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by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Brooklyn man dies after probable hate attack
A Brooklyn man who was attacked with a baseball bat December 7 as he walked arm in arm with his brother died on December 12.

José Sucuzhañay, a 31-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant, and his brother were walking together in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood after a night out when three black men shouting anti-Gay and anti-Latino slurs jumped from an SUV and broke a beer bottle over Sucuzhañay's head, beat him with a bat and kicked him.

The brother, Romel, escaped down the street, then returned to the scene and scared off the attackers by telling them he'd phoned police on his cell phone.

Police are investigating the killing as a hate crime and are offering a $27,000 award for information leading to apprehension of the assailants.

On December 13, hundreds of protesters marched from a Bushwick park to the site of the attack.

Gay band, anti-Gay preacher to participate in inauguration
The Lesbian and Gay Band Association, which is composed of 34 marching and concert bands from the U.S., Canada and Australia, will march in President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural parade January 20.

Although LGBA concert bands performed at inaugural celebrations for Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1997, this will be the first time a Gay band has marched in a presidential inaugural parade.

The Gay contingent will include 177 musicians in the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue after Obama is sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

In making their selections, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and military musicians assessed the applications of 1,400 marching bands, drill teams and musical groups.

The committee's website lists more than 40 such participating contingents, including several high-school and university bands.

Meanwhile, Obama came under fire from Gay activists on December 17 for selecting influential evangelical preacher Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese called the move "a genuine blow to LGBT Americans."

"We feel a deep level of disrespect when one of the architects and promoters of an anti-Gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination," Solmonese said. "We urge you to reconsider this announcement."

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said, "We urge President-elect Obama to withdraw his invitation to Rick Warren and instead select a faith leader who embraces fairness, equality and the ideals the president-elect himself has called the nation to uphold."

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation President Neil Giuliano said, "It is ... deeply troubling that the president-elect has selected someone whose defamatory and damaging anti-Gay statements and views ... clearly divide rather than unite Americans."

Gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., called Obama's move very disappointing.

"Religious leaders obviously have every right to speak out in opposition to anti-discrimination measures, even in the degrading terms that Rev. Warren has used with regard to same-sex marriage," Frank said. "But that does not confer upon them the right to a place of honor in the inauguration ceremony of a president whose stated commitment to LGBT rights won him the strong support of the great majority of those who support that cause."

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, said he is so annoyed by Warren's participation that he will boycott the inauguration.

"I have decided to decline the invitation to attend the inauguration as I cannot be part of a celebration that highlights and gives voice to someone who advocated repealing rights from me and millions of other Californians," Kors said. "Rick Warren ... actively works to divide Americans based on who we are and has been an ardent supporter of efforts to ostracize LGBT Americans."

Speaking in support of California's Proposition 8 before the November election, Warren said, "We should not let 2 percent of the population change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years."

In reality, many cultures over the past 5,000 years have embraced polygamy.

More recently, Warren told that same-sex marriage is equivalent to "having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage ... an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage ... one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage."

(Warren: "I'm opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I'm opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I'm opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I'm opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage." Interviewer: "You think those are equivalent to Gays getting married?" Warren: "Oh, I do.")

ACLU defends student's anti-Prop 8 T-shirt
A high-school class president who was prohibited from wearing a homemade "Prop 8 Equals Hate" T-shirt at school must be allowed to wear it because the message is protected free speech under the federal and state constitutions and state law, the ACLU of Southern California told officials of Big Bear High School in Big Bear Lake on December 16.

ACLU attorneys sent a letter to school officials demanding they acknowledge their action was unlawful and allow sophomore Mariah Jimenez to wear the shirt if she wants to.

Staff attorneys Peter Bibring and Lori Rifkin said a school may not prohibit speech solely because it presents a controversial idea and could cause a disruption. Schools can only prohibit speech that incites disruption if it specifically calls for a disturbance, or because the manner of expression is so inflammatory that the speech provokes a disturbance, they said.

"School administrators can't silence a student whenever they fear someone might be annoyed or offended by the student's views," said Bibring. "The First Amendment's protections are at their strongest for political speech."

Jimenez wore the shirt November 3, the day before California voters amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage. The ACLU said teacher Sue Reynolds objected to the shirt and sent Jimenez to the office of Principal Mike Ghelber, who told Jimenez that if she didn't take off the shirt, she would have to remain in his office. She removed it and returned to class.

"Instead of stopping Ms. Jimenez from wearing a shirt because other people may disagree with its message, the school district should use this as an opportunity to educate both teachers and students about the importance of free speech and nondiscrimination," Rifkin said.

Connecticut unlikely to amend constitution on marriage
Connecticut voters strongly oppose amending the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released December 17.

The poll of 1,445 registered voters found that 61 percent oppose an amendment and only 33 percent support it.

Same-sex couples began marrying in Connecticut on Nov. 12 after the state Supreme Court ruled that offering Gay couples only civil unions violated the state constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The poll found that 52 percent of voters agreed with the Supreme Court's decision, 39 percent did not and 9 percent had no opinion.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture top: Bushwick
below: Bushwick

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