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Castro's niece wants Cubans to change attitudes on gays
HAVANA — The niece of leader Fidel Castro wants her
countrymen to be more tolerant of homosexuality and bisexuality In March, 43-year-old Mariela Castro, director of the
government-funded National Center for Sex Education, promoted a television soap opera that scandalized many Cubans
by depicting bisexuality in a sympathetic light, Reuters
reported June 29. The controversial show told the story of a
consfruction worker who leaves his wife and children for the
man next door Now Mariela Castro is campaigning for a law
that would give transsexuals sex-change operations and hormonal therapy in addition to new identification documents
with their changed gender The proposed law. up for a
December vote, would offer the surgery for free. Castro told
Reuters she wants to bring the revolution her uncle fought 47
years ago to the issue of sexuality "I want to bring the revolution's humanity to those aspects of life that it hasn't
reached because of old prejudices," she told Reuters.
JULY 7, 2006
Fidel Castro's niece Mariela said she's
bringing tier uncles revolutionary ideas
to the area of sex. increasing tolerance
for gays and transgender people
Men with older brothers
are more likely to be gay
WASHINGTON (AP) - Men who have several older brothers have an increased chance of
being gay — whether they were raised
together or not — a finding researchers say
adds weight to the idea that sexual orientation is based in biology The increase was seen
in men with older brothers from the same
mother, but not those who had stepbrothers
or adopted brothers who were older. "If s likely to be a prenatal effect," said Anthony E
Bogaert of Brock University in St.
Catharines, Canada, who did the research.
"This and other studies suggest that there is
probably a biological basis" for homosexuality said Bogaert. He studied four groups of
Canadian men, a total of 944 people, analyzing the number of brothers and sisters each
had, whether or not they lived with those siblings and whether the siblings were related by
blood or adopted. His findings were reported
June 27 in the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences. S. Marc Breedlove, a
professor at Michigan State University said
the finding "absolutely" confirms a biological
basis. The effect of birth order on male homosexuality has been reported previously, but
Bogaert's work is the first designed to rule out
social or environmental effects.
Gay Microsoft original
employee takes his own life
SEATTLE leaders of a half-dozen gay
rights groups mourned this week the death of
Ric Weiland, one of five original employees of
Microsoft, who had made large donations to
support gay rights and the fight against HIV
Weiland, 53, died last Saturday June 24, in his
Seattle home of self-inflicted gunshot wounds,
the King County Medical Examiner's Office
reported Friday Friends say he suffered from
depression, the Seattle Times reported. "Ric is
someone who quietfy m& witl1 S-*63' humility
supported the work of many organizations
dedicated to advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender equality" said Matt Foreman,
executive director of the National Gay &
Lesbian Task Force, in a statement. "The
breadth and scope of this commitment was
immense and unwavering." Weiland attended
high school with Paul Allen, who co-founded
Microsoft with Bill Gates, and tiie duo hired
Weiland in 1976 as one of the software giant's
original five employees. Weiland retired from
Microsoft in 1988 and became a benefactor.
Pentagon admits error in saying
homosexuality is mental disorder
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon is revising a document that calls homosexuality a
mental disorder, officials said June 28.
Lawmakers, medical professionals and others
had pressed for the change in a document outlining procedures for dealing with disabled
service members. "Homosexuality should not
have been characterized as a mental disorder
in an appendix of a procedural instruction,"
Lt Col Jeremy Martin, a Defense Department
spokesman, said. The document outlines discharge policies for service members with
physical disabilities, and in a section on
defects lists homosexuality alongside mental
retardation and personality disorders. Also,
this week, a new group was formed to lobby
for repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy
on gays in the military The Military Equality
Alliance announced its formation on July 5
and will focus on grassroots lobbying in select
congressional districts. "We realized that we
could contribute in a very significant way by
focusing on gaining the support of the public
in key Congressional districts and states,"
said Jim Maloney the group's director.
