April 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief: April 29

Experts: Judge’s sexual orientation a non-issue

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker (photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

SAN FRANCISCO — The sponsors of California’s same-sex marriage ban insist they are not trying to disqualify the federal judge who struck down Proposition 8 because he is gay, according to an Associated Press report this week. Instead, they argue the judge’s decade-long relationship with another man poses a potential conflict because they might want to get hitched themselves. Experts in judicial ethics said Tuesday that line of reasoning is unlikely to prevail. At the center of the dispute is Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who issued the ruling last August declaring Proposition 8 to be an unconstitutional violation of gay Californians’ civil rights. “We are not suggesting that a gay or lesbian judge could not sit on this case,” attorneys for the backers of Proposition 8 wrote in their motion filed Monday to overturn the landmark ruling. “Simply stated, under governing California law, Chief Judge Walker currently cannot marry his partner, but his decision in this case … would give him a right to do so.”

Arson that killed 8 horses may be hate crime

McCONNELSVILLE, Ohio — Firefighters in rural Ohio are offering a $5,000 reward for information about who was behind an Easter arson attack that killed eight horses, including a week-old colt, in a blaze being investigated as a hate crime against the animals’ gay owner, AOL News reported citing several Ohio news outlets. Brent Whitehouse, who’s gay, said he noticed an orange glow coming from the barn near his farmhouse in McConnelsville, Ohio, just before midnight Sunday. He ran out to the barn, but the door jammed, its hinges likely melted from the fire’s heat, AOL said. Whitehouse told a TV station in the region (Channel 10) he “couldn’t believe they would take the time to actually harm an innocent animal.” Homophobic slurs like “Fags are freaks” and “Burn in hell” were discovered spray-painted on the smoldering wreckage of his barn. Whitehouse estimated their value, along with the destroyed barn, to be more than $500,000. The state fire marshal’s office has ruled that the fire was intentionally set. The local Blue Ribbon Arson Committee has announced a $5,000 reward for any information about who set the fire, AOL reported.

Tenn. considers ‘don’t say gay’ bill

NASHVILLE — A committee in the Tennessee State Senate has green-lighted a bill that, if passed, would ban elementary and middle teachers from discussing homosexuality at school, Time and other media outlets reported this week. The legislation, dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill, would mandate that before ninth grade, teachers not “provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.” The bill will next be put up for a vote before the state’s full, Republican-controlled, Senate. Meanwhile this week the California Senate passed a bill that would require all state public schools to teach the history of the gay civil rights movement, U.S. News & World Report reported this week. A similar measure in 2006 was passed by the legislature, but vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

McGreevey bid to Episcopal priesthood blocked

TRENTON, N.J. — Former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who abruptly resigned in 2004 after coming out and admitting an extramarital affair with a male staffer, has had his pursuit of the Episcopal priesthood put on hold indefinitely, the AP reported this week. The New York Post reported Monday that the church has deferred his bid to join the clergy. The church, which accepts gays and women into the clergy, wants McGreevey to wait so he can put more distance between his possible ordination and the fairly recent turmoil in his life: his coming out in a nationally televised speech, his resignation and a messy divorce from his wife, Dina Matos, in 2008. McGreevey, 53, earned a master of divinity degree last spring, three years after entering General Theological Seminary in New York City.

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