Saturday, January 11, 2014

Victoria To Become First Australian State To Expunge Records Of Men Convicted Of Engaging In Gay Sex Before Homosexuality Was Decriminalized In 1981, Tel Aviv Take Suspects Into Custody After Anti-Gay Attack, Gay Rights And AIDS Activists Carl Goodman Dies, Indiana House Republicans Introduce Confusing Companion Measure To Constitutional Amendment Banning Same Sex Marriage Ahead Of Hearing Monday, Despite Newly Enacted Law El Rancho High School In Pico Rivera California Suspends Transgender Student For Dress Code Violation

In Australia, Victoria will become the first state to erase the criminal records of men who were previously convicted for having gay sex, in a long-awaited shift by the state government. With ten months before the election, Denis Napthine will announce the policy on Sunday, when he becomes the first premier to launch Midsumma, Melbourne's annual gay and lesbian festival. The move will end decades of anxiety for countless men who were prosecuted before homosexuality was decriminalized in Victoria in 1981. Before decriminalisation, men who had consensual sex with other men were convicted of crimes such as "buggery" and "gross indecency with a male person," restricting them from travelling, volunteering or applying for jobs such as teaching. With at least 100,000 people expected to attend Sunday's event, Dr Napthine will tell the crowd that "these convictions have been allowed to stand for far too long" and had stigmatised many people who had been forced to live with the burden of a criminal record. "It is now accepted that consensual acts between two adult men should have never been a crime," Dr Napthine said. "The Liberal government, led by Sir Rupert Hamer, recognised this and decriminalized homosexual sex in the 1980s. We also recognize the social and psychological impacts that have been experienced by those who have historical convictions for acts which would no longer be a crime under today's law." The changes follow similar laws recently introduced in Britain by David Cameron's Conservative government, which allow an estimated 16,000 convictions to be wiped from police records. In Victoria, legislation will be introduced this year, paving the way for a showdown between the state Coalition and Labor over the so-called "pink vote," particularly in electorates such as Prahran and Albert Park. Under the policy, anyone with a historical conviction for an offence relating to homosexual acts would be able to apply to have their conviction expunged, provided the offence is not a crime under current legislation. The application would then be reviewed to ensure the offence related to consensual sex with a person of legal age. If determined the offence was no longer a crime under existing law, the record would be wiped clean. Convictions for non-consensual sex or sex with a minor will remain. While there is little public data about the number of arrests and prosecutions that took place before homosexuality was decriminalized, experts believe thousands of convictions could have taken place given the era - a time when gays were often "witch-hunted" or entrapped by police. Melbourne author Noel Tovey was one of the men convicted of having gay sex - or "the abominable act of buggery" as the offence was then called - in 1951, when he was 17. The former indigenous dancer was arrested after police raided a party in the Albert Park home of the female impersonator Max Du Barry. Tovey, now 79, says he was coerced into confessing that he had sex with Du Barry (which he says was not true), spent months in Pentridge Prison awaiting a trial before being released with a good behaviour bond, and has lived with the stigma of a criminal record ever since. While he was able to change his name and embark on a successful international career in theatre - he was raised as Noel Morton before learning the name on his birth certificate was Tovey, after his father - he admits other gay men weren't so lucky. "People went into hiding. It would have wrecked their lives," Tovey told the Sunday Age from his home in Hawthorn last week. ''For me, [the government's announcement] is very positive … recognition being gay is OK.'' The changes have been welcomed by activists and human rights groups, but will come as a surprise to some given Dr Napthine's traditional views on same sex marriage (he does not support it). It is also the first time a premier has launched the Midsumma festival in its 26-year history. Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews has already promised to expunge historic gay sex convictions if he wins government at this year's November poll. Within Coalition ranks, Prahran MP Clem Newton-Brown has been lobbying Attorney-General Robert Clark for two years to change the law. "At first I thought this might be a good symbolic gesture, however, after talking with Noel it became apparent that these convictions continue to impact on the lives of these men. Most have kept their convictions secret and the mental health impacts are enormous,"Mr Newton-Brown said. Human Rights Law Centre director Anna Brown said it was "extremely pleasing to see the … government showing leadership on this issue." Labor spokesman Martin Foley welcomed changing the law, but said "it sits uncomfortably" with Dr Napthine's "long-held opposition" to gay rights.

In Israel, a group of gay men was accosted early Saturday in Tel Aviv, with the three main attackers now under house arrest and likely to be charged with assault, police said. At about 2:00 am Moshiko Hadad, 29, and several friends were walking to a party at the Ha’uman 17 club in south Tel Aviv. When they reached Shtulim Street, local youths looked at them threateningly, Hadad said. “It was a group of about 10 young people who looked like they were looking for trouble,” he said. “We passed them and they noticed that two guys in our group were holding hands, and they called us ‘disgusting,’ ‘stinking’ and ‘homos.’” Hadad said he and his friends tried to hurry away, but the youths caught up. “They made a circle around us and cursed at us. One of them took a drink that my friend was holding and just poured it all over him,” Hadad said. “We were in shock; we didn’t move or say anything, and I suddenly felt a punch from the side. It was a harsh blow, and three of them kicked me in the back without stopping.” Hadad said he and his friends refused to get drawn into a fight, and eventually the youths stopped pummeling him. Hadad ran off and hid behind a bush, from where he called the police. He said the first patrol car came in a few minutes. “We went to the station with them and filed a complaint,” Hadad said, adding that he received medical treatment at a hospital and was released.

