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News - August 4, 2005
St. Anselm says misconduct, not transgender, led to firing
By GARRY RAYNO
Union Leader Staff
CONCORD ・An attorney for St. Anselm College claims a former senior computer programmer engaged in serious workplace misconduct that led to his firing.
Robert Blanchette, 53, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in May claiming he was fired after he told college officials he was a transsexual and would be returning to work as a woman.
In an answer to the suit filed July 29, college attorneys say Blanchette, who filed the suit as Sarah Blanchette, did not exhaust all internal remedies before going to court, waited too long and failed to give a reason.
They also say the suit is barred by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment requiring the separation of church and state.
The college's attorney, Sean Gorman of Sheehan, Phinney, Bass & Green, said "clearly those are issues that may be part of this litigation. We've just filed the answer so it's very premature to go into any more detail."
And the college claims Blanchette was a term employee who was not renewed and an employee at will who could be terminated at any time.
In his suit, Blanchette claims at all times he was qualified for his position, the college discharged him because of his sex and he suffered emotional as well as economic harm because of his firing. The college denies all of those allegations in its filing.
The college denies Blanchette's contention college officials were told and understood when he returned from a vacation he would be "adopting and expressing the appearance, attire, behaviors and mannerisms traditionally associated with females."
Blanchette's attorney, Bennett H. Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston, said the college's reply to the suit is a formality and its contentions are no surprise.
In the suit, Blanchette claims he met March 9, 2004, with Adam Albina, Department of Information Technology director, and Patricia Schuster, vice president of administration, and told them of being a transsexual, his medical treatment, psychological counseling and his plans to take the necessary steps to complete his gender shift.
In a letter he gave Albina and Schuster, Blanchette said he had completed the initial steps of the treatment and was ready for the next phase, which was to live full-time as a woman for a year, after which he would decide if he would have surgery to complete the gender change.
He told the college officials when he returned from his planned vacation May 17-31, 2004, he would be Sarah Elizabeth Blanchette.
Blanchette received a letter from Schuster April 14, 2004, putting him on administrative leave for the remainder of his administrative agreement with the college, which expired June 30, 2004.
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August 05, 2005
Transgender employee fired for misconduct, not sex change, college says
A Catholic college in Concord, N.H., says it fired a senior computer programmer for engaging in serious workplace misconduct, not because the man was planning to undergo sex-reassigment surgery and return to work as a woman. Robert Blanchette, 53, sued St. Anselm College in federal court in May claiming he was fired after telling the college he was transgender.
The college's lawyer would not offer details on the misconduct allegation but argued that Blanchette failed to exhaust internal remedies before going to court. The college also said the suit was prohibited by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the constitution, which requires the separation of church and state. The lawyers also said the college could fire him since he was an employee at will who could be terminated at any time. Blanchette said he was qualified for his position and that the college discharged him after he met with officials to tell them of his plans for surgery. (AP)
College 'Immune' From Transsexual's Lawsuit
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: August 4, 2005 8:00 pm ET
(Concord, New Hampshire) A Concord college has told a judge that it cannot be sued by a transsexual for wrongful dismissal because it is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Sarah Blanchette, 53, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in May claiming she was fired after telling officials at St. Anselm College she was a transitioning transsexual. (story)
Blanchette, who was known as Robert at the time, told the college that she was going on a two week vacation and would be returning as a woman.
Her suit says that she followed up the meeting with a letter saying she had wrestled with her gender for several years and finally came to accept she was transgendered. In the letter she asked for compassion and support.
A month later Patricia Shuster, the vice president for administration at Saint Anslem told her she was no longer welcome on campus.
In a subsequent letter Shuster told Blanchette "As you know, you recently disclosed to senior college administration your transsexual status. Upon consideration, you are immediately relieved of your duties.''
In its response to the suit, St. Anselm's lawyer told the court this week that the suit should be dismissed because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment require the separation of church and state.
The college brief also says that Blanchette was fired because she had engaged in "serious workplace misconduct" and that she did not exhaust all internal remedies before going to court.
