January 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm EST | by Phil Reese
National news in brief: Jan. 13

Fla. drum major hazing death a gay bashing?

TALLAHASSEE — A member of the prestigious Florida A&M Marching 100 drum major may have been targeted for deadly hazing because he was gay, say several friends and LGBT organizations, according to a CNN blog.

Robert Champion was severely beaten on a team bus on the way back from a football game in November as part of a ritual hazing. On Monday, family attorney Chris Chestnut revealed that several friends and family members say Champion was gay, and some believe he may have been targeted for more severe treatment than other team members.

“The civil rights community can no longer stand on the sidelines while our sons and daughters continue to suffer in silence,” said National Black Justice Coalition executive director and CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks in a statement calling for hate crime charges on Monday. “Mr. Champion is one of our own and his death will not be in vain.”

The family is suing the bus company that they allege ignored the attack that a medical examiner ruled a homicide.

Alan Cumming, gay news, gay politics dc

Alan Cumming married his partner in New York on the fifth anniversary of their UK civil partnership. (photo by Christopher Macsurak via Wikimedia Commons)

FBI changes definition of ‘rape’ to include men

WASHINGTON — Until recently, the FBI only collected statistics on female victims of rape. With last week’s changes, however, the FBI will now begin including male victims of rape in those numbers.

Last week the FBI changed the definition of rape to ‘any forced penetration,’ to include male victims. This will help authorities better understand the impact of rape on victims, as well as allow the FBI to offer better resources to male victims of rape.

“If you can’t measure it accurately, you can’t monitor it, and you can’t direct appropriate resources to deal with the problem,” said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women’s Law Project, according to USA Today.

N.C. official resigns over marriage ballot measure

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The director of elections for suburban Harnett County, N.C. resigned this week in protest of a ballot measure that asks voters to ban legal recognition of same-sex couples in that state’s constitution.

In an interview with influential LGBT blogger Pam Spaulding, former director Sherre Toler, whose county sits adjacent to Fayetteville and Fort Bragg, said she resigned after the legislature forced the ballot measure, saying “I cannot and will not be a party to such actions.”

“Discrimination is discrimination in whatever form it takes,” Toler responded when asked whether or not her analogy of comparing the amendment to voting on interracial marriage was a fair comparison.

Toler expressed hope for the defeat of the amendment and called on other elections officials to follow her lead.

Mizrahi, Cumming each celebrate weddings

NEW YORK — Fashion designer Issac Mizrahi married Brad Goresky, his partner of six years, in New York recently.

“We didn’t want to get married until they said we could in New York,” the Project Runway star told an ecstatic Wendy Williams last week. “We were terrified, so we decided to elope in City Hall.”

Meanwhile, also in New York, Broadway star Alan Cumming married his partner Grant Shaffer on the fifth anniversary of their U.K. civil union, choosing the Soho Grand Hotel over City Hall.

“I just got married!!!!!” the star tweeted over the weekend. “On the 5th anniversary of our wedding in London Grant and I tied the knot again in NYC!!! #eatmericksantorum.”

Two icons of HIV/AIDS activism die

This week, the HIV/AIDS advocacy community lost two major players from the movement.

Unitarian Universalist minister Robert Franke, who in 2009 fought his eviction from a Little Rock retirement community after they discovered he was HIV positive, died Monday at 78. The retired university provost brought attention to issues faced by HIV-positive seniors, a growing demographic as advancements in treatments are made. With the help of Lambda Legal, Franke settled with the company late in 2010.

In addition, Chicago ACT-UP icon Frank Sieple passed away suddenly last week, according to veteran gay journalist Rex Wockner. He was 51.

“I was questioning authority when I was 14,” Sieple told Wockner in an Advocate interview in 1990. “I realized I needed to speak out in the streets if I wanted to see change in my lifetime.”

“We know there are drugs to prolong lives and the knowledge out there to find a cure.”


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