Friday, March 15, 2013

Former Navy Petty Officer Brian Lewis Testifies Before Senate Committee He Was Told Not To Report Rape, Montana House Judiciary Committee Hears Senate Bill 107 Which Would Remove Language From Existing Statues Criminalizing Gay Sex, Fountain-Fort Carson Colorado School District 8 Responds To Discrimination Complaint Filed By Parents Of 6-Year-Old Transgender Child, Rediscovered 1959 British Play Could Be First Gay Television Drama, Prince Harry

After he was raped by a fellow Navy sailor, Brian Lewis wanted justice. What he got, the Baltimore man told a Senate panel Wednesday, was an order to keep quiet. When commanders learned of the attack, Lewis said, he was told not to report it to naval investigators. From his unit's lawyers, he said, there was "an eerie silence,” the former Navy petty officer adding, "At some point, it becomes about preservation of their own career, rather than helping me. There was no effective legal situation that I could access." Lewis, 33, was one of four former service members to testify before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on the challenges of reporting rape in the military, according to the Baltimore Sun. While the Pentagon professes a zero-tolerance approach toward sexual assault, witnesses told senators, victims still face a military justice system that may deepen their trauma with indifferent investigations, unexplained delays, biased commanders and arbitrary decisions — all of which can leave accusers isolated among their peers and vulnerable to retaliation. They called on Congress to move the process for reporting and prosecuting sexual assault from the victim's chain of command and into the hands of an independent prosecutor. "What we need is a military with a fair and impartial criminal justice system," said former Army Sgt. Rebekah Havrilla. "One that is run by professional and legal experts: not unit commanders." The hearing came after the controversial decision of an Air Force commander to reverse the sexual-assault conviction of a fellow fighter pilot. Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was found guilty by a court-martial last year in the attack on a civilian employee at Aviano Air Base in Italy. He was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service. But Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, overturned the conviction last month and ordered Wilkerson reinstated. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of that decision this week. But under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Franklin cannot be overruled. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who chaired the hearing Wednesday, called Franklin's decision "shocking,” adding, "We need to take a close look at our military justice system, and we need to be asking the hard questions, with all options on the table, including moving this issue outside of the chain of command. The case we have all read about at Aviano Air Base … should compel all of us to take the necessary action to ensure that justice is swift and certain, not rare and fleeting." While the Pentagon has strengthened efforts against sexual assault, devoting more time, money and personnel both to preventing and to prosecuting incidents, the problem persists.

In Montana, a House panel heard a measure Friday that would remove an obsolete state law that criminalizes gay sex by labeling it a deviate sexual behavior on par with bestiality. Senate Bill 107 seeks to remove that language from the existing statutes, reflecting a 1997 Montana Supreme Court ruling that said the law prohibiting gay sex is unconstitutional. The measure to strike the law has already passed the state Senate in a 39-11 vote, but now is before the House Judiciary Committee — the same panel that killed a similar bill in 2011. Bill sponsor Sen. Tom Facey (D-Missoula) said cutting the language would grant clarity to law enforcement officials in their attempt to both enforce the law and follow the court's ruling. Sen. Christine Kaufmann (D-Helena), who spoke in support of the bill on the Senate floor and in the committee, called the existing statute unconstitutional and obsolete. The words "are only there to remind people that we are indeed second-class citizens, that we are unworthy, that Montana is not a welcoming place for us, that we are despised," said Kaufmann, who is a lesbian, reports the Associated Press. But opponents argued the measure goes against Montana's values, and said the Montana Supreme Court disregarded those values in its ruling in the 1997 case Gryczen v. Montana. Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Laszloffy said the measure is not a simple "cleanup bill" but a vital component to one of the greatest moral debates of the last 20 years. Lawmakers should allow the debate to be "settled outside the walls of the Capitol," he said. "We haven't come to grips with who we want to be as a people," he said. Other opponents echoed Laszloffy's concerns. Dallas Erickson of the group Montana Citizens for Decency Through Law said he "dreads that we are slouching toward Gomorrah." Linda Gryczen, the plaintiff from the case that struck down the law as unconstitutional, said she has been testifying about this issue since 1989. She said the existing statute is a violation of privacy and echoed many proponents' beliefs that the government shouldn't interfere with the activities of consenting adults in the bedroom. Opponents also said they were concerned about being able to prosecute criminals in child molestation cases. Montana County Attorney Association Representative Mark Murphy said cases of child molestation are prosecuted under Jessica's Law — a statute that dictates strict penalties for perpetrators — and passage of SB107 bill wouldn't affect the prosecution of child molesters. The committee didn't take immediate action on the bill.

In Colorado, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 has responded to a discrimination complaint filed by parents of a transgender child who has been denied access to a girl’s bathroom at her elementary school. The district filed the legal document with the Colorado Civil Rights Division ahead of a March 17 deadline. Kelly Dude, an attorney for D-8, said Friday he would not provide details of the response. “The parents chose this forum and that’s where we are going to have it resolved,” Dude said. “There is no point arguing it in the media.” The New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund attorneys received a copy of the document from the commission Friday. Officials there said they had not gone through it in detail. “In their conclusion, they said that the state law was not clear. There is nothing unclear about it,” Michael Silverman, a fund attorney, said of the district’s response, reports the Colorado Springs Gazette. Fund attorneys filed a complaint February 15 with the Colorado Civil Rights Division on behalf of Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, claiming the district discriminated against their daughter, Coy. Barring the first-grader from the girls’ bathroom at Eagleside Elementary School targets her for stigma, bullying and harassment, they said. The parents now have 30 days to respond to district’s filing with the commission. “We are going to do it quickly because we want Coy to get back in school,” Silverman said. Six-year-old Coy is being home-schooled this semester. The district has maintained that Coy was not denied access to educational services and officials will allow her to use the boys’ bathroom, a staff bathroom or the nurse’s bathroom, which is open to children who are ill. Coy was born a boy, but as soon as she was able to express herself, at around 18 months, she thought of herself as a girl, her parents said. The state law regarding transgender civil rights was passed by the General Assembly in 2008.

