by The Canadian Press
Posted: June 27, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET
(Thunder Bay, Ontario) Prime Minister Stephen Harper has welcomed another floor-crosser to the Conservative caucus, although it is unclear how long the new Tory team member will stick around.
Joe Comuzzi, who sat in Parliament for 19 years as a Liberal, was applauded by Tory supporters in his Thunder Bay riding Tuesday as he welcomed Harper to the northern Ontario city.
Comuzzi said he had grown increasingly uncomfortable with Liberal policies in recent years, and had been attracted to the Tory platform for some time.
``I saw the change in the new Conservative party,'' Comuzzi said.
``It truly respected family values. It truly respected ... the earnings and the taxpayer's money that is paying into the (government) coffers every day.''
Comuzzi was kicked out of the Liberal caucus in the spring for supporting the Tory budget.
It was not the first time the socially conservative MP ruffled Liberal feathers. In 2005, he resigned from the Liberal cabinet so he could oppose same-sex marriage. In 2003 he opposed additional spending on the gun-control registry.
In 1998 he called for a review of official bilingualism. In 2004 he suggested the sponsorship scandal was typical of Quebec politics _ a remark he later apologized for making.
Comuzzi, 74, announced months ago he would not run in the next election. He left the door open Tuesday to running again, but added he hasn't made any commitment beyond fulfilling his current mandate.
``Who knows when the next election will be?'' he said.
Harper painted Comuzzi's decision as proof that Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is alienating Canadians, even though opinion polls suggest the Liberals are running neck-and-neck with the Tories.
``I think (Dion) is increasingly a one-issue leader who has taken his party to the extreme on that issue. It's the environment all the time and he doesn't really care about what the impacts are on the economy,'' Harper said.
``He's taken his party out of the mainstream.''
Dion, for his part, said Comuzzi may feel more at home amongst Tories.
``If he is more comfortable with the conservative, the very right-wing party Mr. Harper has, it is his choice,'' Dion told reporters while visiting a technology company in Toronto.
The New Democrats called on Comuzzi to resign and run in a byelection so that voters could decide which party they want to represent the area.
The NDP said voters are already turned off by the floor-crossings of David Emerson and Wajid Khan.
If Comuzzi decides to run again, he will likely be in for a tough battle. His Tory opponent in 2006 placed third, well behind Comuzzi and the New Democrat candidate.
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: June 27, 2007 - 3:00 pm ET
(Atlanta, Georgia) A poll released Wednesday shows that for the first time a majority of Americans believe that gays and lesbians could not not change their sexuality even if they wanted to.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 56 percent of respondents do not believe sexual orientation can be changed.
That is a marked change in the past six years.
A 2001 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found only 45 percent of respondents believed sexuality was unchangeable and in 1998 a CNN/Time poll the number was 36 percent.
When asked whether homosexuality is nature or nurture the 515 people surveyed in the new poll respondents were more closely divided.
Forty-two percent of respondents to the current poll said they believe homosexuality is the result of upbringing or environment, while 39 percent said they believe it is genetic.
Similar polls in the 1970s and 1980 found fewer than 20 percent of Americans believed said a person is born homosexual.
The survey is the latest in a series of recent polls showing public support growing for gays and lesbians.
A poll conducted last month found that 79 percent support gays serving openly in the military. A second poll conducted in May found that a majority believed same-sex couples should be recognized but were almost equally divided on whether that should be marriage or civil unions. Forty-three percent opposed both.
On the topic of adoption, however, 57 percent said same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: June 27, 2007 - 3:00 pm ET
(Moscow) Moscow city lawmakers on Wednesday elected Mayor Yuri Luzhkov to a fifth term in office despite concerns from civil rights groups that he has shown little respect for human rights.
The vote came as police dispersed a small group of LGBT activists protesting against Luzhkov in front of the European Union office in Moscow.
About two dozen gays were demanding that the EU impose a visa ban on the mayor over his opposition to LGBT rights.
The demonstrators tried to unfurl a banner, but police dispersed them, arresting two protestors.
Luzhkov, who had the backing of President Vladimir Putin, was re-elected by the 35-seat Moscow City Duma in 32-3 vote.
Luzhkov has been at the helm of the capital for 15 years.
Gay rights leaders have been battling the mayor for the past two years after he banned LGBT pride celebrations in Moscow.
Last month police arrested about 20 people who attempted to hold a pride march in the capital.
