Badpuppy Gay Today

Friday, 07 November 1997


Bowers Lesbian Firing Appealed to the Highest Court
Hostile Utah Parents Try to Force Gay Teachers into Classroom Closets

By Don Romesburg
GLAAD Publications Manager



The groundbreaking November 10 White House summit on hate crimes will include leaders from the National Coalition on Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), and local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender anti-violence advocates will hold a special march to mark the occasion. Christine C. Quinn, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) and Chairman of the Board Darryl Cooper of Washington, D.C.'s Gay Men & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) will discuss with the President and others the surge in hate crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In addition, in the afternoon NCAVP is holding Walk without Fear, a March and rally to commemorate targets of anti-gay violence. Among those commemorated this year are five gay male murder victims from Prince George's County and the scores of transgender persons who report facing physical abuse and false arrest at the hands of D.C.-area law enforcement. For more information contact Sharon Shaw Johnson (GLOV) at (202) 737-4569 or Jeffrey Montgomery (NCAVP) at (313) 537-3323.


On October 31, lawyers for a Georgia attorney announced they would appeal a lower court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of a lesbian who had a job offer withdrawn by the state attorney general when he learned she and her partner planned to hold a traditional Jewish commitment ceremony. The attorney, Robin Shahar, and her lawyers argue that a federal appellate court decision upholding the firing threatens to give undue power to governments trying to fire employees for non-work-related activities.

Then-Attorney General Michael Bowers claimed that Shahar's "committed lesbian relationship" conflicted with the state's law against sodomy. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said Bowers "was not think that Shahar's acts were likely to cause the public to be confused and to question the Law Department's credibility."

Since the May 30 decision, Bowers, who has aggressively defended the state sodomy law, has admitted to committing a ten-year adulterous affair, which is also illegal in the state. "In light of Bowers' admission, the basis for the court's decision to uphold Shahar's dismissal is on very shaky legal ground," said Michael Adams, staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Marriage Project. "When it came to his own heterosexual affair, Bowers understood that there's a difference between an employee's professional and personal life. The Court should apply the same standard to Shahar's job."

ACLU-Georgia Executive Director Theresa Nelson said, "We are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the decision and tell Bowers that he broke the law [by withdrawing Shahar's offer]. Like all Americans, Shahar should be able to love and work and not have to choose between the two." For more information contact Denny Lee (ACLU) at (212) 549-2561.


Following on the heels of Spanish Fork (Utah) High School Wendy Weaver's filing a federal freedom of expression lawsuit against the Nebo School District, a group of local parents are attempting to make the gag order even more far-reaching. After learning that she was a lesbian, the district fired Weaver as volleyball coach and gave Weaver a memo telling her "not to make statements to students, staff members or parents regarding your homosexual orientation or lifestyle."

Now, a group of Utahans are mounting an attack through a petition drive to be presented at the November 12 School Board meeting requesting, among other things, that parents be able to direct administrators to pull their children from classes "taught by teachers with questionable backgrounds," and to extend the gag order about sexual orientation to apply to all teachers, even outside of school.

In a Salt Lake Tribune article, Springfield High student Julie Barnes, 16, said parents "have a right to believe what they believe, but they have no right to tell a teacher what she can or cannot do outside of school." Utah ACLU Director Carol Gnade said, "The whole notion of causing this kind of divisiveness in a community is trouble. One would hope that there would be level heads that recognize this is a fine teacher who deserves better treatment." For more information contact Carol Gnade (ACLU) at (801) 521-9862.


Marking the first time that a sitting U.S. President will speak at a lesbian and gay event, President Clinton will be the keynote speaker at a November 8 Washington, D.C. dinner for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). "President Clinton's participation at this event will be historic," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. The organization will also present the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights with its National Civil Rights Award and Ellen DeGeneres and her partner Anne Heche will be in attendance. To mark the occasion, PlanetOut's GLORadio will host a live cybercast of the President's speech from 7-10 pm EST at "Only 1,500 people can fit into the ballroom to hear the historic Clinton speech," noted Tom Reilly, CEO of PlanetOut. "But with PlanetOut's live audio cybercast, the rest of the world can listen, too." For more information contact David Smith (HRC Communications Director) at (202) 628-4160 or Tom Reilly (PlanetOut) at (415) 547-2800, ext. 360.

To report events that merit media coverage, or news stories breaking in your area, please contact: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) , the only national lesbian & gay multimedia watchdog organization. GLAAD promotes fair, accurate, and inclusive representation as a means of challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity. To subscribe contact Don Romesburg at (415) 861-2244 or at "GLAAD" and "Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation" are trademarks of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Inc.

TO REPORT DEFAMATION IN THE MEDIA - Call GLAAD's Alertline at 1.800.GAY.MEDIA or go to the GLAAD Web Site at and report through our Alertline Online.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

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