n ew s bit s

AIDS Activists Praise House

AIDS activists lauded the House Appropriations Committee on Friday for its decision to restore $36 million that it had previously decided to cut from AIDS programs this year. Lawmakers also tried to restore a $100 million emergency housing program for people living with the disease, but failed. Activists asked Representatives to try again when the spending cuts package reaches the House floor. On Thursday, before passing a GOP spending cuts package of more than $17 billion, members of the House panel voted to rescind two cuts-$13 million for the Ryan White CARE Act and $23 million for AIDS prevention programs run by the Centers for Disease Control. The National Commission on AIDS has estimated that 15 percent of all homeless people are HIV positive and that the number is rising fast. About 33,000 people with AIDS now depend on the housing program, according to the National Organizations Responding to AIDS. The program, which Congress created in 1990, provides grant money to state and local governments to help meet the housing needs of people with HIV and AIDS. [AP]

Murder Sours Preparations for Sydney's Gay Parade

Preparations for Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Saturday, the biggest queer festival outside the United States, have been marred by news that police believe they may be hunting a murderer in the community. Police had been unable to identify a man who had his throat cut in a gay section of the city. They believe he was a foreign tourist, in Sydney possibly for the Mardi Gras. "The clothing he was wearing at the time indicates he was from overseas," Detective Scott Whyte told reporters. "We have no preconceived thoughts about the victim but we are aware that Mardi Gras is being held. The victim could have been visiting the country for that reason." Police have focused their murder investigation on Sydney's gay district along Oxford Street, the route of the Mardi Gras. Leaders in the community say they are concerned over a rise in violence against gays in Sydney. In the past five years, 22 homosexual men have been murdered in Australia, most in Sydney and most by gangs of young men under 25. Police say Oxford Street is one of Australia's toughest police beats, a dangerous cocktail of over 70 bars, clubs and seedy nightspots crammed into seven city blocks. [Reuter]

Boston to New York AIDS Ride Gears Up to Roll

The Boston to New York AIDS Ride is the first event of its kind ever undertaken east of the Mississippi in the fight against AIDS. In September, over 2,000 cyclists (1,000 from Boston and New York City each) will leave together from Boston and ride 250 miles over three days to New York City. The ride will be fully supported with showers, 3 catered meals a day, trucks to carry rider gear, medical and mechanical support, as well as 5 water and snack stops each day along the route. Each rider will raise a least $1,200 in pledges. Boston rider proceeds will benefit the Fenway Community Health Center. Fenway is the largest community based provider of AIDS/HIV services in New England. Last year alone, Fenway serviced more than 45,000 patient visits. The health center's anonymous HIV testing and counseling site, New England's largest, provides for over 4,000 individuals annually. Fenway was recently selected by the Centers for Disease Control as one of only 8 sites in the nation as a test site for a vaccine. The vaccine is anticipated to be available within 2 years. Money raised by riders registered through Boston to New York AIDS Ride New York office will benefit Community Health Project and The Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center. Boston to New York AIDS Ride is not just for cycling jocks. The Ride is based on last year's California AIDS Ride in which 500 people rode for 7 days, 525 miles from San Francisco to LA, raising over 1.6 million for AIDS Care in Los Angeles. The majority of riders had never attempted a ride of such magnitude in their lives. Every single one of them completed the ride. If you would like to receive more information and register for this event, call 859-8282. [Boston to New York AIDS Ride]

'Male Cancer'-- A Female Cure?

Men who are infected with HIV often develop Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), a cancer characterized by dark blotches on the skin. HIV-positive women, however, rarely develop KS. Scientists theorize that the protection may be due to female hormones, including human chrorionic gonadotropin (HCG). To determine whether the hormone also protects men, Dr. Parkash Gill of the University of Southern California is holding the first human trial of HCG in the United States. If the trials are successful, HCG will probably be used immediately to fight KS.

1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam

Organizers from the foundation of the Gay Games to be held in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1998 hope to attract 12,000 participants to take part in sports ranging from ballroom dancing to bridge. The city is donating one million guilders ($610,000), as well as use of local sports facilities. In November 1993, Amsterdam beat bids from Atlanta and Sydney, becoming the first city to host the games outside of the United States. "It'll be bigger than the Olympics," added foundation secretary Marc Janssens, saying the New York games last year attracted more than 10,000 competitors. The official logo will be a pink triangle linked with a tulip, the badge of shame nazis made homosexuals wear. Organizers hope to raise 6.5 million guilders through sponsorships, merchandising, and fund raising, with the rest of the 14 million guilder budget coming from subsidies and ticket sales. [AP]