Among those detained were gay rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev and a number of foreign supporters including British gay advocate Peter Tatchell and two European lawmakers.
They and about 100 other people gathered in a city park. Waiting for them were members of extreme right nationalist groups, Russian Orthodox churchgoers, and young militants.
The crowd pelted the gay group with eggs and started a number of skirmishes until police moved in arresting the gay leaders.
The year before, police also broke up an attempted gay march.
Alexeyev sued the mayor all the way to the Russian Supreme Court and lost. The case is now being appealed to the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.
In a separate case, a Moscow court in April tossed out a lawsuit accusing Lushkov of libel over claims he made that gay rights marches were "satanic."
In January during a Kremlin meeting before leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church Lushkov said that gay rights marches were "satanic," (story) The speech was broadcast on Moscow television.
Lushkov then went on to blast gay unions.
"Some European nations bless single-sex marriages and introduce sexual guides in schools," Lushkov said in the speech broadcast on Moscow television. "Such things are a deadly moral poison for children."
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: June 27, 2007 - 1:00 pm ET
(Washington) Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announced Wednesday that it has formed an LGBT steering committee made up of prominent gays to reach out to the community.
It includes New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn; Elizabeth Birch, former Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign; people from the entertainment industry including Greg Berlanti, the creator/producer of TV series “Brothers and Sisters” and Ilene Chaiken, the creator and producer of “The L Word” among others, and various gay people with experience in the federal government including Eldie Acheson, a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General and the founding director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
In all 65 people will serve on the committee.
“I’ve seen how Hillary Clinton’s experience, commitment, and leadership have made a difference for the LGBT community,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in a statement released by the Clinton campaign.
“Her commitment to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and her steadfast work to improve access to care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS are just two of the reasons why I support Hillary Clinton for President,” said Jose Zuniga, President of the Chicago-based International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care. Zuniga, another committee member.
Zuniga attained the rank of Sergeant, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1993 after coming out as a gay man. He served as a military medic during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and had been named the Sixth US Army's Soldier of the Year six weeks prior to his discharge.
Clinton has said she would put an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" the ban on gays serving openly in the military that was enacted during her husband's presidency.
Her campaign also said Wednesday that she would make sure that all Americans in committed relationships have equal economic benefits and rights, work to end discrimination in adoption laws and would sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if elected president.
Clinton has opposed amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage but not voiced support for legalizing gay marriage.
“I am proud to have the support of such distinguished leaders in the LGBT community,” said Clinton. “Together, we can move our nation closer to the promise of fairness and equality that all Americans deserve.”
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: June 26, 2007 - 5:00 pm ET
(Newark, New Jersey) A day after taking criticism for issuing a written statement to the press but not making a personal apology to a student after a picture of him kissing his boyfriend was purged from a high school yearbook, Newark School District Superintendent Marion A. Bolden finally met the teen.
Bolden showed up at the graduation rehearsal at East Side High School, was introduced to Andre Jackson, 18, and in front of the graduating class apologized for ordering the picture blacked out.
Monday, in a press release issued to the media but not to Jackson, Bolden said she "personally apologizes to Mr. Jackson and regrets and embarrassment and unwanted attention the matter has brought to him.' (story)
The press statement also said that the school district would reissue an ``un-redacted version'' of the yearbook to any student at the school who wants one.
Following her appearance at East Side High on Tuesday Bolden placed a phone call to Garden State Equality, New Jersey's largest LGBT rights organization.
During the call she agreed to meet on a regular basis, at least four times a year, with a Task Force on LGBT Diversity and Sensitivity in the Newark Schools.
The task force is being formed by Garden State Equality with leaders of Newark's LGBT community.
In the call, Bolden told representatives of Garden State Equality that the yearbook episode was "my lowest moment since I've been Superintendent."
Bolden ordered the photo of Jackson kissing boyfriend David Escobales,19, blacked out after it was brought to her attention. Staff at the school spend hours with magic markers obliterating the shot.
Earlier, when Bolden was questioned about the blacked out picture, she told the Star-Ledger that the photograph was "illicit".
"It looked provocative," she told the paper. "If it was either heterosexual or gay, it should have been blacked out. It's how they posed for the picture."
Jackson learned the shot had been blacked out when he picked up his copy.
He, like a number of other students, had bought a page in the yearbook to place pictures of himself and a commemorative message.
"Though it took a few days for her come around, we commend Superintendent Bolden for her remedial actions today and look forward to working with the school district in the months and years to come," Garden State Equality said in a statement Tuesday.
