High school for gays proposed in Chicago

uring the past two years, Sarah Wurtz, an out lesbian at Lakeview High School, has learned to weather the jeers and stares of students and teachers with a sense of resignation. "I don't like people looking at us like we're doing something completely wrong," said Wurtz, 17, whose girlfriend also attends the school. "I always feel more comfortable when I'm with people who accept it or are like me." If she were to get her wish, it might look something like a proposed high school that would welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and sexually questioning students—groups that supporters say often face violence and harassment at school. But the plan isn't likely to become a reality before 2012, and that's only if it passes through the bevy of criticism it faces from both sides of the political spectrum. Conservatives say the Social Justice High School-Pride Campus would be a misuse of public funds and require administrators to take a moral stance on homosexuality, a judgment well above their pay grade. Even some gay rights advocates argue that isolating the gay and lesbian population from the mainstream would be damaging and prevent different groups of students from learning to interact. "If we're going to set up a separate school, let's put the bullies in the school and not our gay kids," said Rick Garcia, public policy director of Equality Illinois, the state's largest gay rights group. "Kids should be able to go to school in a safe environment wherever they are." The plan comes from the people who run the Greater Lawndale Little Village High School for Social Justice. They say the new campus would be open to all students, but would especially seek to foster a violence-free atmosphere for students who are often targeted for their sexual identities. The school proposal is in the early stages. A public hearing is set for Sept. 18, and the proposal requires approval by an evaluation team and then Chicago Public Schools Chief Arne Duncan before it goes before the school board. Read the full story from the Chicago Tribune.

Analysis confirms AIDS hits men hard

AIDS remains largely a disease of gay and bisexual men in the United States but also disproportionately infects black women, according to an analysis published on Thursday. Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 56,000 people in the United States become newly infected with the human immunodeficiency virus each year, far more than previous estimates of about 40,000. Now the CDC has further analyzed those numbers to find the fatal and incurable virus largely infects men who have sex with men, or MSM -- a group that includes gays, bisexuals and men who may have the occasional sexual encounter with other men. "The male-to-male sexual contact transmission category represented 72 percent of new infections among males, including 81 percent of new infections among whites, 63 percent among blacks, and 72 percent among Hispanics," the report said. Of the new infections in 2006, more than half were among gay and bisexual men, the CDC found. Of these, 46 percent of new infections were among whites, 35 percent among blacks and 19 percent in Hispanics. But among the overall U.S. population, more blacks are affected -- 46 percent of new infections were among blacks. Read the full story from Reuters.

Atlanta Pride searches for festival site

With a decision on Piedmont Park’s availability to host Atlanta Pride and other large-scale festivals not due until the fall, the Atlanta Pride Committee is scrutinizing any venue with room enough to host the estimated 300,000 people who attend over a three-day weekend. Pride organizers said they will create a short list of possible locations in late September or early October. The Pride Committee will announce the new venue on or before Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day. After being barred from its traditional home in Piedmont Park in January because of drought concerns, Pride lost more than $160,000 in 2008 in the scramble to find a new venue and line up sponsors on short notice. Organizers credit the late timing, rather than its location at the Atlanta Civic Center over July 4th weekend, for the losses. But they are opening the floor for new venues. Pride Board Chair Deirdre Heffernan and former festival director Jennifer Sheffield, who is a member of the venue selection committee, said they are looking at every location in the Atlanta metro area with the capacity to host 300,000 people over three days. “One of the things we have to look at is that we bring a significant number of people from outside the metro area to our event, and there has to be access to hotels, there has to be access to the airport, it has to be within reason,” Sheffield said. Possibilities could include 10th Street at Grady High School, the Atlanta Civic Center, Atlantic Station, Centennial Olympic Park, Jim R. Miller Park in Cobb County, the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, the Georgia World Congress Center, the Georgia International Convention Center, Stone Mountain and Piedmont Park. Read the full story from Southern Voice.