The brief further noted that because the college considered Blanchette a part-time or temporary employee she could be terminated at any time.
But, for seven years before announcing she would be transitioning Blanchette was given glowing reports for her work as a computer programmer.
She is represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the organization that won same-sex marriage rights in Massachusetts.
Calif. Justices: Businesses Must Give Domestic Partners Marital Benefits
Wednesday August 3, 3:00 am ET
Justin Scheck, The Recorder
Businesses must grant same-sex partners the same privileges as married couples, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday -- but only if they're registered with the state as domestic partners.
While the ruling was hailed as a victory by the same-sex marriage proponents who argued for the plaintiffs, it stopped short of saying that the state's anti-discrimination law has always prohibited discrimination against all same-sex couples.
Instead, the court ruled 5-1 that equal status under state law came only with domestic-partner legislation enacted at the beginning of this year. Consequently, a private country club could not deny spousal benefits to a lesbian couple who have registered for domestic partnership.
"We conclude that under current law, plaintiffs must be treated the same as spouses for purposes of the Unruh Act," Justice Carlos Moreno wrote, referring to the state's Unruh Civil Rights Act. The lone dissent was by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, who argued that the Unruh Act protected same-sex couples both before and after the advent of the domestic partners law.
Koebke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club, 05 C.D.O.S. 6731, began in 2001, when B. Birgit Koebke -- a longtime member of the Bernardo Heights Country Club in San Diego -- sued to force the club into giving the same membership privileges to her domestic partner that it gives to the spouses of married members.
Koebke started seeking spouse rights for her partner, Kendall French, in 1995. She was turned down repeatedly and was told by the club's lawyer that the "family-oriented organization" only recognized marriage as grounds for special privileges.
But as the Supreme Court pointed out in its opinion, there was evidence that the club had not strictly enforced those policies against heterosexual couples. And Koebke argued that the real issue at hand was that the club's board did not want to make Bernardo Heights appear to be "gay friendly."
Jon Davidson, of the New York-based Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, represented Koebke. He said the ruling is a victory, and indicated that the court may look favorably upon the same-sex marriage arguments it will eventually hear.
"I'm feeling excited," he said Monday. "They did not give us everything we argued for, but in the long run, it's a pretty unqualified victory."
Most important, he said, was the justices' willingness to say that the choice of a same-sex partner was a personal trait on par with race or religion.
"This is the kind of language the courts use when they talk about constitutional rights," he said. "They kind of understand that this is about a lot more than whether this couple can play golf together."
But Jeremy Rosen, who represented the country club before the Supreme Court, said that to the extent that it was about the right to prohibit golfing, the club did pretty well.
"It basically vindicates the club's policy over the last few years," said the associate at Horvitz & Levy in Encino, because the court ruled that before the enactment of the domestic partnership law two years ago, businesses could discriminate between married and unmarried couples if they had legitimate business reasons.
Furthermore, he said, it's still legal "to make multiple distinctions between married and unmarried persons except for the small subset who are registered domestic partners."
But Rosen added that the club will be forced to comply with the ruling and provide marriage perks to same-sex couples registered with the state. "On a going-forward basis, that's now the law in California."
While the large-scale discrimination issues were settled by the ruling, Davidson said, several case-specific issues will be sent back for the trial court to decide.
These include whether the club is actually covered by the Unruh Act -- it claims to not be a place of public accommodation -- and the type and amount of damages the plaintiff may recover.
On the damages end, Rosen said, the club scored a victory because the court limited the time for which they could claim harm.
But, Davidson said, "this has never really been so much about the money."
In the end, he added, any ruling on gay marriage will have to build upon the recognition of domestic partnership as equivalent to marriage.
Such partnerships, he said, grant almost as many rights as marriage, but not the same status. "The question the court has to answer in the marriage cases," he said, "is whether that's enough."
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San Francisco Chronicle Editorial: The long drive toward equality
The long drive toward equality
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
THE CASE was about a domestic partner's right to play golf, but the underlying issue is the many forms of entrenched discrimination against same- sex couples.
