DECEMBER 10, 1999 • HOUSTON VOICE
Around the Nation
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Hawaii Supreme Court says gay marriage challenge is moot
HONOLULU—The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 1998 constitutional
amendment passed by voters renders the move to legalize gay marriage moot. The court
ruled that the amendment validates the state ban on gay marriages by removing any concerns about equal protection under the state constitution. The amendment gave state legislators the power to determine whether marriage licenses should only recognize unions
between a man and woman. That is something they did in 1994. The court said the state ban
now must be given full force and effect. That overturned a lower court ruling that the ban
was unconstitutional and the state must show a compelling reason for continuing it. The
issue first arose in 1990 when three gay couples were denied marriage licenses by the state
health department. They sued the state in 1991.
Former Houston teacher seeks up to S1M in discrimination suit
HOUSTON—A former teacher who is gay contends the Houston Independent School
District discriminated against him and failed to hire him in a year when there were more
than 300 teaching vacancies because he is HIV-positive, the Houston Chronicle reported Dec.
4. The charges came during a two-day trial before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore.
William Ellsworth, who worked for the district for five years, argued that his former principal wanted him back after he returned from living in New Mexico for two years. But
Ellsworth was later rejected after an interview with HISD, and charged in court that he
wasn't hired because his former principal was aware that he is gay and HIV-positive.
Ellsworth wasn't hired in part because of his low scores on an interview test, the school system said. "HISD does not discriminate in its hiring practices," said Myra Schexnayder,
HISD's attorney. "HISD did not even know that Mr. Ellsworth was HIV-positive."
Ellsworth, 51, is seeking back pay and front pay until he is age 65. He also has asked for
attorney's fees and punitive damages—a figure that could top $1 million. Gilmore is not
expected to rule immediately.
Lobel resigns as head of National Gay & Lesbian Task Force
WASHINGTON—Kerry Lobel has resigned as head of the National Gay & Lesbian Task
Force effective April 7, 2000, the organization announced last week. Lobel moved to
Washington, D.C, from Arkansas in 1995 to become deputy director of the organization,
which focuses on aiding grassroots activists at the state and local level. She became executive director in December 1996. Both Lobel and NGLTF's board of directors said the decision to leave came from Lobel, and the board praised her tenure with the organization.
"NGLTF and our movement will forever be stronger because of Kerry's leadership," said
Rachel Rosen, board co-chair. Task Force accomplishments under Lobel's leadership
included almost doubling Ihe group's budget and staff and expanding the NGLTF Policy
Institute "think tank." The board will begin an immediate search for a new executive director.
Utah hate crimes law ruled useless without named groups
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—A Utah district judge has found that since the state's hate
crimes statute does not specifically name any of the groups it is intended to protect, the
statute is unenforceable. Judge William Barrett dismissed hate crime charges against Brian
E. Hilt and Jason Dale Millard, two men who allegedly attacked and harassed several men
they believed were gay. Barrett ruled that law was "incomplete" because it does not specify what classes of people are protected by the law. Defense attorney Rebecca Hyde argued
that Utah lawmakers deliberately meant to exclude protection for gay people. But instead
of eliminating protections just for gays, the legislature wiped out all classes of victims, leaving Utah with an unenforceable hate-crime law, Hyde said. "Born of ignorance, animosity
toward gays, and cowardice, Utah's hate crimes statute is unworkable," Hyde argued
Challenge to DP laws in two North Carolina towns moves ahead
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C—A challenge to
the domestic-partnership laws of Chapel
Hill and Carrboro remains alive after a
judge rejected an effort by city attorneys to
quash it, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. Both towns have local laws allowing the
payment of benefits to the domestic partners, whether gay or straight, of its employ- 5
ees. Twelve residents of the two towns chal- 7.
lenged the law in June. Attorneys for the i
towns had argued that the residents did not ■
have the standing to sue. A similar chat %
lenge in 1996 overturned Chapel Hill's -*
domestic partnership ordinance on the
grounds that North Carolina law explicitly
prohibits common law marriage. "I certainly don't view this as a setback," said
Carrboro Mayor Mike Nelson, who is gay.
"Attorneys make motions all the time; some of them are approved, and some of them are
denied. What we're really talking about is how families are treated in our culture."
Openly gay Carrboro, N.C. Mayor Mike Nelson
said he isn't overly concerned by a court ruling
that supports a challenge to the town's DP
benefits (or gays.