Gay Bank Official Sues Over Denial of Home Loan

A gay executive has sued California Federal Bank, contending that special loan conditions for married employees discriminate against gay workers. Jeffrey Bagley, a vice president at the bank, says his two requests for fee waivers and lower interest rates on a home loan were denied because Bagley is unmarried and the co-signer, his 10 year partner Peter Lavin, is not an immediate family member. William Weinberger, Bagley's attorney, claims that the bank's policy violates the Equal Credit and Opportunity Act (ECOA). However, bank representative Bill Claster argued that same-sex couples should not be treated as married for employment benefits because "it's legally impossible for them to get married." He added that he did not believe the ECOA applied because it does not extend to a "friend" of the applicant. The couple eventually got a loan at another bank. [gaynet]

Sex, Homosexuals, and Animals Spark Israeli Fight

Israeli judicial official, Nahum Rakover, has touched off a political dispute in the Jewish state by likening homosexuality to bestiality. The ultra-orthodox Shas party threatened Thursday to call for a no-confidence motion in Parliament if the government disciplined Rakover, a deputy attorney-general and expert on Jewish religious law. Rakover had criticized an Israeli High Court ruling that the homosexual partner of a flight attendant on state airline El Al was entitled to free tickets routinely provided to heterosexual partners of its staff. He told a parliamentary committee last week that sexual relations between people of the same sex were defined in the Bible as an abomination and could not be taken into account in allocating work benefits. "We must ignore the sexual tendencies between a couple of the same sex as we do between man and animal," Rakover was quoted. Israel's civil service commission is investigating Rakover's remarks to see whether he should be disciplined. [Reuter]

Gay Groups Bring Concerns to Republican Congress

Members of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, bolstered by a new poll showing broad backing for AIDS funding and by the activism of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's lesbian half-sister, will lobby lawmakers Monday to protect funding for AIDS research, care, and prevention. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said the government is not doing enough about the AIDS crisis, and about a third believed it is doing "about the right amount." Only 14 percent believed the government is doing too much. The HRCF is also seeking legislation to protect gays from job discrimination, and to block "hate legislation" from North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms and other right-wing Republicans. Though AIDS is the top item on this week's agenda, the group says it is reaching out to Republican moderates and some libertarian-minded conservatives to counter the strength of social conservatives like Helms in the Republican Congress. Right after the Republicans took over Congress in January, Helms moved to limit the ability of gay and lesbian federal employees to form workers' associations. [Reuter]

Gay Aviator Gets Navy Medal

Lt. Tracy Thorne says he's surprised and pleased that the Navy gave him an achievement medal even though it has been trying to kick him out since he went on national television in 1992 to say he's gay. Thorne has been waiting since July for Navy Secretary John Dalton to rule on the discharge recommendation which resulted from Thorne's violation of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The citation recognizes Thorne's "professional achievement in the superior performance of his duties" between January and October 1994, while he was director of the Help Desk at Naval Air Systems Command information and technology division in Arlington, VA. While Secretary Dalton is not required to act within a specific amount of time, "the idea here is to do this as expediently as possible," Navy spokesperson Lt. Bill Spann said in July. If Dalton upholds the discharge, Thorne will go to federal court to challenge the administration's policy on gays in the military. [AP]

Proposed Bill Would Ban Bias Against Gay Students

A bill that would bar California's pulic schools from discriminating against gay students has been introduced to the state legislature as AB 1001, by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). Similar to a new Massachusetts law, the legislation would add sexual orientation to the state Education Code's list of protected categories, which includes race, sex, religion, and disabilities. "It's a simple matter of human rights, a simple matter of dignity," Kuehl told about 100 students Friday as she announced the proposal at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. Echoing policies in effect in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the legislation would require all public school systems to ensure that programs and activities are free from discrimination based on sexual orientation. [LA Times]

An Indecent Act of Congress

In what promises to be one of many efforts to censor the new "information superhighway," the U.S. Senate is currently considering the "Communications Decency Act of 1995" (S. 314). In effect, the act would censor sexual information on the Internet and other online networks. If passed, this act would require online services to purge "indecent" material from public bulletin boards and discussion groups (and, of course, our lawmakers routinely interpret anything lesbian- or gay-related as "indecent"). Additionally, the act would prohibit communications with sexual content through private e-mail between consenting adults, making the information superhighway the most censored of the communications media. The act is currently before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transpiration. The ACLU and other civil liberties organizations are urging strong opposition to this censorious legislation. [GLAAD Media Watch]
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