California's Supreme Court declared this week, "A business that extends benefits to spouses it denies to registered domestic partners engages in impermissible marital status discrimination."
The court's unanimous ruling, reached in the case of a lesbian couple challenging a golf club's spousal-privilege policies, was welcome and overdue. It is expected to help knock down other discriminatory practices on everything from mortgages to automobile insurance discounts.
It also carries political implications that may not necessarily advance the cause of equal rights. Some of the cautious politicians who like to argue that domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians are a suitable substitute for marriage might try to cite the court ruling as evidence that equality has been achieved.
Meanwhile, the forces that want to undo the hard-fought but still-limited rights that same-sex couples have acquired in this state immediately chastised the ruling. Even as the justices were considering this case, petitions were being readied for a June 2006 ballot measure (proponents' Web site: voteyesmarriage.com) that would effectively wipe out domestic partner laws.
Californians can continue to fight this civil-rights battle point by point, or they can encourage their representatives in Sacramento to support legislation (AB849 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco) to lift the many enduring vestiges of discrimination against same-sex couples. Leno's proposal would finally extend an opportunity for the rights and responsibilities of marriage to all Californians.
This is not a trivial matter of golf-club memberships. Even with the state's landmark domestic partners law that the Supreme Court upheld this week, same-sex couples continue to encounter too many legal barriers to providing stability and economic security for each other and their children. Only marriage can bridge that gap.
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Los Angeles Times Editorial: The rules of the club
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August 04, 2005
Gays want names expunged from Austrian criminal registry
An Austrian lobby group said Wednesday that it would launch an effort to have the names of almost 1,500 people convicted under now-repealed laws banning gay sex acts expunged from a registry of criminals. In Austria the names of all those ever convicted of committing a crime are listed in a registry. The names are removed after five years for lighter crimes, while the names of those committing more serious crimes could remain indefinitely.
The interior ministry said in a response to a question from a parliamentarian that 1,434 people were listed in the registry for having violated now-repealed laws relating to homosexual activity. Almost 600 of them were listed for convictions under a law banning all homosexual activity—a law that was abolished more than 30 years ago. More than 400 were listed for violating a law that set the age of consent for gays at 18, while the heterosexual age of consent was 14. That law, listed in the penal code as paragraph 209, was found unconstitutional in 2002 and abolished.
Helmut Graupner, a spokesman for the lobby group Platform Against Paragraph 209, said the group would ask police to expunge the listings and planned to take its fight to the European Court of Human Rights if needed. "To keep the listings in the registry even when the offenses no longer are considered crimes violates human rights," Graupner said Wednesday.
Christoph Poechinger, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said all people still listed in the registry as having been convicted under the two laws remained listed only because they also had been convicted of more serious crimes. In such cases, the listings for offenses of the repealed laws cannot be removed because of "technical reasons," he said. Courts, police, and prosecutors have access to the registry, and employers often require that job applicants provide a document showing their listing in the registry. (AP)
Dispatches from a sex conference
Hot topics: Is porn OK after all? Should the G-spot be the P-spot?And of course, how can we make penises bigger?
By Brian Alexander
Updated: 9:55 a.m. ET Aug. 4, 2005
Tell your friends you are traveling for work and they might commiserate about security checkpoints, plane delays and musty hotel rooms. Tell them you are going to a sex conference, though, and all the sympathy evaporates.
But hey, it’s not like I recently spent three days in Montreal at the World Congress of Sexology sitting around looking at porn. Well, not much porn, anyway.
The congress is a biennial gathering of some of the world’s leaders in the fields of sexual education, sexual health and sex therapy. Among the attendees were some folks you've encountered in Sexploration before, like porn-for-women impresario Candida Royalle, erotic technique instructor Lou Paget, and experts like the queen of the G-spot, Beverly Whipple.
I was somewhat surprised to find so many of the delegates had come from as far away as Nigeria and Mongolia. While TV in Ulan Bator might not play many Viagra-Cialis-Levitra drug ads, people there like to have good sex, too.