In Rhode Island, Carl Goodman, 58, of Bristol, an early activist in the gay-rights and AIDS movements, died Sunday in a fall from the Mount Hope Bridge. When living in Portland, Oregon, in the 1980s, Goodman founded a chapter of Act Up, a national movement that used protest tactics to draw attention to gay issues, Michael Petrelis of San Francisco, a friend and co-founder of the chapter, said Thursday. Petrelis said Goodman confronted Bill Clinton when Clinton was governor of Arkansas and a candidate for president, and persuaded Clinton to denounce Arkansas’s anti-sodomy law, which was later repealed. Wayne Harris, another activist, who lives in Portland, said, “I was completely shocked but not surprised” at the news of Goodman’s death. Goodman’s husband, Mario Cavero, could not be reached. “Carl and I met in 1986, the BC era — before cocktails of AIDS drugs,” Petrelis recalled. He said the Arkansas law “had been on books for years, and no one had ever asked Clinton to explain his silence when the law got enacted. Carl reminded him it was not only gay-specific, but bestiality-specific too. In terms of horrible sodomy laws, that was at the top of the list.” He described Goodman, a paralegal, as “a street activist who did his homework.” Harris said he met Goodman in 1988 when he came to Portland to be office manager of a political campaign fighting an anti-gay ballot measure there. Harris was a fulltime volunteer in the campaign. He described Goodman as “gregarious, positive, outgoing, generous.” He was, Harris said, “a lover of Broadway and was untiring in his work for civil rights and equality for lesbians and gays. He worked on that issue all of his life.” Goodman’s origins were not immediately clear. Harris said he thought Goodman was born in New Jersey. It was also not immediately apparent how long he had lived in Rhode Island, a period given variously as one or two years. Harris described Act Up Portland as “an AIDS coalition to unleash power, a direct-action protest group.” He said that the then-editor of the Portland Oregonian newspaper refused to print news releases from that state’s Department of Health that urged condom use to prevent AIDS transmission. He said their campaign to change the editor’s mind was unsuccessful. “I don’t know whether that has changed in the intervening 25 years,” he said. “We thought it was a bit ridiculous. “Carl was always three steps ahead of the national gay-liberation establishment. When Clinton ran for president the national movement was just saying, ‘Don’t get Clinton to say anything.’ Carl was ‘No, no, no — you’ve got to put Clinton’s feet to the fire and make him take positions now.’ He organized a trip to Arkansas to get Clinton to renounce the Arkansas sodomy law. The national leadership thought those kinds of pressure tactics were inappropriate. Carl ignored them. His strategy was embraced in later years with the marriage-equality movement.” Harris said Goodman moved around the country over the years, living variously in Seattle, Portland and New York. Charles Hinkle, a Portland lawyer who has been active in gay-rights cases, met Goodman in the 1970s, when Goodman was active in a lobbying organization that sought to influence the state legislature in gay civil-rights matters. Hinkle said Goodman had been part of the Class of 1978 at Williams College, but dropped out before getting a degree. He later obtained a law degree from the New School in San Francisco. “Carl was an extraordinarily witty, effervescent person,” Hinkle said. “He could light up the room with his smile and often did. “He was a real contributor to the community and to his many friends. … It was hard when you were with Carl not to have a good time, but behind the curtains he had struggled with depression for quite a long time.” There was no announcement of funeral plans.