It involves a dashing Polish army lieutenant exiled in the United States deep south as civil war approaches and the question of who he really loves: the plantation owner's angry niece, Miss Regina, or the tall, blond, rugged officer who arrives suddenly – a handsome man called Eric MacClure. The television play is heady, emotional stuff tackling issues of race as well as sexuality and that it was broadcast by ITV on a winter's night 54 years ago is nothing short of remarkable. The BFI now believes the newly rediscovered production is the earliest known gay TV drama. The Guardian reports that South, adapted by Gerald Savory from an original play by Julien Green and screened on November 24 1959, "is a milestone" in gay cultural history, said the BFI curator Simon McCallum. He added that its leading man, Peter Wyngarde, deserved particular praise. "I think you have to give Wyngarde a massive pat on the back in terms of the bravery in taking this role. There were quite bad reactions from some of the press." They included this breezily offensive review from the Daily Sketch's critic: "I do NOT see anything attractive in the agonies and ecstasies of a pervert, especially in close-up in my living room. This is not prudishness. There are some indecencies in life that are best left covered up." To be fair, that was the prevailing attitude in Britain with homosexual acts between men still illegal, although the Wolfenden report in 1957 had recommended decriminalization, something that would not happen until 1967. Its discovery has taken curators aback because the 1961 film Victim, with Dirk Bogarde as a barrister taking on blackmailers, is normally held up as the milestone for gay representation on film and TV. South, made by Granada, is two years before it. The film will be seen for the first time in a generation at the BFI's 27th London lesbian and gay film festival on Saturday and Sunday. "For many years it just wasn't known that this film existed other than to a few specialist researchers," said McCallum. "We're so glad to be able to show it at the festival because it's part of all our heritage, really." South holds up well to a contemporary viewer, exploring universal themes of alienation and otherness. "The play is about north versus south, black versus white, straight versus gay," said McCallum. There are some extremely moving scenes involving Wyngarde as Lieutenant Jan Wicziewsky, including one where he pours his heart out to the admittedly confused Jimmy, the young son of the plantation owner. "You know, Jimmy, odd times, freedom of will is a crushing weight and it's not always possible to choose. I'm in love Jimmy, as no human being was ever in love before," he says to the bewildered boy. "It's better not to know what men are thinking, it's almost always sad or shameful. I'm not ashamed, but I am alone. Hopelessly alone." The object of his love is MacClure, a handsome army officer played by Graydon Gould who has just arrived at the plantation. "By today's standards it is all quite implicit, it is not explicit," said McCallum. "But it is pretty extraordinary – it all builds up in this pressure cooker atmosphere with war clouds looming in the background." The discovery of South was made as part of the BFI's continuing research into the history of gay representation on screen. Researchers are not able to watch everything in the archive and are often alerted by listings in the Radio Times which will hint at something interesting, that there may be a subtext. In this case there was a hint that there was something not quite right about the main character and the fact that he was played by Wyngarde also set bells ringing because we now know he was in a long-term relationship with the actor Alan Bates. None of that was known at the time, with Wyngarde going on to be a star and housewives' favourite from 1969 as Jason King, an agent in the secretive Department S. With his handlebar moustache, enormous hair and largely unbuttoned shirt, King was the ultimate ladies' man and was one of the inspirations for Mike Myers's Austin Powers nearly 30 years later. Although it was well-known in the acting world that Wyngarde was gay – he had the nickname Petunia Winegum – it was a closely guarded secret to the general public. "Watching it does remind you how brave he was at the time to take this role and the way the subject is dealt with is incredibly brave," said McCallum. The discovery was "very exciting" and South becomes the earliest known British gay television play. Whether it is the first is hard to say since so much of the television output from the 1950s and early 60s does not survive. Often live shows were not recorded or if they were, they were later wiped. "We are incredibly lucky that this one survives." Given that South was live, it is remarkably slick with only a few stumbles over lines and only one panicked stagehand trying desperately to get out of shot. After South there was very little gay representation on TV for most of the 1960s with a few notable exceptions. ITV's This Week screened a documentary, Homosexuals, in 1964, followed by Lesbians in 1965. The most significant drama was a BBC Wednesday Play called Horror of Darkness, starring Nicol Williamson and Glenda Jackson, which was made in 1964 but not broadcast until 1965 because of concerns over its gay theme. It was left to British new wave movies to try to break boundaries with films such as Victim, The Servant and The L-Shaped Room. After the festival screenings, South will become available to watch for nothing from next month at the BFI's mediatheques in Glasgow, Newcastle, Wrexham, Cambridge, Derby and London.

A really red-faced Prince Harry and an unidentified hot male have a run-in of sorts, angering one of the royal red-head’s bodyguards.

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