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National News
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by Rex Wockner - SGN Contributing Writer

Amazon blacklists Gay books
Over Easter weekend, it was discovered that Amazon.com had de-ranked and delisted hundreds or thousands of books that touch on Gay topics.

When authors complained, they were told: "In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude 'adult' material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature."

The quasi-banned books included titles such as Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 by Michel Foucault, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominque Bauby, Maurice by E.M. Forster and Becoming a Man by Paul Monette.

News of the blacklist ricocheted across cyberspace, particularly via Twitter, prompting Amazon to issue a second explanation: "There was a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed."

When critics then questioned how a "glitch" could single out books that touch on Gay issues, Amazon issued a third explanation: "This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection. It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search. Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future."

At press time, some observers still weren't content with Amazon's explanations.

Web, software and database geeks writing online continued to theorize that the "ham-fisted cataloging error" could not have happened if Amazon algorithms had not previously tagged books with positive references to anything Gay as "adult."

N.Y. governor introduces bill to legalize same-sex marriage
New York Gov. David Paterson introduced a bill in the state Legislature on April 16 to legalize same-sex marriage.

"We have a crisis of leadership today," Paterson said. "We're going to fill that vacuum today. [G]ay and Lesbian New Yorkers ... have been the victims of what is a legal system that has systematically discriminated against them."

"For too long, the Gay and Lesbian community have been told that their rights and freedoms have to wait," he said. "The time has come to act."

The bill should pass the Assembly easily, as it did in 2007, but its prospects in the Senate, where it died in 2007, remain uncertain.

Hyatt boycott expanded
The nearly year-long Gay boycott of San Diego's Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel was expanded April 14 when a coalition of activists protested outside Hyatt's Andaz West Hollywood hotel.

The San Diego property, owned by businessman Doug Manchester and operated by Hyatt, was targeted after Manchester gave $125,000 to the campaign that resulted in California's re-banning of same-sex marriage last November.

The activists who gathered at the West Hollywood hotel said they hoped their move would increase pressure on Global Hyatt Corp. to deal with the "hypocrisy" of being a Gay-friendly corporation that also is in business with Manchester.

"The coalition is not calling for a boycott of the Andaz Hotel, but pledges to hold the Andaz and its owner and operator, The Hyatt Corporation, accountable for their relationship to Manchester," the group said in a statement.

The group included veteran activist Cleve Jones, Courage Campaign Chair Rick Jacobs, West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, Los Angeles Stonewall Democrats President John Cleary, UNITE HERE Local 11 President Tom Walsh, and Lisa Powell of Organizing with America.

"All but marriage" law passes in Washington State
In a 62-35 vote, Washington's House of Representatives passed a bill April 15 beefing up the state's domestic-partnership law so it grants registered same-sex couples every state-level right and obligation of marriage. The measure had passed the Senate 30-18 in March.

Gov. Chris Gregoire intends to sign the bill into law. "We have to respect and protect all of the families that make up our communities," she said.

At present, Massachusetts and Connecticut permit Gay and Lesbian couples to marry and New York recognizes Gay marriages entered into elsewhere. Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Iowa on April 27 and in Vermont on September 1.

Eight states and the District of Columbia legally recognize same-sex couples but do not let them marry. California, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and D.C. extend all state-level rights and obligations of marriage to Gay couples who enter into a civil union or domestic partnership. Maine, Washington and Hawaii grant registered Gay couples some benefits of marriage.

Same-sex marriage also is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden (starting May 1).

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture top: Cleve Jones
bottom: Rick Jacobs
 

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