September 5, 2009
Opponents fear California recognition of Milk could lead to (gasp!) discussion of gay issues in schools
While the day of recognition — of which there are only three in California, for John Muir, teachers and the California poppy — would impose no specific requirements on schools or close state offices, opponents say the tribute could encourage discussion of Milk and gay issues in public schools. State law encourages schools to observe days of recognition and “conduct suitable commemorative exercises.”
“The bill is so broad it could encompass all kinds of things,” said Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, who has been active in opposing same-sex marriage in the state. “Remembering the life of Harvey Milk could allow for gay pride parades on campus or mock gay weddings or cross-dressing. There is no prohibition of what the bill calls ‘suitable commemorative exercises.’ The sky’s the limit.”
September 4, 2009
HIV and human rights conference at Notre Dame law school
Notre Dame law school, the Hesburgh Center for International Studies, and the ABA Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities next week will host a conference on "HIV and the Rule of Law: Human Rights at Home and Abroad." Info is available here.
Gay sailor tortured for two years, then kicked out under DADT; superior wins promotion
Youth Radio reported today that former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha was brutalized for more than two years at his base in Bahrain after unit mates first suspected that he is gay. The Navy promoted the Chief most responsible for the violence, even though Naval officials were aware of his role in creating the climate of abuse.
Official Navy documents confirm that after Rocha’s unit mates first suspected that he is gay, they engaged in a two-year pattern of abuse including hog-tying him to a chair and pushing him, still bound, into a dog kennel full of feces. Rocha says that they forced him to simulate oral sex with a man more than thirty times, on video tape, as part of a training exercise to teach sailors how to respond to a hypothetical complaint about homosexual sex. And they hit him as hard as they could repeatedly while forcing him to bend over a desk. The documents are available at www.youthradio.org.
Rocha was a military police officer with anti-terrorism training who graduated at the top of his military class, and who received favorable performance evaluations throughout his career. His unit mates first suspected that he is gay in 2004 when he refused to sleep with female prostitutes, a practice that was widespread at his base. Rocha did not report the abuse, which continued until 2006, because he feared retaliation as well as discharge under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” According to Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center, “it is very hard for an organization to get rid of abuse as long as discrimination remains official policy.”
After a colleague complained, the Navy launched an investigation, which concluded in 2007. Official documents from the investigation were obtained recently via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by one of Rocha’s unit mates.
While Rocha was singled out and forced to endure the longest period of abuse, others were victimized as well. An official military summary of the investigation lists 93 incidents and types of abuse including throwing hard rubber balls at the groin, allowing a dog to attack a sex worker, and handcuffing two female sailors to a bed and forcing them to simulate lesbian sex while being videotaped.
Since the launch of the investigation, the Navy has promoted Chief Michael Toussaint to the rank of Senior Chief. Toussaint was the petty officer in charge of Rocha’s unit, and perpetrated or presided over most of the abuse.
Following his return from the Middle East, Rocha developed symptoms of PTSD. After acknowledging to his superiors that he is gay, he was discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
September 2, 2009
Marriage equality foes lose bid to gain Iowa statehouse seat
Democrats won a special election for a rural Iowa legislative seat, dealing a setback to anti-marriage-equality forces that had spent $86,000 to support the Republican candidate and sought to turn the race into a referendum on the state supreme court's unanimous decision last April in favor of marriage equality.
DOJ's new civil rights push should include gays and lesbians, NYT urges
Attorney General Eric Holder has pledged to reinvigorate DOJ's role in promoting and enforcing civil rights, and the New York Times editorializes that his efforts should include gays and lesbians:
Gay men and lesbians still largely stand outside the division’s protection. If a hate crime law covering them is passed soon, as appears likely, the division should use it aggressively. Mr. Holder should also press Congress to pass the first federal law against job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
August 31, 2009
Gay man's Title VII suit for gender stereotyping may go forward, 3d Cir rules
A federal appeals court has ruled that an effeminate gay man may pursue a Title VII claim alleging that he was targeted for harassment because he failed to conform to "gender stereotypes," even though there is no federal law specifically outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In Prowel v. Wise Business Forms Inc., the 3d Circuit said that it can be difficult to discern whether the harassment a worker suffered "was because of his homosexuality, his effeminacy, or both." Where the evidence is ambiguous, the court said, a jury should decide.
Court orders reinstatement of teacher who says he was dismissed for LGBT advocacy
A judge ruled last week that the Oklahoma City teacher, Joe Quigley, had not neglected his duties as school officials alleged.
August 30, 2009
Out-of-state conservative group buying influence to overturn marriage equality in Iowa
The so-called "National Organization for Marriage," which opposes marriage equality, has spent $86,000 to influence the outcome of an Iowa legislative race representing three rural counties. The special election is set to take place this Tuesday. Their candidate supports overturning the Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous decision earlier this year on same-sex marriage.