Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tonight's news

A three-fold spike in homophobic hate crimes in California’s Santa Clara County over the past year is being blamed on the fallout over Proposition 8, the voter measure banning same-sex marriage in California.

Last year, 56 percent of the hate crimes reported in the county south of San Francisco were designated as homophobic, compared with 15 percent the year before.

Deputy District Attorney Jay Boyarsky, who monitors hate crime’s for the D.A.’s office, said: “My belief from having done this work for many years is that surges in types of hate incidents are linked to the headlines and controversies of the day.”

Statistics from other California counties have not been published, but will be part of a state Attorney General’s annual hate crimes report to be released in July.

LGBT rights activists said they were not surprised by the report.

Leslie Bulbuk, president of Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee said: “When there’s a lot more information about gays and lesbians on TV or in the news, it brings out the worst in people who have an inherent bias against groups they don’t belong to.”

Proposition 8 leaders don’t dispute the findings but claim the report does not reflect cases in which supporters of the measure were harassed.

Frank Schubert of Protect Marriage said: “I certainly hope Proposition 8 did not result in more crime. But if it did, it did so on both sides.”


Human rights groups say a Turkish transgender woman would be alive today if police had taken her pleas for help seriously.

The body of Ebru Soykan, a prominent transgender human rights activist, was found in her Istanbul home on March 10. She had been stabbed to death, according to news reports.

Soykan was a member of Lambda Istanbul. The organization said police had refused to issue her a protection order against a man who had beaten and threatened to kill her on several occasions in the month before her murder.

After Soykan insisted to authorities her life was in danger, the man was questioned by police and then released. The man is now under arrest for her murder, but has not yet been charged.

Lambda Istanbul and Human Rights Watch accuse police of not taking threats against members of Turkey’s LGBT community seriously.

This was the second killing of a member of Lambda Istanbul in the past year.

In 2007, Lambda Istanbul twice submitted 146 cases they had documented to the Istanbul Provincial Human Rights Board, many dealing with reports of violence against transgender people, including cases of violence by the police. Several of these cases had already been reported to the police with no action was taken. The then-deputy governor of Istanbul told the group that the governor’s office had found no records of these allegations and complaints in the police districts involved.


A Lebanon, Indiana, High School student who sued the school after she was told she could not wear a tuxedo to the prom will be allowed to wear the tux after all.

The school district Monday reversed its policy requiring female students to wear dresses to the prom.

The lawsuit was filed last week in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of the 17-year-old girl, who was not named.

Court papers identified her only as a senior at the school and described her as a lesbian who chooses not to wear dresses because she believes they represent a sexual identity.

The lawsuit alleged the girl was told by her principal that while the school’s dress code does not contain gender-based requirements, there is a special dress code for the prom. That code requires female students to wear a formal dress, the suit charges.

The ACLU, in the court filing, said the dress code discriminates against students based on gender. It further stated that because the school receives federal funds, the policy violated federal anti-discrimination law and it also violated her constitutional right to free speech.

When the suit was filed, the school said it was willing to meet with the student.

In a statement released Monday by the school district, Superintendent Robert L. Taylor said the dispute had been resolved.

A statement from Taylor said: “School policy for this year’s prom will be that all attendees shall wear appropriate formal attire with no gender-based attire requirements imposed. Female students will be permitted to wear tuxedos if they choose.”

The ACLU said that the student is pleased with the outcome.


The confession of a Colorado man accused of fatally battering a sex partner with a fire extinguisher after discovering she was transgendered, cannot be presented into evidence, a district court judge has ruled.

Allen Ray Andrade, 31, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Angie Zapata, 20. The victim’s battered body was discovered in her apartment by her sister in July 2008.

Andrade was arrested near Denver after police responded to a noise complaint and found him in Zapata’s 2003 PT Cruiser, which had been missing.

Under questioning, Andrade allegedly told investigators he met Zapata through a social network designed primarily for cell phone users. The two met July 15 and spent the day together. Andrade allegedly told investigators Zapata performed oral sex on him but wouldn’t let him touch her. When he discovered she was biologically male, he killed her.

In the taped confession, he allegedly told investigators that he grabbed Zapata’s crotch area, felt male genitalia and became angry. He then took a fire extinguisher off a shelf and struck Zapata twice in the head.

But in a 24-page ruling, Judge Marcelo Kopcow said that Andrade’s rights had been violated because he had told police he was finished answering questions, but investigators persisted with questions leading up to the confession.

The judge did, however, allow the prosecution to present to the jury tapes of phone calls made by Andrade to his girlfriend from jail.

In one call he said he had “snapped” and that “gay things need to die.”

In ruling that the tapes could be played for the jury Kopcow said that prisoners “have little, if any, reasonable expectation of privacy while incarcerated.”


A federal judge has ruled that a student club promoting tolerance for gays at a north Florida high school must be allowed to meet.

U.S. District Judge Henry Adams issued the decision Wednesday in a case involving two students from Yullee High School near Jacksonville.

Adams ordered a local school board to grant official recognition to the Gay-Straight Alliance and afford it the same privileges as any other student organization.

The school district had argued in court that it would grant school access to the group if its name were changed, citing the name as its chief objection. But the judge ruled that the group did not need to make a change.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of two gay students.


The Army fired 11 soldiers in January for violating the military’s policy that gay service members must keep their sexuality hidden, according to a Virginia congressman.

Democratic Rep. Jim Moran said he has requested monthly updates from the Pentagon on the impact of the policy until it is repealed. In a statement released Thursday, Moran said the discharged soldiers included an intelligence collector, a military police officer, four infantry personnel, a health care specialist, a motor-transport operator and a water-treatment specialist.

Moran, a member of the House panel that oversees military spending, asked: “How many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?”

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was instituted after President Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gay service members in 1993. It refers to the military practice of not asking recruits their sexual orientation. In turn, service members are banned from saying they are gay or bisexual, engaging in homosexual activity or trying to marry a member of the same sex.

The military discharged nearly 10,000 service members under the policy in a 10-year period, from 1997 to 2007. The number fired each year dropped sharply after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, when forces were stretched thin. Whereas more than 1,200 were dismissed in 2000 and 2001 for violating the policy, about half as many were fired in 2007.

The Pentagon has not released its 2008 figures.

The White House has said President Barack Obama has begun consulting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen on how to lift the ban. But the administration won’t say how soon that might happen or whether a group of experts will be commissioned to study the issue in-depth, as some Democrats have suggested.

Likewise, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill support repealing the ban but have not promised to press the issue immediately.


The National Insurance Institute authorized Israel's first-ever "maternity" leave for a male couple on Thursday. Yonatan Gher, director of Jerusalem's nonprofit Open House Pride and Tolerance organization, has received institute approval of a 64-day leave from work on the occasion of the birth of his biological son, delivered by a surrogate mother in India.

His partner of seven years commenced formal adoption procedures, so that the child will be formally recognized as his as well.

Despite confirmation of the leave, Gher has not received an answer to his request for reimbursement of hospitalization costs.

The process began two years ago, when the couple realized formal adoption by a single man or two gay men was not an option in Israel. They did not want to agree to joint parenthood with an Israeli woman, because they said it would expose the child to a situation similar to divorce.

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