HIV-positive teacher sues school for wrongful firing

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is filing a suit against a Maryland school for allegedly firing a teacher because he is HIV positive. Chauncey Stevenson, who taught second grade and after school music classes at Chesapeake Academy in Arnold, had been employed from 2003-2006 and received good evaluations from supervisors, reports the Baltimore Sun. His contract was not renewed for the 2006-2007 school year, which caused him to file a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC filed the suit on after no settlement was made with the school. "They were advised that he was HIV-positive and he was fired, despite the fact that he wanted to come back to work," EEOC attorney Jacqueline H. McNair told the Sun. "He was a good teacher and well-liked." The EEOC says Chesapeake Academy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which defines HIV as a disability, therefore making it unlawful to wrongfully terminate someone with the virus. Read the full story from the Advocate.

Drag star dies during Dallas performance

Before she hit the stage, Ilene Alloverya told Donna Dumae that she had a dramatic performance in store. It was the last number of Dumae’s 12th annual "Friends Helping Friends" fundraiser for AIDS Services of Dallas held last Sunday, Aug. 31 at the Dallas Eagle. At one point during her "Nobody Does It Like Me" number, Alloverya crawled across the floor to accept a tip from Dumae. "During the song, he threw out his arms and then just dropped to the floor. It was incredible. At first, I laughed, thinking ’Oh Ilene, you were right. That certainly was dramatic,’" remembers Don Jenkins (a.k.a. Donna Dumae). But then Ilene Alloverya didn’t move. So Jenkins hit the stage yelling, "Ilene!" Others in the audience rushed the stage, too. A registered nurse began cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and Eagle owner JD Buchert began mouth-to-mouth, Jenkins remembers, "But it was too late." "It appears he suffered a massive coronary arrest," Jenkins says. Chip Doran (a.k.a. Ilene Alloverya) was 55 years old - a retiree and former Dallasite who relocated to Austin and drove to Dallas for the Labor Day weekend fundraiser. The United Court of the Lone Star Empire, a 30-year-old volunteer organization that raises money for Dallas charities, organizes "Friends Helping Friends." Read the full story from Edge Boston.

Obama pledges ‘equality for all’

Editor’s note: Barack Obama’s presidential campaign this week agreed to respond in writing to a series of questions submitted by William R. Kapfer, co-president of Window Media, the Blade’s parent company. Washington Blade: What personal experiences or friendships in your life have shaped how you view gay issues? Barack Obama: Michelle and I have been blessed with many openly gay and lesbian friends and colleagues whom we have been close to for many years. While that fact has made the issue facing the LGBT community more personal, the fundamental reasons I have for supporting equality are greater than any individual. I am running for President because I believe that we as a nation need change. We need to end the divisive politics of George W. Bush and pursue policies that treat all of us, regardless of identity or background, with dignity, equality and respect. Blade: Do you have any role models who are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? Obama: A college professor of mine helped me to see the lives of LGBT people from a different perspective. He was the first openly gay professor that I had ever come in contact with, or openly gay person of authority that I had come in contact with. And he was just a terrific guy. His comfort in his own skin and the friendship we developed helped to educate me on a number of these issues. Blade: Would you decline to nominate a qualified Supreme Court justice, cabinet member or other appointed position just because the person is openly gay? Obama: No. If elected, my appointments will be made on the actual qualifications of the candidates for office, and nothing else. In my administration, my first criteria will be competence and capability. Read the full story from the Washington Blade.

CNN reporter returns to airwaves

imageIt took a fire in the tunnel under the English Channel for me to notice, but Richard Quest is back on the air. The gay CNN reporter was busted after being spotted in New York's Central Park after closing time. He was carrying meth and quickly entered rehab after his arrest. He apparently emerged two months later and rejoined CNN in London earlier this summer and returned to his duties hosting "Business Traveller." But Quest is also back in larger circulation on CNN, reporting live from Spain this morning during coverage of the Chunnel fire. It appears his tough times are now behind him.

McCain offers tribute to Mark Bingham

imageIn this day of ceremonies marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Sen. John McCain invoked the memory of Mark Bingham during an event this morning. Speaking in Shanksville, Penn., McCain called attention to the role the gay rugby player had in attempting to thwart the takeover of United Airlines Flight 93 before it crashed. McCain spoke for 90 seconds and his comments were carried live on CNN. "The only means we possess to thank them is to try to be as good an American as they were. We might fall well short of their standard, but there is honor in the effort," McCain said. "May god bless their souls.” There's more, including McCain's eulogy for Bingham in 2001, after the jump.

McCain offers tribute to Mark Bingham

imageIn this day of ceremonies marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Sen. John McCain invoked the memory of Mark Bingham during an event this morning. Speaking in Shanksville, Penn., McCain called attention to the role the gay rugby player had in attempting to thwart the takeover of United Airlines Flight 93 before it crashed. McCain spoke for 90 seconds and his comments were carried live on CNN. "The only means we possess to thank them is to try to be as good an American as they were. We might fall well short of their standard, but there is honor in the effort," McCain said. "May god bless their souls.” There's more, including McCain's eulogy for Bingham in 2001, after the jump.

Soulforce to ride into Atlanta

imageA week into its launch, the 2008 Soulforce Equality Ride will make its way to Atlanta and two historically black colleges. The upcoming ride, a youth-organized bus tour to faith-based colleges, opens Oct. 1 with a stop at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., before making its way to Columbia, S.C. and then to Morehouse College on Oct. 9 and Spelman College a day later as part of a 15-stop schedule across 11 states in the south.

Unsafe sex ‘big threat’ for gay men in China

The incidence of HIV/AIDS among Beijing's drug users is in decline but the city's gay community remains the most at-risk group, a local health official said on Friday. He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing center for disease control and prevention (CDC), said that based on figures for the first seven months, 1.5 percent of the city's drug users are HIV positive, compared with 5 percent in 2001. In comparison, 5 percent of gay men in the capital are HIV positive, while 0.5 percent of unlicensed prostitutes are infected with the virus, He said, without giving figures for 2001. "More than 43 percent of all newly reported cases are attributed to people having unprotected sex, and gay men are the most at risk," he said. Research carried out over the past three years has shown that less than 50 percent of gay men use condoms, so promoting better health awareness among them is a major task, he said. During the first seven months of the year, 563 new HIV cases were reported in Beijing, 118 of which involved local people and the rest migrant workers, He said. Read the full story from China Daily.

Paper says ‘No way’ to ‘So gay’ Broadway

When Michael Bailey set out to place small classified-type advertising for his company’s new production and its casting calls, he hardly thought he’d soon find himself embroiled in a controversy over “community concerns.” The production, “Naked Boys Singing,” has been well-received internationally and at home, after being performed on and off Broadway for a decade. “Naked Boys” has also caused controversy due to the production’s nudity and gay content. On Aug. 15, Bailey’s company, MBF Productions, paid for online list advertising for “Naked Boys Singing” casting calls in the general announcements section of The State newspaper’s website. On Aug. 19, MBF received notice their ad had been canceled. “We have canceled both your ads and issued you a full refund,” wrote The State’s Michael Dudash in a support email to MBF. “Because of the nature of the content, we cannot run these ads. Thank you!” The ad read, “Auditions for Naked Boys Singing will be at the Ramada Limited, Monday & Tuesday, August 25 & 26, 2008 7 PM - 10 PM. Ramada Limited, 1315 Garner Lane. This is Broad River Road at I-20, Exit 65. South side of Interstate. Auditions will be clothed as will be most of the rehearsals. CAST: Roles are available for 10 males ages 18 to 32 in good physical condition. Looking for average-Joe types that can physically sing and dance. visit our website for full info.” Read the full story from Q Notes.

Voters in three states face marriage vote

With same-sex marriage bans on the ballot in three high-profile states in November, presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama could find themselves stuck in a fight they'd rather avoid. California, Arizona and Florida will ask voters to approve constitutional amendments limiting marriage to a man and woman, and the high-priced election clash over the issue could help decide who becomes the nation's next president. Polls show Obama and McCain running neck and neck in much of the nation, which means that any issue that could bring out voters in a swing state such as Florida has to be taken seriously by both parties. But with the economy, the war in Iraq and health care drawing the most attention in the race for president, same-sex marriage isn't a battleground either candidate would choose, said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. "Both men need to appeal to moderates," he said. "And neither candidate seems comfortable talking about this." Read the full story from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Fla. judge rules against adoption ban

A Monroe Circuit Court judge has ruled Florida's 31-year-old gay adoption ban unconstitutional in an order that allows an openly gay Key West foster parent to adopt a teenage boy he has raised since 2001. Declaring the adoption to be in the boy's "best interest", circuit judge David J Audlin Jr, said the Florida law forbidding gays and lesbians from adopting children is contrary to the state constitution because it singles out a group for punishment. Florida is one of only two states - including Mississippi - that forbid gay people from adopting children. Read the full story from the Guardian.

