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Volume 15/Issue 16

by PlanetOut,, a Worldwide Online Community of Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans People

Armenian Asylum in Netherlands

A n openly gay Armenian has been granted asylum in the Netherlands based on life-threatening homophobic persecution in his homeland, even though he had not himself been arrested or tortured there, according to "De GAY Krant" newspaper. It's believed to be the first instance in the Netherlands in which the general homophobic climate was considered to be an adequate basis for granting refugee status without the applicant having personally experienced persecution, and could set a precedent for granting future applications.

The Ministry of Justice had originally denied a residence permit to the man known as "Andrej," but now he has won his appeal of that ruling. A judge found that the Ministry had improperly ignored reports of homophobic persecution in Armenia, and found that to return there could seriously endanger Andrej's life.

Florida Supreme Court: No Assisted Suicide

T he Florida State Supreme Court on July 17 followed the U.S. Supreme Court in denying a non-gay man with end-stage AIDS the opportunity for physician-assisted suicide. Two other plaintiffs had originally joined Charles Hall in suing the state of Florida for the "right to die," claiming that the state constitution's privacy guarantees should override the 1868 state law that makes assisting another's suicide the crime of manslaughter, but the other two plaintiffs died before a lower court judge ruled that Hall-and only Hall-could be aided in dying by his physician Cecil McIver. The state appealed that lower court ruling, which was struck down by the state Supreme Court in a 5 - 1 decision in which Justice Stephen Grimes wrote, "The state has an unqualified interest in the preservation of life."

The stern dissenter on the bench was Chief Justice Gerald Kogan, who wrote, "What possible interest does society have in saving life when there is nothing of life to save but a final convulsion of agony?" Kogan described a gray area between life and death, "a chasm of ambiguities," which had been unknown before recent decades' medical developments, and felt strongly that individuals should have the power to choose in these situations.

The Florida courts have already recognized individuals' right to reject treatment, but Grimes' majority insisted that the "affirmative act" of assisting suicide could not be justified, and spoke of "preserving the integrity of the medical profession."

Generally the majority judges believed that it was up to the legislature rather than the court to change the law, and the ruling suggested that a "carefully crafted" statute could establish physician-assisted suicide if lawmakers wished. But nothing could be farther from the conservative-dominated state's agenda at this time; even supportive lawmakers are unwilling to come forward as sponsors for a bill proposed by the Hemlock Society. Favorable reactions to the ruling came from those who had feared that, in the state with the largest population over age 80 years, assisted suicides would become rampant if legalized.

Hall had sought to avoid becoming "a zombie," but is now experiencing exactly that, in so much pain and so medicated for it with morphine that he could not become conscious enough to comment on the ruling. His wife said "his systems are shutting down one by one."

Jews-Only Holocaust Memorial

A major national Holocaust monument in Berlin, the Neue Wache memorial, will commemorate only the Jewish victims of the Nazis; and while there will be at least one separate memorial for the half-million Romany ("Gypsy") victims, there are no current plans for a memorial recognizing gay victims, of whom it's generally believed some 10,000 went to concentration camps. The nature of the memorial has long been debated not only within the government and by the general public, but even within the gay and lesbian community itself, with some preferring a separate memorial at a separate site.

That the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis would be the sole focus of the national memorial was evidenced by guidelines Culture Minister Peter Radunski issued July 16 for a competition to determine the design of the monument, according to an Associated Press report. Those guidelines also reconfirmed the site, which will be located on federal land near the Brandenburg Gate. Although that's not far from the parliament, some had wanted the monument in plain view of the national government's buildings when it returns to Berlin in two years.

The guidelines state that, "The uniqueness of the murder of the Jews of Europe is the reason for a special memorial," while denying that this is "assigning subordinate rank to the crimes against other victim groups or their suffering and deaths."

The Initiative Homo Monument organization believes it's important to recognize the different ways in which groups were targeted by the Nazis. Their goal is to increase public awareness in Germany that gay men were specifically targeted by the Nazis-and that that was wrong. They charge that the German government has never formally acknowledged gay survivors as Nazi victims with the same considerations given others: never clearing gays' police records for breaking the extreme Nazi sodomy laws that remained on the books long after the war, never adjusting their pension plans, and never making them eligible for reparations. However, private reparations about to be paid from Swiss banks and businesses will be made to gay Holocaust survivors-although only one has been publicly identified to date.

There is further debate within the community as to whether a gay memorial should recognize only the men who were specifically targeted by the Nazis, or include those lesbians who were included in more blanket categories, such as "social deviant."

Currently, there is a triangular plaque at the subway station at Berlin's Nollendorplatz saying, "Beaten to death, silenced to death-to the homosexual victims of Nazism." The Netherlands was the first country to establish a major monument to gay and lesbian Holocaust victims. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC was picketed for its gay content by Kansas homophobe Fred Phelps and his religious right clan at the time of the Presidential inauguration.

Court - Rent Credit Unshared

T he gay- and AIDS-themed musical hit "Rent" was solely authored by the young playwright Jonathan Larson- who died of a heart aneurysm shortly before the stage production opened in February 1996-and not co-authored by Lynn Thomson, the former drama professor he paid $2,000 to act as dramaturge, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled July 23 in Manhattan. Thomson was seeking legal recognition of co-author status for a share of the royalties in the tens of millions of dollars for what "Variety" calls "the biggest Broadway smash of the decade."

Those royalties come from not only the Broadway box office but also from touring productions and recording contracts which, all told, was projected during the trial at a value of $250 million and could some day conceivably make "Rent" a billion-dollar property. Thomson maintains that she wrote 24% of the book and 9% of the lyrics. She says that she'll appeal the ruling, encouraged by the judge's sympathy for how little compensation she received for making an unquestionably important contribution to the money-making show. She was successfully opposed by Larson's estate, administered by his father, as the family believes strongly that Larson was profoundly possessive of his work.

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