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News Briefs: November 2008

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Gay wedding announcement in the Chron. Gay bishop in California marries partner. GCAM moves to Counseling Center. Schwarzenegger vetoes Harvey Milk honor. And more….

By Nancy Ford and Leigh Bell

WedsSame-Sex Wedding Announcement in the Houston Chronicle
by Leigh Bell

At first glance, the wedding announcement in the paper read like any other. So-and-So married So-and-So on such-and-such date. But wait.

Both So-and-Sos were men. There they were, in the picture just above, two guys looking dapper in suits and post-wedding smiles. Not so unusual in the New York Times.

However (you may want to sit down for this), it was the Houston Chronicle.

On Oct. 26, the newspaper ran the marriage announcement of Bob Hergenroeder to Tom Mathews. The two prominent Houston professionals, both 56, recently wed during a trip to Beverly Hills, just several weeks before the state would decide to amend the California constitution to limit marriage to that of a man and a woman. 

It was a small ceremony in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the same location where Marilyn Monroe married, as did Elizabeth Taylor (probably a couple of times).

“We were delighted in it because it was us and it was special,” Hergenroeder says, “but I think a thing like that should be a large communal thing.”

Hergenroeder and Mathews wanted to share the excitement with local friends, family, and co-workers, and the Houston Chronicle seemed like a good place to do it.

Is this a first for the newspaper that many consider conservative? That’s the $10,000 question. The paper has accepted gay and lesbian announcements for more than 10 years, says Joycelyn Marek, the vice president of community affairs.

“But we just haven’t had many of them,” she says, adding if there was ever a same-sex announcement in the Chronicle, the paper doesn’t keep a tally of them. “I do not know the number, and I have no way to figure it out.”

Mathews, who says he’s read the paper cover-to-cover for 15 years, had never seen the announcement of a same-sex wedding, engagement, or anniversary.

The person to whom he submitted the announcement, LaRetha Vincent, sales manager of the paper’s Contact Center, says she’s worked there four years and hasn’t seen one. In fact, she asked Mathews for the marriage certificate to verify it wasn’t a prank. It’s happened before.

“They’re really blazing a trail,” says Vincent from the Chronicle a couple days before the announcement ran. “This will open doors for people. And on the other side, I have to be prepared for the people who will be upset about it.”

Vincent says she’s already prepared her staff for the angry phone calls she expects will follow.

Roughly 83 percent of U.S. newspaper consumers read a paper that accepts wedding announcements from same-sex couples, according to GLAAD, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Hergenroeder and Mathews didn’t think they were included in that group and would’ve put up a fight so they could be.

“I was shocked it was so easy,” Mathews says. “It is kind of standing up and taking a position and saying our relationship deserves the same recognition as heterosexuals, even though we’re not in a state that’s going to acknowledge it. It was another step that we wanted to take.”

It wasn’t a cheap one. Mathews said the ad cost the couple $785, which alone may be a deterrent to post wedding announcements, same-sex or not. However, the men see it as an investment to fostering tolerance and acceptance in Houston.

“The announcement was a really cool thing to do for us,” Hergenroeder says.  “But it was also really cool for the community.”

Leigh Bell is a Houston freelance writer. Bell also interviewed Pokey Anderson in this issue.

 
 

ParisandCharles
Dr. Felipe Sanchez-Paris (L) and Bishop Otis Charles.

GAY BISHOP MARRIES PARTNER IN CALIFORNIA

The first openly gay Episcopalian Bishop, the Right Reverend Otis Charles, 82, and Dr. Felipe Sanchez-Paris, 67, were married September 29 in San Francisco. California State Assemblyman, Mark Leno, a long-time advocate for same-sex marriage, presided at the wedding.

Charles, who served as Eighth Bishop of Utah and subsequently dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School, in 1993 became the first out gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. Currently he serves as interim rector at Trinity Church in San Francisco, often referred to as the “Mother Episcopal Church of the Pacific Coast.”   Dr. Paris retired in 2000 from California State University, Bakersfield, where for 18 years he served as professor of public policy and administration in its School of Business and Public Administration.   

The men met in 2001 at a Spirit of Life Institute workshop where Paris came out as a gay man and they discovered, unbeknownst to the other, that they had the same spiritual director. In 2004 they became domestic partners and their union was blessed and consecrated in their parish church, St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. —By Nancy Ford

GCAM MOVES ART, COMPUTERS TO COUNSELING CENTER

Marking the start of its 10th year, the Gulf Coast Museum & Archive of GLBT History has announced that it has accepted an invitation to display its historical artwork on the 4,000-plus square feet of wall space at the GLBT Cultural Center, located on the first floor of the Montrose Counseling Center, 401 Branard.

Archive organizers have also signed a lease agreement with the center to lease an office to house computers for the group’s website. The newly acquired office space also provides GCAM with a place to organize and clean historical works of art prior to display as well as tend to other museum tasks, organizers say. Details: www.gcam.org.—By Nancy Ford
 

SCHWARZENEGGER VETOES CALIFORNIA BILL HONORING HARVEY MILK

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation in early October that would have officially designated May 22 as Harvey Milk Day in the state of California, honoring the first openly gay man to be elected to office in a major city in the United States.

Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, where he sponsored and worked to successfully pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. He was assassinated on November 27, 1978, by Dan White, who also assassinated Mayor George Moscone.

Thousands attended a spontaneous vigil held the night of Milk’s funeral and heard a taped recording of Milk’s famous statement that “if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

The non-fiscal state holiday would not have impacted the state budget because it would not be considered a paid holiday, but caused controversy amongst conservatives because the bill calls for public schools to engage in “commemorative exercises.”—By Nancy Ford

CITY OF HOUSTON MAKES MULCH DEAL FOR IKE DEBRIS

City Councilwoman and Vice Mayor Pro Tem Sue Lovell says the city has come up with a great idea to deal with the debris generated by Hurricane Ike.

The city has partnered with Living Earth Technology Company to take a large amount of the tree and brush debris, grind it up into mulch, put it in bright blue packages with a city seal on the front and sell it. In return, the city will get ten cents per bag for its recycling program. Living Earth has also pledged to donate fifty cents of every bulk yard sold to the city, according to a statement released by Lovell’s office.

As of press time, 4.1 million cubic yards of debris have been picked up with approximately 1.5 million cubic yards not yet collected. Details: www.HoustonMulch.com.—By Nancy Ford

FIRST OPENLY GAY STATE LEGISLATOR DIES IN MINNESOTA

Allan Spear, who served as a Minnesota state senator for nearly 30 years, eight of them as president of the Senate, has died at age 71. Spear was the first openly gay state legislator and one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States.

Spear’s decision to publicly announce that he was gay made headlines nationally. Today, there are approximately 400 openly gay state legislators nationwide.—By Nancy Ford

COALITION PROTESTS RADIO HALL OF FAME INDUCTION OF DOBSON

A partnership of local and national gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) organizations has denounced the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) for its plan to honor James Dobson in its Radio Hall of Fame in a November 8 awards ceremony in Chicago.

The Dump Dobson Coalition is strongly urging MBC founder Bruce DuMont to rescind the award or face a protest outside of the dinner.

“There is still time to reverse the reckless and irresponsible decision to honor James Dobson in the Radio Hall of Fame,” said author and gay activist Wayne Besen. “It is unconscionable that the museum is giving its imprimatur to a demagogue who has profited from divisive and discriminatory rhetoric. If the museum wants to regain its respect and credibility, it will dump Dobson.”

Dobson, founder of the antigay Focus on the Family, once said that allowing gay people to marry would “end the earth.” Seven scientists have accused him of distorting their work to support his antigay teachings. —By Nancy Ford

SAME-SEX FOSTER PARENTING RE-EXAMINED IN ARKANSAS

Arkansas plans to reverse course and allow unmarried or same-sex couples to take on foster children on a case-by-case basis, said Arkansas’ state Department of Human Services.

According to an October 9 report by the Associated Press, the agency said it would end its plan to formalize the prohibition, which has been in place since an executive directive was signed in 2005. 

The change comes as a conservative group campaigns in favor of a November ballot initiative that would ban unmarried couples from adopting or fostering children. The Arkansas Family Council says its measure specifically targets gay couples, though it would affect heterosexual couples, too.

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, who has previously supported the prohibition, backed off that support, saying a change might be needed because of a shortage of foster homes in the state. A Beebe spokesman said that the governor supports the proposed change and that he changed his mind primarily because of a lack of foster care in the state.—By Nancy Ford

SURVEY EXAMINES IMPACT OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IMPACTS COUPLES, FAMILIES

A study conducted 13 months after same-sex marriage in Massachusetts became legal found that obtaining legal protections and making a public statement of commitment were the most often mentioned motivations for same-sex marriage. It also found that lack of family approval and difficulties planning and paying for the wedding were the most noted obstacles to marriage.

“The arrival of same-sex marriage brings up many issues that often lurk in the background in families. It forces same-sex couples and their parents to confront their deepest feelings about same-sex love,” said Robert-Jay Green, Ph.D., executive director of Rockway Institute, a national center for psychology research, education, and public policy on sexual orientation and gender issues.

The study, “Attractions and Obstacles While Considering Legally Recognized Same-Sex Marriage,” was conducted by Pamela J. Lannutti, Ph.D., associate professor of communication at Boston College and was published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, vol. 4, 2008.

For this study, Lannutti’s sample of 263 partners in same-sex couples had an average relationship duration of 7.5 years.—By Nancy Ford

RECORD NUMBER OF GAY CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR POLITICAL OFFICE

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund says it has endorsed 100 openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender political candidates in 2008, making this endorsement slate the group’s largest ever. Gay candidates are running for offices at all levels of government, from school boards to the U.S. Congress, according to the group.

Victory Fund’s president and chief executive officer, Chuck Wolfe, said the surge in openly gay candidates in 2008 reflects the community’s growing willingness to embrace political leadership as a path to change. “I think reaching this milestone is a testament to a new attitude in our community about how to achieve political change. We don’t have to accept sitting on the sidelines and hoping others will do the heavy lifting—we can roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves.” —By Nancy Ford

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