Posted: June 27, 2007 - 11:00 am ET
(Los Angeles, California) Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards may not publicly be where his wife is on same-sex marriage but he nonetheless is actively courting the LGBT vote - especially in California which has the largest number of gay voters of any state in the country.
Tuesday Edwards visited visited the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center in what his campaign said was his desire to increase his understanding of the diverse needs of the LGBT community.
The visit came as Edwards was publicly trying to distance himself from his wife's unqualified support for same-sex marriage in a speech Sunday morning to gay Democrats in San Francisco. (story)
"A lot of people I love and care about feel the same way Elizabeth does," Edwards said. "I'm very strong about ending discrimination against gay and lesbian couples."
"But I'm not quite where Elizabeth is yet," he added.
Edwards also said that he was unaware of her position on gay marriage in advance and was surprised to learn about it while reading the newspaper.
His surprise has left some political observers scratching their heads. In the midst of a campaign for the party nomination it is considered unlikely Edwards' staff did not know in advance she was going to speak to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club hours before appearing at San Francisco's gay pride parade. Equally unlikely, observers say, was the candidate's staff not knowing the tone of the speech.
He may not be "quite" where is wife is on gay marriage but he has previously voiced his support for state domestic partnerships and civil unions.
During the visit to the LA Gay Center on Tuesday John Edwards met with staff and stopped at the Center’s pharmacy and Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic, which provides medical care to hundreds of low-income, HIV-positive Angelenos, and at the Center’s 24-bed transitional living facility for homeless LGBT youth, where he met briefly with residents.
“We’re grateful that Sen. Edwards was eager to learn more about L.A.’s GLBT community and that he chose to see firsthand the important and life-saving work we do every day at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center,” said Center CEO Lorri L. Jean.
During Edwards’ visit, Jean implored the him to publicly support marriage equality.
"Most of the problems our clients face are problems caused by a homophobic society. A society that tells us from our youngest days—from the moment we have any inklings of such things—that we are wrong, sick, bad, even evil, and that we deserve to be discriminated against," Jean said in a statement following the visit.
USA: Yearbook gay kiss censored - apology
A New Jersey school Superintendent has apologised to a student after a photo of him kissing his boyfriend was struck from all 230 copies produced.
When Newark Superintendent of Schools Marion Bolden saw the photo of openly gay East Side High School student Andre Jackson kissing his boyfriend on a page of the school yearbook which Jackson had purchased, she ordered the photos to be blackened out with a marker pen.
The photo was on a page in a "tribute" section of the book, in which students purchase pages for $150 (in addition to the $85 cost of the yearbook) and are able to post photos of themselves and friends.
According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, "Rules for publication of the pages prohibited shots of gang signs, rude gestures and graphic photos, said Benilde Barroqueiro, an East Side senior graduating with Jackson. 'You know, it couldn't be too provocative. No making out, no tongue,' she said."
Bolden said last week the same-sex kiss “looked provocative. If it was either heterosexual or gay, it should have been blacked out. It's how they posed for the picture."
Other photos of heterosexual students kissing were allowed to remain. According to the New York Times, "On the page immediately opposite Mr. Jackson’s, a young man and a young woman kiss on a couch, his hand on her leg as she sits on his lap."
Jackson told the New York Times: "I didn’t intend to say, 'Oh hey, look at me, I’m gay.' It was just a picture showing my emotion, saying that I’m happy, you know, whatever. It was to look back on as a memory. I was upset. I was hurt. I felt embarrassed and abused."
He said he threw his yearbook away. "I didn’t feel right. What I wanted to see wasn’t there."
New Jersey gay equality group ‘Garden State Equality’ was shocked to hear of the story. Chairman Steven Goldstein said: "This action by the school district will have an unspeakably vile chilling effect on other gay and lesbian students coming out. Her (Bolden) trying to erase a student and his boyfriend is a metaphor for her trying to erase the gay and lesbian community out of Newark and its school system.
"It's wrong and it's ridiculous. The second it hit the Web I started getting calls.
"This is not only homophobic, not only an egregious lack of judgment."
The school then apologised in a statement yesterday: "The decision was based, in part, on misinformation that Mr. Jackson was not one of our students and our review simply focused on the suggestive nature of the photograph.
"Superintendent Marion A. Bolden personally apologizes to Mr. Jackson and regrets and embarrassment and unwanted attention the matter has brought to him."
