news in brief

Illinois House passes civil unions bill

WASHINGTON — The Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a civil unions bill by a 61-52 vote. The bill will now move to the state Senate. Gay state Rep. Greg Harris sponsored the bill.

The bill passed by the House would permit both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under Illinois law that are granted to spouses. If the legislation passes the Senate and is enacted into law, couples that enter into a civil union will not receive any rights or benefits under federal law. Illinois does not permit same-sex couples to marry.

The state Senate is expected to also approve the measure and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has already pledged to sign the bill. If the senate passes the bill, Illinois would join New Jersey as being the only states with a civil-union statute. Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont allow same-sex marriage.

“I think that this is a step down a slippery slope that leads me to someday have to explain to my children and grandchildren that no longer in America are we going to give the honor to a man and a woman in marriage,” state Rep. Ron Stephens told an Illinois Fox affiliate.

New York City slashes services to homeless youth

NEW YORK — The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development sent e-mails last week announcing that state and city budget cuts are forcing it to reduce its Runaway and Homeless Youth Services expenditures by nearly a million dollars next year and a further $700,000 in 2012, according to media reports. Some gay activists say LGBT youth will be disproportionately impacted by the cuts.

The Department said it will significantly reduce street outreach services by 50 percent next year, then eliminate them in 2012; drop-in services in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens will be reduced by one-third in 2011 and by another 23 percent in 2012. Another in Staten Island will be reduced by 10 percent in 2012. A 2008 report found that the city averages 3,800 homeless youth on an average night.

Since homeless LGBT youth make up 40 percent of the city’s homeless youth population, gay teens will likely be hit hardest. The Ali Forney Center and the Bronx Pride Center are both losing 50 percent of city funds that support their drop-in programs, which amounts to $185,000 of the $969,000 2011 cut announced Nov. 26.

“These cuts will devastate kids who are hanging on by a thread, struggling to survive alone on the streets,” Carl Siciliano, director of the Forney Center, said. “More youths will turn to drugs and prostitution and more will become HIV-infected and more will attempt suicide. I cannot believe hat the city of New York would be so neglectful of the most basic welfare of hurt and vulnerable children.”

Some city Council members said they recognized that budget cuts need to be made but objected to this decision.

D.C. officials declare Skype marriage invalid

DALLAS — D.C. officials have declared the online marriage of a Dallas gay couple invalid, according to Dallas Voice, a gay newspaper. Mark Reed and Dante Walkup said their vows over Skype last month while D.C. lesbian Sheila Alexander-Reid officiated from Washington.

The two have been together 10 years and traveled to the District to register their marriage but actually exchanged their vows with Alexander-Reid over Skype in a Dallas hotel conference room, the paper reported. The couple received notice by mail from D.C. Superior Court that the vows are void. The letter says the marriage couldn’t be certified or registered because all parties weren’t physically present for the ceremony. The letter, from D.C. Marriage Bureau Deputy Clerk Denise Johnson, says the ceremony must be performed in the District with all parties present.

“It was extremely disappointing,” Reed told the Voice. “We felt like we had covered our bases and all of the media out there was agreeing. No one was saying what we did wasn’t legal, so we felt very confident that we had succeeded and so it really was a kick in the stomach and it hurt.”

The two men said they are exploring their legal options. They filed a discrimination complaint against the Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement but withdrew it upon realizing their marriage wasn’t valid.

iCondom launches in time for World AIDS Day

PARIS — A new iPhone application called iCondom launched this week in the U.S. and was available for a 48-hour free download on the Apple Store to commemorate the importance of prevention measures against STDs on World AIDS Day, which was Wednesday.

iCondom shows users where the nearest condom dispensers are to their location using a geolocation platform and Google Maps. It was launched in France in October in Paris and Marseilles. An updated version was launched in the U.S. this week in New York and Washington. Apple plans to expand it.

Washington has the highest U.S. HIV infection rates with 3 percent infected. The program geolocates about 140 addresses in the District in which condom dispensers can be found.

Apple yanks anti-gay application

LONDON — Apple has removed an anti-gay app from its App Store according to a report from Pink News, a British gay news outlet. Media attention reportedly prompted Apple to quietly take down the app, which was created by a Christian group.

The app was based on the “Manhattan Declaration,” an anti-gay manifesto signed last year by Protestant and Catholic Church leaders that condemns same-sex unions as the “erosion of marriage.” Apple had originally given the app a 4+ rating, which indicates it has “no objectionable content.”

About 7,700 people signed a petition urging Apple to pull the app, which calls gay relationships “sexually immoral” and features a four-step survey that asks users if they agree with questions on same-sex marriage and abortion. Those who answer with pro-gay and pro-choice opinions get a failing score at the end of the test.

The petition said it wanted to “send a strong message to Apple that supporting homophobia and efforts to restrict choices is bad business.” Apple said it removed the app “because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people.” The app’s creators e-mailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs to learn more about why their app was pulled but did not respond to a request for comment.

Judge rejects Family Council bid in Minn. lawsuit

MINNEAPOLIS — A judge has rejected an attempt by the Minnesota Family Council to intervene in a lawsuit challenging state law that bans same-sex marriage, the Minnesota Independent, a Center for Independent Media online newsmagazine, reported.

Three same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against the state of Minnesota earlier this year arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act signed into law in 1997 violates the state Constitution. The Family Council argued that it should be part of the lawsuit, in part, because if DOMA is ruled unconstitutional, it will cost them millions to fight same-sex marriage. The court said the group has no standing to defend DOMA, the newsmagazine reported.

“The Council’s alleged injuries would occur solely due to its sincerely held belief that principles rooted in its interpretations of religious texts are best for the well-being of children and families, and that marriage only between one man and one woman accords with these principles,” wrote Minnesota Fourth District Court Judge Mary DuFrense. “The Court certainly understands that the Council feels strongly about the social issue of same-sex marriage. Strong feelings, however, do not establish a legal interest in a lawsuit.”

The Minnesota Family Council attempted to enter the lawsuit with the help of James Dobson’s Alliance Defense Fund, an evangelical Christian legal group.

‘Hate’ designation irks gay rights opponents

WASHINGTON — The Southern Poverty Law Center last week labeled as “hate groups” several political and religious organizations that campaign against same-sex marriage and, the center says, engage in “repeated, groundless name-calling” against gays and lesbians, Washington Post reported last week.

The law center has spent four decades tracking extremist groups and hate speech. One of the groups named, Family Research Council, is accused of putting out “demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities.”

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Council, had several of his comments highlighted in the report. He told MSNBC host Chris Matthews he thinks homosexual behavior should be outlawed.

Council President Tony Perkins told the Post the designation is a political attack by a liberal organization.

“The left’s smear campaign of conservatives is . . . being driven by the clear evidence that the American public is losing patience with their radical policy agenda as seen in the recent election and in the fact that every state . . . that has had the opportunity to defend the natural definition of marriage has done so,” Perkins said in a statement.

“Earlier this month, voters in Iowa sent a powerful message when they removed three Supreme Court justices who imposed same-sex marriage on the state. Would the SPLC also smear the good people of Iowa?”

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, objected to his organization’s inclusion in the center’s report, the Post reported.

“This is about protecting marriage. This isn’t about being anti-anyone,” Brown told the Post.

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