In Topeka Kan., lesbian candidate Tiffany Muller defeated the granddaughter of notorious anti-gay zealot the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. in the contest for city councilmember.
The Rev. Phelps runs the Westboro Baptist Church, which has been described by some authorities as a cult, and operates an anti-gay Web site. The group, made up mostly of relatives of Phelps, routinely demonstrates at the funerals of AIDS victims.
Jael Phelps was among three candidates who challenged Muller. In a nonpartisan primary on Tuesday, Muller came in second with 1,329 votes, and assured herself a spot on the April general election ballot. Phelps received just 202 votes.
After being appointed to fill a vacancy on the city council last year, Muller, the only openly gay or lesbian official in Kansas, had pushed for a city ordinance banning discrimination of gays in municipal hiring. In another victory for Muller this week, Topekans voted 14,285 to 12,795 to reject a bid to overturn the ordinance. If the repeal had passed, it would have barred Topeka from reinstating the anti-discrimination law for 10 years. In addition, it would have made Topeka the only city in the United States to specifically deny a single group protections against bias, according to The Nation.
Other reasons to Cheer:
— The United States on Friday abandoned its controversial attempt to make changes to the Beijing Platform, the centerpiece document that reaffirms international efforts to achieve equality for women. The document is a one-page statement drawn up for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women to reaffirm the closing declaration of the group’s meeting 10 years ago in Beijing. Organizers had hoped to approve the statement as their first order of business but, according to The Associated Press, the U.S. sought to amend the document to ensure that the platform for action did not guarantee the global right to abortion. U.S. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey told the press that the U.S. is “withdrawing the amendment and we will be joining consensus today on the declaration.”
— IBM announced Sunday a three-year, $150,000 grant to MentorNet, an electronic mentoring network for women that links students and professionals in scientific and technical fields across the globe. The MentorNet grant is part of IBM’s Women in Technology initiative, which is designed to attract women to technology careers.
— Of the 275 members in Iraq’s new Transitional National Assembly, 31 percent are female, announced Noeleen Heyzer, executive director of the United Nation’s Development Fund for Women, at a luncheon on Thursday. Prior to the Iraqi elections, women had expected to win 25 percent of the seats in the parliament that will write the constitution.
A design for a statue honoring West Virginia’s female veterans was scrapped amid concerns that the figure of a muscular woman in military fatigues and T-shirt was “not feminine enough.”
West Virginia’s Division of Culture and History had commissioned Charleston artist Joe Mullins to create a work honoring the state’s 7,000 female veterans. Mullins, who previously sculpted four statues for a war memorial at the state Capitol Complex, told the press that the design was approved by the agency in 1999. He has already been paid $50,000 for the work.
State Division of Veteran Affairs Director Larry Linch told the press Tuesday that a poll of female veterans found they opposed the design. Some complained that the figure “lacks femininity,” Linch said.
Culture and history division officials said the agency is no longer involved in the project, except for providing $100,000 to have the finished work installed on the Capitol grounds. State officials say that they don’t know what form the final work will take.
Another reason to Jeer:
— The New Hampshire Attorney General filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday requesting review of two lower court rulings that struck down the state’s law requiring doctors to notify a parent or guardian of any minor seeking an abortion at least 48 hours before the procedure is performed. The law was found unconstitutional because it failed to provide an exception for the health of the minor. In addition, the House of Representatives held hearings earlier this week on the “Teen Endangerment Act,” also called the “Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act” by its sponsors. This act requires young women who seek an abortion in a state other than their home state to notify their parents, contains no exception for when an abortion may be necessary to protect a teen’s health and requires a 24-hour waiting period and written notification even if a parent accompanies his or her daughter to an out-of-state abortion provider.
— Iraqi anchorwoman Raeda Wazzan of Nineveh TV was found dead last Saturday, five days after she was captured by unknown gunmen. Wazzan’s 10-year-old son, with whom she was kidnapped, was released by their abductors two days before her death.
— Tillie Fowler, a Florida Republican who represented Jacksonville in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001, died on Wednesday. Fowler was the highest ranking woman in Congress when she retired at the end of the 106th Congress. Fowler died of a brain hemorrhage at a hospital in Jacksonville. She was 62.
Corrie Pikul is a Women’s eNews intern and freelance writer based in New York City.