It was sobering to listen to some delegates describe the ways sexual issues have an entirely different flavor in their home countries than they do in, say, Chicago or Austin. When you are trying to keep some misguided local honcho from cutting bits off your genitals as part of the practice of female circumcision, you just aren’t all that worried about whether a new rabbit head vibrator will finally make you multiply orgasmic.
There were all sorts of sessions, everything from masturbating your way to better orgasms, to sexy food, to how to make love to a transsexual. A doctor who performs penis-lengthening operations like the ones I wrote about recently showed a video of just how the operation works. My testicles have still not relaxed after leaping north like scared squirrels when I saw that scalpel make the first cut. I’m shivering now just thinking about it.
But though the congress had its wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say-no-more moments that made for cackles over drinks in the bar afterward, the headline from the congress is that sex is complicated and is only getting more complicated as time goes on.
That seems silly, seeing as how sex is about the most basic thing we do. So how hard can it be? But of course sex comes with a basket full of cultural, personal, moral, meanings and implications, and sexual expression is so varied it’s become a Babel of languages.
Experts are still arguing about whether there is such a thing as a G-spot. Is it actually a “female prostate”? Should we call it the P-spot? Should we care?
Sex — or lack of it — after menopause
A controversy is raging over what, if anything, to do about female menopause and the resulting sexual side effects like dry vaginas, lack of interest, drop in frequency, missing orgasms. Some argue that this is natural and decry the “medicalization” of menopause and sexuality. Others say “Hey! We LIKED sex! We want it back!”
At age 55, according to Lorraine Dennerstein of Australia’s University of Melbourne, about 20 percent of men say they are essentially sexually inactive. But about 45 percent of women say so. Presumably, a lot of those women are married to the 80 percent of active men. Where are those men getting the sex?
“Sexual inactivity is a cause of marital discord,” pointed out Jeanne Leventhal Alexander of the Northern California Kaiser Permanente Psychiatry Group for Women’s Health. So it’s not always that middle-aged men leave their wives for younger women because the guy is missing his youth or wants to impress his golfing buddies. He’s missing the sex.
In its normal course, menopause symptoms can begin subtly, appearing at age 38, said Alessandra Graziottin an Italian ob-gyn who specializes in sex and menopause. She often prescribes estrogen treatments like suppositories for dry vaginas, testosterone for desire and energy if a woman’s level is proven to be low.
But there are even simpler ways to help mitigate the effects of menopause on sex. Above all, stop smoking. Smoking reduces genital arousal in women. Have good overall health. Have a loving relationship.
Porn may not be so bad
Jenna Jameson doesn’t create deviants. Gert Martin Hald of Denmark’s University of Aarhus conducted a study of 200 young men and women aged 18 to 30 and “failed on nearly all measures to find negative effects” from video porn. You’ll be reading more about Hald’s study in a future column.
Arousal before desire
In women, arousal typically comes before desire, according to Rosemary Basson of the University of British Columbia’s departments of psychiatry and gynecology. In fact, arousal triggers desire, and arousal develops by anticipating reward, something good about to happen. In other words, men, if you aren’t rewarding her with strokes, massaging, kissing, happy talk, good oral sex, and all the other ways to please a woman, what’s in it for her? You still think you can appear at the bedroom door wearing the funky man-pouch and sucking in your gut and expect her to feel the heat? Not unless she has reason to believe something good is coming. Like, uh, her.
How far will it stretch?
A doctor in Uruguay, Carlos Moreira, has helped develop a penis-stretching device that does not rely on surgery. Instead, it uses a miniature version of the rack, that all-time torture favorite. Wear his device for seven hours every day for four months and you too can have a stiffy that is all of .7 centimeters longer.
Yep, the chicks’ll dig ya.
A big hit at the conference was a video presentation of a movie called “The O Times” celebrating women’s orgasms. Sort of freedom-expression-woman-power stuff. I’m happy for women who have orgasms. Really. But do you think there will ever be a movie celebrating male ejaculation? With, you know, close-ups of our funny, scrunched-up faces and grateful puppy dog eyes?
Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. He is a contributing editor at Glamour and the author of "Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion" (Basic Books).
Sexploration appears every other Thursday.
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