Muller Defeats Anti-Gay; Vet Statue Scrapped

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersIn 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.

Church OK’s Condoms in AIDS fight; Job Bias in U.K.

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersA senior Vatican official from Switzerland said this week that condoms could be used to fight AIDS in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia.Cardinal Georges Cottier told the Italian news agency Apcom that the use of condoms was “legitimate” to save lives in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia, where there was no time to teach abstinence or faithful conjugal love. He is the most senior figure so far to argue that condoms should be admissible in exceptional circumstances, The Guardian reports.Cottier does not, however, support the use of condoms in general. He reiterated the church’s official line, saying that condoms should not be used as contraceptives. But he emphasized that the threat of AIDS was so immediate that “the use of condoms in some situations can be considered morally legitimate.”Another reason to Cheer:–Girls in the southern city of Guangzhou, China, who have no male siblings will enjoy a 10 per cent reduction in education fees and medical costs as of this year. A senior official from the Population and Family Planning Bureau in Guangzhou told China Daily this week that the move is seen as a measure to address the discrimination many Chinese parents have against daughters.

Tymoshenko as PM; Gallagher Paid by Feds

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersNewly-inaugurated Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko appointed top ally Yulia Tymoshenko as prime minister Monday. Parliament will consider ratifying the appointment as early as next weekTymoshenko, a strong supporter of Yushchenko, was a driving force behind a wave of opposition protests dubbed the “Orange Revolution” that paved the way for his eventual victory over outgoing prime minister Viktor Yanukovich.The outspoken Tymoshenko is disliked by business and the political elite in eastern regions, factions that supported Yanukovich in the presidential elections. The firebrand opposition leader, however, has been hailed by women’s rights groups as a powerful model of an outspoken woman in a country that still clings to old-fashioned stereotypes about women.In addition, Yushchenko is one of a small number of female politicians in Ukraine. As Women’s eNews recently reported, no women are among 16 government ministers of Ukraine and only two women serve at the deputy-minister level.Tymoshenko told the press last week that she wants to restart Ukraine’s efforts to become a member state of the European Union, but that Kiev should not go into the process “half-ready.” She also pledged to review murky privatization deals that allowed rich coal and steel magnates from the east to accumulate wealth in the years following the breakup of the Soviet Union.Three more reasons to Cheer this week:–The U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider whether states may offer license plates with anti-abortion messages, leaving the decision to the lower courts in the 12 states that initiated this program.

More Women in Boardrooms; Women’s Clinic Torched

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe number of women in boardrooms grew to one-quarter of all new outside directors, up from about 16 percent in 2003, according to a report released this week by executive search firm Spencer Stuart.The annual “Board Index” also found that 24 percent of the 443 new outside directors named last year to companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 index were women. That was the largest increase in female independent directors ever in S and P 500 companies in one year, the firm said.Women now account for 16 percent of total board membership in the S and P 500, an increase from 13 percent in 2003, and 12 percent in 1999.However, female chief executives declined to seven from nine in 2003, according to the report.Other reasons to cheer this week:– Virginia delegate John Cosgrove decided Monday to withdraw a controversial bill that would have required women to report a miscarriage within 12 hours or face a possible misdemeanor sentence. Cosgrove, a Republican from Chesapeake, had been blasted by bloggers who criticized the bill. Press reports say that his office received more than 500 e-mails protesting what they considered to be an infringement on women’s rights.– As part of its new dress code, the U.S. Navy is giving women more control over their wardrobe. For the first time since women officially entered service in 1908, women are no longer required to wear skirts.

DOD Sexual Assault Policy; Judges Renominated

(WOMENSENEWS)–CheersThe new sexual assault policy for the Department of Defense, announced on Tuesday, includes clear steps to prevent sexual assault, protect victims and increase accountability.While delivering the new policy to Congress, a Department of Defense spokesperson said that the “department is moving forward to make real changes and to make those changes stick.”In a summary of policy, the Pentagon acknowledged that previous sexual assault prevention programs varied among services in breadth and depth, and that there was a need for more consistency. Along with a specific definition of “sexual assault” (as well as “sexual harassment” and “other sex-related offenses”), the new policy provides a training program for all Department of Defense personnel for dealing with sexual assault.In addition, the policy includes revised guidelines for how to investigate complaints, how to treat and care for victims and how to report sexual assaults. A notable feature of the revised policy is its emphasis on increased victim support. The Pentagon has told the press that it plans to designate a sexual assault response coordinator at every U.S. military installation in the world, including all military branches, service academies and other academic institutions.The policy was developed based on recommendations from the department’s Joint Task Force on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault. These changes come in the aftermath of a series of sexual assault reports in the Iraq war, the Air Force Academy and elsewhere in the military.Other reasons to cheer:–A simple urine test performed during pregnancy could someday predict which women are likely to develop dangerously high blood pressure called pre-eclampsia, says a study in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.Pre-eclampsia is a condition that kills hundreds of mothers-to-be each year in the United States and leads to 15 percent of all premature births. In the study, researchers found urine samples from women who eventually developed pre-eclampsia had extremely low levels of a protein called placental growth factor, which nurtures blood vessels that support the mother and fetus.