National and World News

Blue Cross Extends Same-Sex Benefits

A New York health insurer will institute coverage of same-sex couples married in Canada as a result of a civil rights lawsuit. New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) announced that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Western New York, based in Buffalo, will begin extending spousal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, Canwest News Service reported. The decision comes after the organization filed suit in the case of a lesbian couple from the United States who were married in Canada. “We applaud Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Western New York for following the law, and treating all married couples the same,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman told CanWest in a statement. Same-sex marriage is not legal in New York, but the couple had traveled to Canada to be legally married in 2006, the news service related.

Ballot Initiatives Proving No Help to GOP

Four years after state ballot initiatives in the nation helped turn out conservative Republican voters, they are rare in 2008, observers report. Initiatives in 2004 such as those banning same-sex marriages and other hot-button conservative issues widely were credited with helping President George W. Bush win re-election. But conservative activists say a lack of new ideas, dismal poll showings for Republican candidates, and scarce funding have precluded a repeat performance, The Los Angeles Times reported. “There has been a lack of funding on the right side, up and down. The right is despondent and demoralized,” Tim Mooney, an Arizona initiative consultant, told the newspaper. And the hot-button ballot initiatives that have made it this year, such as antigay marriage measures in California, Arizona, and Florida, aren’t considered likely to affect the outcome of the US presidential race, analysts state. California, for example, is considered a safe bet for likely Democratic Party nominee Senator Barack Obama, with or without the initiative, while his probable Republican Party opponent, Senator John McCain, is the heavy favorite in his home state of Arizona.

World News

Man Attacks Nine with Hammer

Canadian police in Vancouver held a man after nine people he hit on the head with a hammer in the city’s gay district. Vancouver police spokeswoman Constable Jana McGuinness said it wasn’t immediately clear if the street attacks that night were hate crimes, but they occurred after the city’s annual Gay Pride parade had concluded, The Vancouver Sun reported. Khalid Alzghoul, 31, was charged with 17 offenses, including nine counts of assault with a weapon. Additional charges are possible if the attacks are deemed to be hate crimes. “He was ranting about a lot of things, and what exactly he was saying I have yet to confirm with investigators,” McGuinness stated. Police seized an imitation firearm, two knives, and a ball-peen hammer when they made the arrest. McGuinness explained that Alzghoul has a history of mental illness, and was tackled to the ground by a man who witnessed the ninth attack. None of the injuries to the nine victims were considered life-threatening. Two were kept in hospital overnight for observation, the report noted.

Swedish Castration Proposal Opposed

Proposed legislation in Sweden that would require gender reassignment patients to be castrated is insulting, a transgender rights group says. The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights stated that while the hormone treatments used in reassignment procedures can cause sterilization, mandating castration for all patients is discriminatory, The Local reported. The proposal suggests that anyone undergoing gender reassignment surgery be required to have ovaries or testicles removed to prevent any chance of pregnancy. The battle over the proposal comes after it was revealed this year that a British transgender patient had become pregnant. According to The Local, in 2007, a total of 46 people sought sex change operations in Sweden. That number marked a dramatic increase from a decade earlier, when only 16 people applied.

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