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in the news/5

Volume 15/Issue 24

CBA Launches As First Gay & Lesbian
Consumer Organization

The Community Benefits Association of America, Inc. (CBA) was launched Nov. 10 as the first gay and lesbian consumer benefits-driven organization in America. CBA's charter member mailing delivering to 15,000 self-identified gay households signifies the first time in history gay, gay-friendly and mainstream companies have banded together to offer money saving benefits and amenities exclusively to gay and lesbian consumers.

For annual member dues of $49, CBA offers its members the opportunity to access over $1,500 in money saving benefits-from dining, to travel, to merchandise to long distance telephone service. Companies offering benefits to CBA members include such well known names as Dining a la Card, Hertz, Kodak, JCPenney, Pearle Vision, Out & About, Atlantis Events, OutWest Adventures, ICON Magazine, and many others. CBA members will receive added preferred access to discount long distance, Internet service, and the POWERx Medical Card program (with no cost domestic partner coverage).

"For over two years, CBA has been in formation, through gay consumer and business surveys, focus groups and countless hours of consumer research," said Andrew A. Isen, President of CBA. He continued, "Today we see the coming together of a dedicated core group of benefits providers and vendors, all enthused about the prospect of welcoming gay consumers and rewarding them for their patronage. There has never been an organization in America like CBA-one that delivers real money saving values, on every day necessities, tailored exclusively to the needs and wants of gay consumers."

During 1998, CBA will keep its membership informed of additional benefit offerings currently in development through a quarterly newsletter, advertising and a World Wide Web site. Under active discussion are the development of a members-only gay travel consortium and the offering of the first-ever life insurance product targeted exclusively for gay men and women.

CBA is located in Washington, DC and is owned and managed by WinMark Concepts, Inc., the nation's leading marketing firm specializing in the gay and lesbian consumer niche markets. CBA and WinMark are both gay owned and operated.

For more information, please contact CBA directly at 202.483.1300.

Gay Games in Sydney in 2002

The Federation of Gay Games has announced that Sydney has been selected as the host site for the sixth international gay and lesbian Olympics-style competition in 2002, beating out finalists Dallas, Texas, Long Beach, California, Montreal, and Toronto. It will be the first time the Games have been held in the Southern Hemisphere. More than I 0,000 people are expected to participate and another 20-30,000 to visit as spectators, bringing some $100-160-million in revenues for New South Wales as a return on a budget of $11.5-million - a significantly lower price tag than the mainstream International Olympic Games that will be using the same city in 2000. While the NSW government welcomed the selection as a much-needed boost for the stagnant economy expected in the wake of the mainstream competition, homophobe Fred Niles, his National Party, and the Christian Democratic Party all continue to object. They've cited both HIV and pedophilia in opposing government financial support of the effort, especially to the $75,000 the state invested in support of the bidding process at which Sydney has lost twice before.

Active support for the games has come from swimming great Dawn Fraser and from discus-thrower Lisa-Marie Vizaniari, an open lesbian slated for the mainstream Olympics. Sydney's bid also was ranked highest by Joe Clark of The Village Voice in his compariso nof the finalists published November 13; he said the experience of their past bids showed in their careful planning of details such as disability access, making their bid "superior and worthy."

Priest, Extortionist Sentenced

A Florida extortionist and the Catholic priest who robbed his own church to buy silence about their gay affair, were both sentenced this week. Both men had made plea bargain arrangements with prosecutors in order to avoid embarrassing trials; priest Simeon Gardner did so to protect the church, and Joseph Mondeau to protect his 12-year-old son. Neither man identifies as gay, although after meeting when Mondeau sought pastoral counseling in 1992, they had a series of sexual encounters which Mondeau told Gardner he'd videotaped.

Gardner, who retired from the church at age 70 when the story broke last year, was convicted of grand theft for syphoning more than $200,000 from the church to pay Mondeau after his own funds ran out. He was sentenced to two years of house arrest and 15 years probation; he told the court he would feel remorse for however many days remain to him. Gardner rifled at least four church bank accounts, yet in December a court denied the prosecution's request for bond pending trial on the grounds that Gardner would have to answer to "a higher authority."

Mondeau pleaded guilty to extortion and was sentenced to 15 years probation, 2,000 hours of community service, and payment of restitution of at least $40 per week to Gardner's St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lutz, FL. He's believed to have extorted nearly $400,000 from the priest.

Although Mondeau claimed he was a victim in the case, alleging that everyone from Gardner to the former bishop of St. Petersburg had lied in the case, Judge Barbara Fleischer noted the tangible evidence that Mondeau himself had lied to Gardner. Fleischer approved the plea bargains primarily to protect the church, whose congregants she believes to be "the real victims" in the case.

Southwest States Grapple
With Issue Of Gay Parenting

While in Texas, child welfare officials are defending a policy allowing gay men and lesbians to be foster and adoptive parents, in Arizona, the governor is questioning gay foster parenting, saying gay people do not fall into her definition of a livery normal, stable family." Last week, Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) spokeswoman Linda Edwards said that the primary criteria for qualifying to be foster and adoptive parents is an ability to "nurture and parent a child," not sexual orientation. The explanation comes as another CPS employee, Rebecca Bledsoe, threatened a lawsuit against the department after being demoted for violating numerous CPS policies by removing a foster child from the care of a lesbian couple, citing the state sodomy law. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Child Protective Services do not currently inquire about an applicant's sexual orientation, and Governor Jane Hull is calling for an examination into the criteria for foster parent selection that may deny gay people the chance to be foster parent.

"It's tragic that some politicians haven't examined the facts about gay and lesbian parents," said Tim Fisher of Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International (GLPCI). "We applaud the Texas Child Protective Services for realizing that the children must come first. Every child has a right to a loving home, regardless of a parent's sexual orientation." [from GLAAD]

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