April 21, 2011 | by Staff reports
National news in brief: April 22

Cuomo to help with marriage campaign

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged support for a same-sex marriage bill in his state that gay activists hope will help overcome Republican resistance, the New York Times reported this week.

Under the supervision of the governor’s staff, the groups intend to raise more than $1 million for a media blitz, hire a powerful political consultant close to the Cuomo administration and deploy field organizers to the districts of more than a dozen key lawmakers to drum up support, the Times reported citing interviews with those involved in the effort.

In contrast to their failed drive for a marriage bill two years ago, the advocates envision a short, disciplined and intense run-up to a vote in the legislature, raising the prospect that gay couples may be allowed to wed in New York by early summer. The hope to avoid the mistakes and miscommunications of 2009, when those lobbying for same-sex marriage sent conflicting messages, misjudged the opposition and won far fewer votes than they had predicted, the Times story said.

After passing in the Assembly, the bill was defeated in the Senate, 38 to 24. Four gay rights groups — Empire State Pride Agenda, HRC, Freedom to Marry and Marriage Equality will form a single organization called New Yorkers United for Marriage. Two Democratic senators who voted against the bill in 2009 have since departed, replaced by supporters of the bill. Advocates now need to attract six more senators to ensure its passage. So far, they are focusing on about 15 lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, whose votes could prove pivotal, the New York Times said.

Marriage foes intervene in Prop 8 trial controversy

SAN FRANCISCO — The federal judge who presided over the Proposition 8 trial is under fire from Christian conservatives for showing a three-minute videotape of the trial on the lecture circuit, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.

The sponsors of the 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage have asked a federal appeals court to order retired Judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled against Proposition 8, to return the videotape so it can be put under lock and key. The Associated Press reported that several media organizations are joining lawyers for two gay couples in urging a federal appeals court to release the tapes. The 13 organizations, which include the AP, argued in a motion filed Monday with the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals that the videos are court records and the First Amendment requires them to be open to the public.

Lawyers for ProtectMarriage, the Proposition 8 campaign, have told the 9th Circuit that Walker’s use of the video recording “defied” the U.S. Supreme Court, violated his own court order sealing the video, flouted various court policies and amounted to judicial misconduct, the Times reported.

Walker, who presided over the 12-day trial in San Francisco last year, initially planned to videotape the proceedings for public viewing. But ProtectMarriage objected and took its case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 along ideological grounds against cameras in the courtroom. The high court’s conservatives said the Proposition 8 trial was unsuitable for broadcast because witnesses might be intimidated or suffer retaliation. Walker relented but permitted videotaping for the court’s use and for viewing by an overflow crowd in another courtroom.

Gay students warned to ‘act straight’ after attack

ROCK HILL, S.C. — The attack of a gay teenager by a group of men at a Rock Hill, S.C., gas station has some Winthrop University leaders warning gay students to “act straight,” according to a report from WBTV, a news agency in the region.

The warning comes after 19-year-old Joshua Esskew was beaten by a group of at least eight men at the Spot Convenience Store on 990 South Cherry Road on April 9.  Esskew believes the attack happened because he is gay. The attack has sparked an investigation by the FBI and the York County Sheriff’s Office, who are hoping to identify the men who attacked Esskew.

Images of the attack, which was caught on surveillance video, have been released to the public, in hopes of identifying the men, WBTV said. Esskew said he was walking to the gas station when someone yelled a derogatory anti-gay comment at him. Words were exchanged and when he turned back around, someone hit him in the head with a 40-ounce malt liquor bottle. He was then beaten by at least eight men for nearly 15 seconds, being kicked and punched by the group.

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