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National News
National News
by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Google opposes Prop 8
Google has officially come out in opposition to Proposition 8, the November 4 ballot measure that would undo the California Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage by amending the state constitution.

"It is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8," said co-founder Sergey Brin. "While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 - we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love."

Brin said Google does "not generally take a position on issues outside of our field," but that this was a special case because of Prop 8's direct effect on so many Google employees.

Schwarzenegger vetoes Harvey Milk bill
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill September 30 that would have created a day honoring the late legendary Gay activist and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.

"I respect the author's intent to designate May 22nd as 'Harvey Milk Day' and a day of special significance for California public schools and educational institutions to honor Harvey Milk as an important community leader and public official in the city and county of San Francisco," Schwarzenegger said in his veto message. "However, I believe his contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions."

The executive director of Equality California, Geoff Kors, called the veto "a disappointment to thousands and thousands of Californians who regard Harvey Milk as a national hero."

"This is a sad reminder of the lack of understanding of both the LGBT community and of the impact of Harvey Milk," Kors said. "As one of the first openly Gay leaders in this country, Milk inspired Americans in every corner of our nation to stand proud in the face of adversity, and he gave his life in the pursuit of equality. This fall, his story will be celebrated in movie theaters nationwide as a tribute to a legacy that extends far beyond California."

Milk settled in the Castro district in 1972 and opened a camera store. He went on to pioneer a populist Gay rights movement in the city and, in 1977, was elected to the Board of Supervisors, becoming the third openly Gay candidate elected in U.S. history.

He and Mayor George Moscone were shot to death inside City Hall on November 27, 1978, by then recently resigned city Supervisor Dan White, who was angry that Moscone wouldn't let him un-resign and that Milk had lobbied Moscone not to reappoint White. White's lenient sentence for the killings (seven years and eight months with parole) led to the famed White Night Riots in San Francisco on May 21, 1979.

California protects Gay seniors
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill September 28 to help prevent anti-Gay bias in senior-care facilities and nursing homes.

The law, which takes effect January 1, requires licensed health care professionals who have constant interaction with seniors to attend a training program on preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Some members of the [GLBT] community living in nursing homes have been denied their most basic rights, including the simple choice to spend time with a loved one, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors. "We appreciate the support of Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature for approving this measure, which will proactively create a culture of respect and understanding for all seniors living in care facilities."

EQCA said basic rights such as the choice to live in the same nursing home with a partner and the right to hospital visitation are routinely denied to older same-sex couples.

Lambda Legal sues Tenn. city
Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit against Johnson City, Tenn., Sept. 30 on behalf of Kenneth Giles, whose photo was released to the media after he was arrested in a sting operation targeting men who have sex with each other in public environments.

Photos of 39 other men arrested in the crackdown also were released.

"In America, the police do not get to add an extra punishment to people they don't like," said Lambda's Greg Nevins. "They also do not get to ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty. The JCPD went out of its way to humiliate Mr. Giles and caused irreparable damage."

On October 1, 2007, the police department issued a press release, personally approved by the police chief, that included photos of the men at the scene of their arrests. Local news gave the story and photos big play, and revealed the men's addresses.

Lambda later reviewed more than a year's worth of the police department's press releases and found that out of some 600 releases, none concerning arrests was accompanied by photos - nor personally approved by the chief.

One of the 40 men later committed suicide and several were fired, including Giles, who was a nurse at a Veterans Affairs hospital.

Lambda Legal claims the police department violated federal equal-protection law in singling the men out for harsher treatment by making their images available to the media.

U.S. HIV ban still not dead
Two months after Congress and President George W. Bush repealed a law banning HIV-positive visitors and immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security announced September 30 that it has "streamlined" the process for issuing waivers to HIV-positive foreigners who wish to visit for fewer than 30 days.

"The timing of these regulations is deeply troubling," said Victoria Neilson, legal director of Immigration Equality. "Congress issued a bipartisan message to this administration: Remove HIV as a barrier to travel and immigration. Instead of simply ending the HIV travel ban, the administration is again treating HIV differently from any other medical condition."

The July repeal of the statutory ban was included in a bill that re-funded the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which Bush was keen to get done. But regulatory changes at the Department of Health and Human Services also are needed to remove HIV from a list of "communicable diseases of public health significance" for visa purposes - a list that exists under a different law than the one that was repealed.

Meanwhile, under Homeland Security's streamlined waiver process, a short-term HIV-positive traveler still will have to meet several stringent criteria, as well as give up the right to apply for a green card from within the U.S., even if he or she marries a U.S. citizen.

"Rather than continuing forward with this unnecessary and potentially harmful visa-waiver process rule, the president should actively work to ensure that his administration eliminates HIV from this disease list before he leaves office in January," said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, who led the effort in the House of Representatives that repealed the statutory ban.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture above: Harvey Milk
picture below: Harvey Milk Plaza
 

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