February 24, 2011 at 3:09 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief

Colo. senator introduces civil unions bill

DENVER — A Colorado state senator introduced a civil unions bill on Feb. 14. “Civil unions will allow committed couples to share in the responsibilities and protections in Colorado law that most families take for granted,” Sen. Pat Steadman said in a press release. He said he considered the less-than-equal argument many gays make against civil unions but said everyday matters like medical care and inheritance are too vital to ignore, according to reports from the Colorado Independent. Coloradans voted in 2006 to ban same-sex marriage but polls show deep support in the state for civil unions.

San Francisco mural draws controversy

SAN FRANCISCO — A proposed mural on San Francisco’s Polk Street in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood has drawn controversy, a California NBC affiliate reported. Artists who unveiled a sketch of the mural were met with backlash at a community meeting last month. Attendees didn’t like the quality of the art and content that alluded to the neighborhood’s gay history. The artists said the Lower Polk Neighborhood Association hired them to paint a gay history mural. Before the ’70s, when the Castro emerged as the city’s gay area, Polk Street was the center of gay life. Some who objected say the era is too rife with well-documented incidents of police harassment and brutality to warrant a nostalgic mural.

Anti-gay marriage amendment filed in N.C.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina state senator this week filed a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The text of the proposed amendment, which has not yet been filed in the House, would ban any recognition of any “domestic legal union” other than a marriage between an opposite-sex couple, Q Notes, a Charlotte-based LGBT newspaper reported. If approved by the legislature, the amendment would appear on the November 2012 ballot. Three-fifths of both the House and Senate must approve the amendment before it can appear on the ballot; the governor has no veto authority on amendments. Republican state Sen. James Forrester of Gaston County filed the amendment. The state has laws against same-sex marriage but not a constitutional amendment.

Alaska regents vote to ban anti-gay bias

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The University of Alaska Board of Regents voted last week to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, with its president saying the state may have been the only one in the nation not to have sexual orientation specifically listed as a protection in a public university policy, the Associated Press reported this week. The proposal, approved 8-2, adds sexual orientation to university policy that bans discrimination.

Gays barred from Creation Museum ‘date night’

PETERSBURG, Ky. — A “date night” event at the Kentucky-based Creation Museum was disrupted earlier this month when a male couple was denied admission, the Associated Press reported. A friend of one of the men who was barred entry, told the AP no one in their group was gay but Joe Sonka, the man who was not allowed in, had blogged in January that a “flamboyantly” gay couple should attend the tour and told security guards he was waiting for his “date” who was male. Mark Looy, chief communications officer for the Creation Museum, said it was clear from promotional material that the event was for straight couples only and said it presented the “biblical view of marriage.”

Facebook adds two relationship status options

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook recently began offering users new ways to describe their romantic situation by adding “in a civil union” and “in a domestic partnership” to its official list of relationship statuses, according to reports from many news outlets this week. In the past, Facebook’s 600 million users were offered choices including “single,” “in a relationship” and “it’s complicated.” The decision to include the options came after Facebook negotiated with users and rights advocacy groups, a company rep told the San Francisco Chronicle. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is openly gay. The option is available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and France.

Kansas student op-ed draws controversy

WICHITA, Kan. — Gay rights advocates in Kansas are calling for Wichita school leaders to “undo the damage and hurt” caused by a student newspaper column that they say promotes violence against gays, according to a report from the Wichita Eagle, a regional paper. The opinion column, published Feb. 11 in the editorial section of the Messenger, East High School’s student newspaper, says same-sex relationships “just are not normal” and “should be frowned upon.” Its author, an East High student, also cited a Bible verse that says men who lie with other men have “committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.” District officials, the newspaper’s faculty adviser and student editors say the column constitutes free speech and is protected by the First Amendment and the Kansas Student Publications Act. Jessica Thomas, a senior at East High and one of the newspaper’s three editors, said she and her colleagues “knew the column could possibly be controversial.” “We don’t necessarily agree or disagree. It’s one person’s personal opinion,” she said. Kansas law “very tightly restricts” teachers’ or school administrators’ ability to interfere with what students want to publish, Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, told the Eagle. The Kansas Student Publications Act says “material shall not be suppressed solely because it involves political or controversial subject matter.” A journalism teacher said it met the criteria for free speech. But Michael Jones, an editor for the national website Change.org, wrote in a blog post last week that the East High column “suggested it would be moral to execute an entire population of students.”

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