In Indiana, the fiery debate over a state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage is headed for a hearing Monday, but an effort by Republican lawmakers to quell some concerns about the measure could further muddy the issue. After months of lying low on the proposal, House Republicans filed a resolution Thursday that would send the amendment to voters in November. But they also introduced a wild card: a companion measure, House Bill 1153, that seeks to clarify the amendment's intent. The companion bill states that the amendment is not intended to deny employer health benefits to same sex couples or to circumvent local ordinances that forbid discrimination. Supporters, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, say the companion bill should put to rest many of the concerns raised by opponents. "This is intended to clarify — for the public, but also for the courts and the opposition — what this amendment does," Long said. But legal experts say it opens up a Pandora's box of legal questions if the same sex marriage ban is passed and later challenged in court, as it almost certainly will be. Jennifer Drobac, an Indiana University McKinney School of Law professor who has followed the same sex marriage issue nationally, believes the bill really complicates the amendment's passage and potential challenges. "If this is a clarification of a constitutional amendment, it has to go through the same process that the constitutional amendment goes through," she said. "How can this companion bill change the constitution, if this bill hasn't been passed by the voters or gone through two legislatures?" In Indiana, a constitutional amendment needs to pass two separately-elected General Assemblies and then be approved by a majority of voters in a public referendum before becoming a part of the constitution. Lawmakers already approved the amendment by wide margins in 2011 without any companion bill. Introducing one now is "not valid," Drobac said. "Their intentions may be quite noble, but this creates a huge amount of confusion." The companion bill is the latest twist in the debate, which has made Indiana ground zero for the national debate over gay marriage. Seventeen states, including Illinois, have granted same-sex marriage rights, as has the District of Columbia. But 29 states ban gay marriage in their constitutions. Indiana is among four states that have bans only in state law. Indiana's proposed amendment, now called House Joint Resolution 3, is being sponsored by Republican Reps. Eric Turner of Cicero; Tim Wesco, Osceola; Wes Culver, Goshen and Rhonda Rhoads, Corydon. Turner is also taking the lead on the companion legislation. "Indiana is one of four states to only have statutory language with no constitutional protection," he said in an emailed statement. "As we have seen as recently as the past few weeks, not having a constitutional protection makes our state susceptible to judicial interpretation. We have been debating this in Indiana since 2004. It is time to put this debate to rest and allow Hoosier voters the opportunity to decide." Despite the clarifying language he introduced Thursday, confusion about the amendment continued to persist — even among his fellow Republicans. House Speaker Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said the new bill made it clear that civil unions would be prohibited by the amendment, but his counterpart in the Senate wasn't so sure. "I'm not sure I can say definitively civil unions wouldn't occur under this language," said Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R-Fort Wayne). Gerard Magliocca, constitutional law expert and law professor at Indiana University- Purdue University Indianapolis, said courts could take into account the legislature's intent, but ultimately are not bound to follow it. The amendment and its companion bill will go to the 13-member House Judiciary Committee for a hearing at 10:00 am Monday in the Indiana House chambers at the Statehouse. It's the same committee that heard testimony in 2011, when lawmakers first passed the amendment. In 2011, seven current committee members voted for the amendment when it reached the House floor. Three voted against it, and three others were not in the legislature at that time. Committee Chairman Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) said he planned to limit testimony Monday to 2½ hours and to hold a vote at the hearing's conclusion. If approved, the amendment would move to the full House for a vote. Democratic leaders, in the minority in both chambers, have repeatedly asked to no avail that the measure be tabled because they believe it's too divisive an issue. "Now it's also confusing," House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said of complications that could be posed by the companion bill. "This is more evidence of why we need to set it aside." Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, a coalition fighting the amendment, agreed. "You're admitting there's a problem with the amendment," said Megan Robertson, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, a coalition fighting the proposal. "They are playing political games with the state constitution." Legal experts echoed some of those concerns. Drobac, the IU law professor, questioned why lawmakers in support of the ban needed to tack on an extra bill if their previous claims that the amendment would not affect issues like domestic partner benefits were true. "This is bad lawmaking. These lawmakers should know what they're doing," she said.

In California, from the time she started going to school, Staceyy Holidayy has been teased by students, and some adults, for being who she is. Now in high school, the harassment and bullying has not changed. Born as a male and christened Roberto Valencia,Holidayy is a transgender youth trying to live her life as she wants, which means wearing make-up, feminine clothing and acting like any other teen girl. Unfortunately, her bold stance has caused trouble among her peers and school officials. “When she was in elementary school, she loved to dance, but other kids would make fun of her,” said longtime neighbor Elizabeth Galvan,whose daughter, Crystal, attends El Rancho with Holidayy. On Wednesday, Holidayy was given a two-day suspension by school officials for not adhering to the school’s dress code for female students. “I don’t know how they can suspend me because I broke rules for girls when I can’t use the girls restroom or locker room,” she said Friday at her home. El Rancho Unified School District Superintendent Martin Galindo disputed that claim. “Staceyy was suspended for not changing out of her partially backless top,” he explained. “She was given multiple chances to change but refused.” The back of the blouse had slits cut into the material that ran diagonally across it, exposing a portion of Holiday’s upper and lower back, as well an under garment. The teen, who was voted sophomore homecoming princess, admitted she purposefully wore to top to get a response from school officials. “I have been getting mixed signals from them for a long time, treating me like a girl in certain stuff and a boy in other stuff,” she said. Although last year she dressed as a male, wearing mascara, Holidayy, decided it was time to dress the way she felt inside — female. “If she had changed her top, she would not have been suspended,” Galindo said. He explained that school officials concluded that it would be safer for Holidayy, who chose to use the double y’s in her first and last names because she wanted her female moniker to be unique, to change for P.E. class in the nurse’s office, as well as use the office’s restroom. The two parties disagree on Holidayy’s acceptance of that practice. Galindo said she agreed to the arrangement, while Holidayy said she had no choice but to do so. “It made me feel bad and different using the nurse’s office,” she said. “We make sure she is allowed to change in the girls locker room,” Galindo said. He added El Rancho has adhered to AB1266, which states that public K-12 schools must allow transgender students choose which restrooms they use and which school teams they join based on their gender identity instead of their chromosomes. “The district,” he continued, “has a strong anti-bullying program, which addresses sexual orientation, but at the present time does not specifically mention transgender students.” The ERUSD school board is scheduled to take up the matter in February. As for Holidayy, she will be on school Monday, hoping things will be better.“I just want things to change, to get better,” she said.

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