Mass. gay activists plan to
fight marriage amendment
BOSTON -- Gay-rights activists in
Massachusetts are urging state residents to
contact legislators in advance of a July 12 constitutional convention on whether gays
should be banned from marrying. "We need to
make sure legislators hear from supporters of
equality that discrimination should not be
added to the constitution," said Gay & Lesbian
Adovcates & Defenders Executive Director
Lee Swislow in an e-mail July 3. Republican
Gov Mitt Romney and Boston's Cardinal Sean
E O'Malley encouraged the Legislature to
schedule a vote on the proposed same-sex marriage ban. To be on the 2008 ballot, the amendment must win the support of at least 50 legislators during the convention, which is a joint
session of the House and Senate. It then must
win at least 50 votes during a similar convention during the 2007-2008 legislative session.
From staff and wire reports
Move to reinstate overturned
foster parent ban in Ark.
Court ruled barring gays
By KELLY CARSON
Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee is lobbying legislators to reinstate a ban on gay
foster parents, but activists are still hailing the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on
June 29 that overturned the nation's only
such statewide ban.
The celebration isn't just about the
decision itself, but that Arkansas' justices
discussed at length mainstream research
that contradicts the notion that children
are negatively impacted by growing up in
"The fact that a court in Arkansas can
do that and come up with a reasonable conclusion is encouraging," said Carisa
Cunningham, director of public affairs for
the New England-based Gay & Lesbian
Advocates & Defenders.
Cunningham said because state courts
weighing the legality of gay and lesbian
marriage often look at issues of children
in same-sex families, the Arkansas decision brings to the debate judicial review of
In its unanimous ruling upholding a
lower state court finding that Arkansas'
ban on gays serving as foster parents was
unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court
said there is no connection between a foster child's well being and the sexual orientation of the child's foster parents.
In the original 2004 decision of a 1999 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of
Arkansas' ban, Pulaski County Circuit
Court Judge Timothy Fox rejected claims by
the state that gays are unsuitable as parents.
The findings of fact by Fox, upheld by
the high court, included:
• Being raised by gay parents doesn't
increase the risk of psychological, behav-
iora, or academic problems.
• Children of gay parents are as well
adjusted as those of straight parents.
• There is no factual basis for saying
heterosexual parents might be better able
to guide children through adolescence.
• There are no reasons that health, safety or welfare of a foster chdd might be negatively impacted by living in a foster home
where there is a gay adult present.
• The blanket exclusion can hurt children by excluding a pool of effective foster
Move to reinstate ban
Soon after the Arkansas high court's
decision, Huckabee, the conservative
Republican governor, said he hopes the
state legislature will reimpose the ban.
"I'm very disappointed that the court
seems more interested in what's good for
gay couples than what's good for children
Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee says he would like
the Arkansas state legislature to reimpose a ban on
gays as foster parents after the state's supreme
court last week ruled the previous ban unconstitutional (Photo by Steve Mitchell/AP)
needing foster care." Huckabee said
through his spokesperson, Alice Stewart.
The Texas legislature also has tried to
bar gay foster parents, but the measure has
thus far faUed to garner majority support
Republican Rep. Robert Talton introduced an amendment in the Texas House
in 2005 that passed by a 136-6 vote with two
abstentions, but failed to pass in a Senate
"It is our responsibdity to make sure
that we protect our most vulnerable children, and I don't think we are doing that if
we allow a foster parent that is homosexual
or bisexual." Talton said when his amendment was approved by the Texas House.
"There's no doubt in the world that it
will come up again." said Dan Quinn, communications director for the Texas
Freedom Network, an organization that is
working to advance the mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right.
Bans weighed elsewhere
But while media attention has focused
on the Arkansas decision, other states are
considering similar measures, said Ken
Upton, senior staff attorney for the
Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.
"Kansas has had this issue pop up but in
the last term the legislature expressly declined
to let it get beyond a proposal," Upton said.
Upton said fundamentalist Christians
are looking at new ways to limit the legal
rights of gays and lesbians.
"If you want to hurt gays, you have to
attack their relationships," he said. "The only
way to oppress and make second-class citizens is to attack relationships with each other
and relationships with parents and children."
KeHy Carson can be reached at