Black govs leaders in marriage equality

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and New York governor David Paterson have more than a few things in common. Of course, there’s the obvious: Both men are handsome, charismatic, and in their 50s. Both are the first black governors of their states—and only the second and third nationwide since Reconstruction. But less obvious -- at least to the average voter -- is their similar dedication to pro-gay politics. Unlike his antigay Republican predecessor, Mitt Romney, Patrick has continually flexed his political muscle to ensure all of his constituents are treated equally. “In Massachusetts equal means equal,” he said in late July when he signed legislation that allows out-of-state gay couples to wed in Massachusetts. This repealed an obscure, 95-year-old law Romney had enforced to ensure that Massachusetts, as he explained, would not become the “Las Vegas of same-sex marriage.” Paterson is just as impressive. A soft-spoken, legally blind politico, who represented Harlem in the state senate for two decades before becoming New York’s lieutenant governor in 2006, he’s been a staunch ally and ahead of the curve on gay issues. One of Paterson’s first major acts, after becoming governor in March, was ordering all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions. The New York Times remarked that Paterson has become “something of a celebrity” since making that decision, noting he received “a hero’s welcome” while marching in New York City’s gay pride parade this June. Think about it. Of the 50 men and women who occupy governor’s mansions in the United States, only two are black. And these two black men are arguably the most gay-friendly to ever be governor -- including New Jersey’s Jim McGreevey, who came around to gay rights only after coming out and leaving office. Read the full story from the Advocate.

Hope dims for Pride’s return to Piedmont Park

image As if the Atlanta Pride Festival needed any more bad news. Mired in six-figure losses from the event last July, festival organizers were doused this week with more bad news: Piedmont Park's efforts to find an underground source of water fell flat -- again.

Piedmont Park comes up dry — again

Piedmont Park's efforts to find an underground water source failed -- again. That doesn't bode well for the crown jewel of Atlanta's park system or the large-scale events like the Atlanta Pride Festival that suffered when they were forced out.

N.C. man pleads guilty to HIV exposure

image A gay, 23-year-old man received a suspended 45-day jail sentence, 30 months of probation and a $300 fine, plus court costs, after pleading guilty Aug. 22 to charges stemming from violations of North Carolina’s public health laws relating to the spread of HIV. Joshua Waldon Weaver, a DJ at clubs in Raleigh and Wilmington, was accused of failing to use a condom and failure to notify sexual partners of his HIV-positive status. According to filing documents, the offenses occurred from Aug. 1, 2006 to the time of the charges. The victim in the case was not named and the defendant’s boyfriend at the time of the proceeding made no statement to the press. In April, Weaver was arrested and charged with the crimes, which are regulated under North Carolina Administrative Code 10-41 and North Carolina General Statute 130A-144(f). The laws address control measures regarding the spread of HIV and require those with communicable diseases — including other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis and tuberculosis — to comply with measures intended to curb their proliferation. Read the full story from Q Notes. There's also video from WRAL in Raleigh.

HIV-positive man fired by McDonald’s

An Iowa gay man says he was fired by a McDonald’s franchise in Dyersville after it was learned he was HIV-positive. Daniel Carver, 46, has filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and has served notice to the franchise that he intends to sue for wrongful dismissal. Federal law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of physical disability, which includes HIV. Under Iowa state law it is illegal to discriminate against an employee because of race, religion, perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Carver worked for the franchise for about four months, but was fired in February. Read the full story from

Kisses, equality, H&M, the slammer

image I kissed a girl. And I'm going to hell. Some big Georgia firms show that when it comes to equality, they get it. Former Hoedown's owner finds new comfort in the Big House. Eric Himan takes his voice (and tats) on a national tour. The GOP finds release in Minneapolis. Straight folks say judge the gays only on job performance. image "Noah's Arc" crew makes Black Gay Pride stop. H&M comes to Atlanta's 'burbs and makes for happy gays Outside the Perimeter. Flash forward to 2012: The GOP is coming! The GOP is coming! Gay youth program in Atlanta gets attention.