The school has also offered uncensored versions of the yearbook to any East Side high School student who wants one.
The yearbook picture is available to view on the link below.
Ref: Towleroad (m)
The actor, who played Dr Preston Burke, believes he has been made a scapegoat and it should have been Knight who got the sack.
He told the Houston Chronicle newspaper: "They fired the wrong guy. I have to clear my name. I'll start from the beginning. I'm telling everything. So here's the truth.
"I feel all this was about him getting a raise and getting his character to stop being perceived as a dopey, kooky kind of character. He perceives himself as a leading man. That's why you could see the change this past season. That was his whole impetus behind it. I was used and I was exploited. I may be wrong but that's how I feel about it."
Washington also says his remark wasn't made directly at Knight and denied suggestions he is homophobic.
He added: "I used the word during a disagreement with Patrick Dempsey. I apologised for that. We shook hands and went back to work.
"I knew TR was gay but I would never attack him because of his sexual orientation. That's stupid. I've been working with lesbian and gays for 21 years in this business. My whole existence has coexisted evenly and beautifully with individuals who happen to be gay, but more importantly are immensely talented.
“There's no way in my mind and my heart I could be homophobic."
Ref: Bang! Showbiz (m)
Gay Bingo’s regular return to Christchurch
Due to the huge success of the 'Gay Bingo' night hosted by Miss Hollywood at Heavens Above during Christchurch Pride Week in May, organisers say it will now become a regular fundraiser.
$500 was raised at the Pride Week event, and now the aim is to run it as a charity fundraiser from now on once a month on a Sunday night.
“A different charity will benefit from the proceeds each time,” says Miss Hollywood.
The next Gay Bingo night will be held on Sunday 8th July at Heavens Above (Cnr Tuam & Colombo Streets) from 7pm. All proceeds will go to St Johns Ambulance.
“$5 will get you a bingo book and ten games will be played with more great prizes up for grabs,” explains Hollywood. “It’s going to be another camp night,” she promises.
Anyone interested in donating any prizes for this regular charity event can contact Miss Hollywood directly at Divasboutique@xtra.co.nz.
Ref: Heaven's Above (m)
A soldier who gave her female lover a prolonged beating on Valentine's Day will not be deployed overseas as planned.
The woman, who was granted interim name suppression, is now facing a prison sentence that will likely see her kicked out of the Army.
She pleaded guilty in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday to a charge of common assault after police amended a more serious charge of assault with intent to injure.
The soldier arrived at her girlfriend's Palmerston North house about 8.30pm on February 14, police prosecutor Ollie Outtrim told Judge Grant Fraser.
She apologised to the woman for an earlier incident but when her peace offering was spurned, "the defendant became enraged".
As the victim tried to leave the lounge, she was pushed from behind and into a wall.
The woman fell to the ground and was kicked repeatedly before she fled to the laundry, Mr Outtrim said. There, she was punched about 10 times in the arms and chest.
"The victim began crawling out of the laundry into the kitchen. As she did this, the defendant hit the victim in the face with the palm of her hand, which caused the victim to become disoriented.
"At the same time the defendant was screaming at the victim to stand up and verbally abusing her, calling her a 'fat, ugly bitch'."
The beating continued in the kitchen, before the soldier dragged the woman around the house by her shirt and hair and continued punching and kicking her.
"The victim was sobbing softly to try not to wake her children and was feeling extremely frightened. The defendant yelled at her to shut up and stand up."
She fled through the laundry and yelled for help, but her attacker followed, put her hand over her mouth, dragged her back inside and continued punching her.
The battered woman eventually made it into the shower where the soldier demanded she give her the security pin number to her cell phone. The victim retreated to her bedroom and got into bed, weeping.
Her attacker stood in the doorway and verbally abused her for 30 minutes before finally leaving - about an hour after the attack began.
The victim suffered a cut to her lip and bruising to her arms, chest, lower back, buttocks and legs, Mr Outtrim said.
The woman's lawyer, Gordon Paine, said the incident was "a culmination of events".
Mr Paine said his client was scheduled to serve overseas "but as a result of this she is not able to accept that deployment".
Some details in the police summary of facts were contested and may be amended before sentencing, Mr Paine said.
But Judge Fraser said the woman was still facing a prison sentence.
"Unless there are some really dramatic alterations, I'd suggest that is the likely outcome."
The woman was remanded on bail for sentencing on August 14. Judge Fraser granted her interim name suppression but said this will be reviewed at that hearing.