Gen. Robert Clark, the commander in 1999 of Fort Campbell in Kentucky when Private Barry Winchell was killed by fellow soldiers in an anti-gay attack, was elevated on a voice vote by the United States Senate to the rank of lieutenant general.
“It seems if General Clark had exercised his responsibility, the murder would probably not have occurred,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) during the floor debate. President Bush nominated Clark in early 2002, but his confirmation was delayed by objections to his handling of the Winchell murder, led by Patricia Kutteles, the dead soldier’s mother, and various LGBT leaders.
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Winchell’s brutal slaying was “a hideous crime,” but it was wrong for “a small yet loud minority” to blame Clark.
Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) who had met with Winchell’s parents, concluded, “There were some incidents of harassment [at Fort Campbell] but the total quantity of these incidents [was] not indicative of a command breakdown.”
The scrutiny that Clark was given over his handling of gay issues may give pause to other military leaders. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the advocacy group for gay and lesbian soldiers, Clark’s opponents had unprecedented success in delaying a major military nomination as the substance of anti-gay harassment was explored. Every Democrat running to be the next commander-in-chief has promised to work for repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that excludes gays and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.
Since Canada sells most drugs at a fraction of the prices imposed in the U.S., pharmaceutical companies are jacking up Canadian prices to stem the flood of Americans crossing the border to buy life-saving medicines. Among those raising prices for Canadian distributors 4 to 8 percent are Eli Lilly, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer. Other drug companies like AstraZeneca are demanding that Canadian drug stores not sell to Americans. And, the Advocate reported, Gilead Sciences has stopped selling Viread, an HIV drug, to pharmacies north of the border, even though it is a drug of last resort for some people with AIDS who have developed resistance to other medications.
Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Brazil has negotiated a deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb to cut the price of Atazanavir, part of an anti-HIV cocktail, by 76 percent. Brazil makes HIV medications available for free.
Chicago’s United Way has always disavowed itself from the anti-gay bigotry of the Boy Scouts and is now gradually reducing its donations to the local Scouts council to the point where the two groups have ended their association. The charity gave close to half a million dollars to the Chicago Area Council in 2001 and has pledged just $24,000 for the next fiscal year.
Local gay groups are taking some credit for lobbying against funding for the organization that excludes gay Scouts and Scoutmasters, but a spokesperson for the United Way told the Chicago Sun-Times, “We have reformed our allocation process to give more funding to the programs that have the most community impact or make the biggest difference.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell teaches a class in abstaining from sex to Washington, D.C. teenage girls in a program called Best Friends, the UK Telegraph reported. He and his wife Alma tell the girls, “You are not ready for this, so let’s take your energy and any hopes and dreams you have and convert that into other healthy activities dance, group activities, other things.” Powell, speaking on MTV last year, became virtually the only figure in the Bush administration to push for condoms as part of a strategy to combat the AIDS pandemic. Bush and the Congress have restricted an enormous proportion of emergency funds for areas of the world devastated by AIDS to abstinence education spending.
The infamous Section 28, prohibiting UK schools from “promoting” homosexuality, was finally taken off the books this week. But in Kent, represented by new Conservative Party leader Michael Howard, the county council is keeping its strictures in its curricula, The Guardian reported. Howard has refused to criticize the anti-gay move.
Under the Thatcher-Era law, school libraries did not carry gay materials, gay websites were blocked on school computers (including at university), and, according to the paper, the Glydebourne Touring Opera was forced to abandon a production of “Death in Venice.” Invocation of the law also led to a reluctance to denounce anti-gay bullying in the schools.
One of the more absurd match-ups in the first day of debate after the Massachusetts same-sex marriage decision was between Rev. Jerry Falwell and comedienne Margaret Cho. While Ms. Cho is a known supporter of LGBT rights and Falwell isn’t, the decision by MSNBC’s “The Abrams Report” presided over by attorney Dan Abrams, raise questions over how seriously the show addressed a complex legal decision.
Nevertheless, Cho acquitted herself, while Falwell was reduced to warning about that the decision would create a rise in pedophilia cases.
Mayor Teresa Isaac of Lexington, Kentucky vetoed the Urban County Council’s 8-4 vote to terminate domestic partner benefits for employees that she had instituted by executive order. She cited the city’s gay rights law, passed in 1999. Council members have vowed to look for yet another way to thwart Isaac on the issue.
An Ohio man who served four months for gay cruising is suing the city of Warren for $10 million because the “importuning” law under which he was prosecuted was removed from the books before his arrest. Kevin Phillips, 21, was given a suspended sentence, a $600 fine, five years probation, and had to submit to “sex offender courses” and computer monitoring for one charge, the Gay People’s Chronicle of Cleveland reported.
He got four months in jail for another charge.
The importuning law, declared unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2002, made it a crime to proposition someone of the same sex.
The National Radio and TV Council of Greece fined Mega television 100,000 euros for showing a same-sex kiss on its “Close Your Eyes” drama program, branding it “vulgar and unacceptable.” About twenty LGBT folks staged a kiss-in outside the council’s offices, calling the media watchdog “despicable and racist.”
The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation has launched a $300,000 campaign to lure gay travelers to their city. The ads will include Ben Franklin flying a rainbow kite and Betsy Ross sewing a rainbow flag, Planet Out reported. Philadelphia joins cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Washington in reaching out to the gay market. New York has yet to engage in such a campaign.
Matthew Cusick was fired in July from his job performing with Cirque du Soleil because he is HIV positive, despite clearance by company doctors. Lambda Legal Defense, which is representing him in a suit against the circus, was set to be joined by San Francisco’s Stop AIDS Project and the National Association of People with AIDS at a protest outside Cirque’s November 20 “Alegria” show in San Francisco.
Eric Ciasullo of the San Francisco health department’s Return to Work Initiative said, “Cirque du Soleil’s discrimination represents every HIV-positive worker’s worst nightmare—that disclosing HIV status on the job will lead to discrimination, despite their employment experience, the wisdom of science and medicine, and the mandate of the law.”
The circus claims they fired Cusick “for safety reasons,” but, according to Lambda, company officials have not explained “how a highly trained gymnast could transmit HIV in such a heavily rehearsed and choreographed show.” Outraged patrons are demanding refunds for tickets they bought in advance.
Andy Humm is co-host, with Ann Northrop, of “Gay USA” on MNN-TV. It is seen Thursdays at 11 PM on Time-Warner 34 and RCN 109 in Manhattan, as well as on Free Speech TV for those who have DirecTV. It is simulcast at www.mnn.org.