Thursday, March 5, 2009

Around the West

SANTA FE, New Mexico (Observer Update) - With less than an hour of debate in the New Mexico Senate, legislation that would have created a statewide domestic partnership registry for both same and opposite-sex couples is dead, reported

A similar bill is currently working its way through the House, but even if it passes it is unlikely it would be taken up by the Senate this year. Under the legislation, couples would have been able to have registered with local county clerks and receive certificates attesting their relationships. Partners would have had to attest they are over the age of 18 and not otherwise in a relationship.

They would have been guaranteed access to each other in hospitals and be able to make medical decisions for partners who are unable to make those decisions themselves, and they would be granted other state benefits and rights accorded to partners in marriages. Opponents of the measure said that it threatened tradition marriage and was likely violated state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. A last minute rewriting of several portions of the bill to remove ambiguity between the registry and marriage failed to convince opponents. In the end the legislation failed 17-25, with 10 Democrats joining all 15 Republicans in opposing the bill.

The bill had the support of Gov. Bill Richardson (D). “I’m disappointed by the Senate’s actions in defeating what is fundamentally an issue of civil rights and equality,” Richardson said in a statement.

SACRAMENTO, California (Observer Update) - Legislation has been filed in the California Assembly to expand domestic violence services for members of the LGBT community, reported. The bill would broaden access for LGBT service providers to a state fund within the California Emergency Management Agency, which supports LGBT-specific domestic violence programs across the state and is subsidized by a $23 fee on new domestic partner registrations. The fund was originally established by the legislature in 2006.

Few studies have been done on the issue of abuse within Gay households but it is believed to be as widespread as among opposite-sex relationships. One recent study found that nationwide LGBT domestic violence victims, especially Gay men, often are reluctant to report abuse. Another study found that 57 percent of LGBT victims become homeless due to the abuse; 18 percent “lose everything.” Agencies that deal with the abused across the country frequently have little understanding of LGBT partner abuse and few services, including shelter are available.

The California law, originally passed in 2006, was the first of its kind in the country. The new bill, filed by Assembly Member John A. Perez (D) would make more resources available. “This bill would help support innovative program models that are proven most effective in serving LGBT survivors of violence, such as those being pioneered by LGBT centers and organizations across the state,” said Perez in a statement. The legislation would expand the number of providers who can apply for grants through CALEMA and eliminate the requirement to provide shelter services in order to qualify for funding. Studies have shown that most LGBT domestic violence survivors do not typically access services through shelters.

“We must take whatever steps we can to ensure that LGBT survivors of domestic violence have access to culturally competent care and resources,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California.

SAN DIEGO, California (Observer Update) - A seven month investigation by San Diego Police and the District Attorney’s office into the police shooting of a man during a Gay pride boat cruise has concluded that officers acted legally,

Steven Paul Hirschfield, 37, of West Hollywood, went overboard during a July 19 pride- related cruise in San Diego Harbor. Harbor Police were notified by the operators of the charter boat and Hirschfield was rescued, but reportedly began fighting with officers who pulled him onto their boat. He allegedly grabbed a Taser from one officer and struck him in the face. Police said he then attempted to take the officer’s handgun. As the two struggled, a second officer shot Hirshfield. He was pronounced dead by paramedics when the police boat docked.

In its finding the District Attorney’s Office report said that the officer’s use of deadly force was “..reasonable under the circumstances,” since the other officer “..had told him Mr. Hirschfield had gotten possession of one of his guns.” In reality, however, Hirschfield did not have the gun. Last August, the county coroner said that Hirschfield’s death was a homicide. The coroner’s report says that the fatal shot was fired by a “departmentally-issued Glock 40 loaded with issued 0.40 caliber jacketed hollow points.” “The gunshot wound entrance was on the right midback,” and exited through the right part of his chest the report said. The report also noted that Hirschfield’s blood showed “the presence of methamphetamine, doxylamine, and trace ketamine in his blood.” There was no sign of alcohol in the blood, the report noted.

Hirschfield’s family has accused the investigation into the shooting of being biased in favor of the officers. The family has filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit against the police. A hearing is scheduled for next month. The shooting was one of two incidents involving county workers at last year’s Gay pride. Four firefighters assigned to ride atop a fire truck in the parade sued the city alleging they were sexually harassed by crowds on the parade route. Last month, a jury awarded them combined damages of $34,300.

No comments: