Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This week's news roundup: Nov 18, 2010

On Monday of this week, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker vetoed a proposal to look into allowing county employees to include domestic partners on their health insurance plans. Walker, who is running for governor in the 2010 race as a Republican, said that the county should not consider spending money on additional benefits at a time that it is trying to get its employees to accept stagnant wages and curtailed benefits in order to make up for budgetary shortfalls.

The County Board voted 13-6 to look into the cost of extending domestic partner benefits at its Nov. 5 meeting. It will decide tonight whether to override Walker’s veto. If it overrides the veto, the county would only look into the logistics and cost of providing benefits. A separate vote would be needed later to put the benefits in place.

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According to ABC News, Supreme Court Justice today told students at Ohio State University "Did any provision of the Constitution guarantee a right to abortion? No one thought so for almost two centuries after the founding. Did any provision in the Constitution guarantee a right to homosexual sodomy? Same answer."

Scalia failed to comment on the enshrinement of slavery in the Constitution as originally ratified. Nor did he mention the right of non-whites to be counted as citizens of the United States, the right of interracial couples to marry, and the right of African-Americans and women to vote without interference – most of which were not considered rights guaranteed under the Constitution until almost two centuries after the founding of our nation.

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University of Wisconsin-River Falls is planning to offer a new course on LGBT history and current issues. The course, which will be offered as part of the school’s women’s studies program, is being developed by the women’s studies coordinator and a psychology professor.

Women’s studies coordinator Michelle Parkinson says that a recent campus incident involving anti-gay graffiti shows that the community needs to learn more about LGBT issues. The course will be offered for the first time in Fall 2010 or Spring 2011. Parkinson said that she hopes this will be the first step toward offering a certificate in LGBT studies at UW-River Falls.

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In Alabama, a Tharptown High School prom committee member will likely be permitted to attend prom with her girlfried in spring, according to Alabama newspapers. School officials had previously told Cynthia Stewart that she would not be allowed to bring her girlfriend, who attends school in another district. After the American Civil Liberties Union contacted the school board, officials reversed their decision and said that the girlfriend will be allowed to attend as long as she passes the screening process required of all dates from outside the school district. Tharptown High School routinely checks the names of prom dates in the months before the dance to keep out students with behavioral problems or criminal records.

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Yesterday, Puerto Rican police arrested a suspect in the murder and decapitation of a 19-year-old gay man. The burned and dismembered body of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was found on a road outside of the town of Cayey this past weekend.

Puerto Rican Web site Primera Hora reported that police arrested a 28-year-old man and impounded two vehicles in the investigation. A representative of the FBI in Puerto Rico said that the bureau is assisting local police in the investigation and determining whether the crime was a violation of federal civil rights laws. Puerto Rican activists suspect that the murder was an anti-gay hate crime meant to frighten the LGBT community. If so, it could become the first case to be tried as a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed into federal law on October 29.

While regional police director Hector Agosto condemned the crime as “ruthless,” police investigator Angel Rodriguez enraged Lopez’s friends and LGBT activists with his statement (translated from Spanish), “Someone like that, who does those kinds of things, and goes out in public, knows full well that this might happen to him.”

Many commentators said that Rodriguez was trying to justify the murder and should be taken off the case, but police director Agosto defended the investigator, saying his words had been twisted around and in no way were meant to disparage gays or lesbians.

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Several major American LGBT newspapers were shuttered this weekend as their holding company filed for bankruptcy. The papers include the 40-year-old Washington Blade, Atlanta’s 21-year-old Southern Voice, the 35-year-old Houston Voice, and the South Florida Blade, founded in 2000. Staffs of the defunct papers say they plan to start up new LGBT publications to serve their areas.

Window Media, the owner of the papers and no relation to Microsoft, gave no warning to the papers’ staffs. Even editors-in-chief showed up to work on Monday expecting to cover news, only to find that the locks on their buildings had been changed. They communicated news of their closings through Twitter.

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And on the more hopeful side, a 10-year-old in Arkansas made headlines when he refused to say the pledge of allegiance because, he said, he wouldn’t feel right saying there is “liberty and justice for all” when gays, lesbians, women and people of color are routinely denied both.

After a substitute teacher repeatedly nagged fifth-grader Will Phillips to stand up and pledge, he told her to go jump of a bridge. The school’s principal disciplined Phillips for talking disrespectfully to his teacher, but not for refusing to say the pledge. Phillips wrote a letter of apology to the teacher.

Phillips reports that some of his fellow students call him a “gaywad,” but says he will continue to refrain from saying the pledge until the United States truly does provide liberty and justice for all.

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Argentina may become the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriages. A male couple received a marriage license in Buenos Aires on Monday after a judge ruled that civil rights provisions in the country’s constitution override a ban on same-sex marriages.

The ruling applies only to the couple in question, but could be used as legal precedent by other same-sex couples seeking to be married.

Argentina's legislature is considering proposals to define marriage more inclusively so that same-sex couples can marry. The legislation is supported by the ruling party.
According to the Argentine Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Federation, 70% of surveyed Argentines support civil marriage for same-sex couples. Four jurisdictions in Argentina currently recognize civil unions. Uruguay is the only Latin American country where civil unions have legal status nationally.

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