News briefing Oct. 24-30, 2014

News briefing Oct. 24-30, 2014

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More depositions in police-brutality case

Attorneys for Luis Berrios told a federal judge last week they intend to obtain additional depositions in his case.

In 2010, Berrios and his then-partner were allegedly subjected to anti-LGBT abuse when arrested by Philadelphia police.

All charges against the men were eventually dropped. But in 2012, Berrios filed suit against the city and several police officers, alleging civil-rights violations.

His suit alleges false arrest, false imprisonment, excessive force, assault and battery and other wrongdoing.

Last month, U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones 2d asked both sides for a status update.

On Oct. 8, city attorneys said they intend to file a motion that seeks dismissal of the case.

But attorneys for Berrios said they need to obtain more depositions before deciding on their next move.

Meanwhile, Berrios continues to seek a jury trial, according to court records.

Neither side had a comment for this report.


Hearing scheduled in Schaefer case

A Methodist Church disciplinary hearing will be held this week in Memphis, Tenn., for the Rev. Frank Schaefer.

Schaefer allegedly violated church rules in 2007 by officiating at his son’s same-gender wedding in Massachusetts.

In December, he was defrocked after refusing to promise not to perform another same-sex marriage.

In June, an appeals panel reinstated Schaefer, noting it was unjust to punish him for something he may do in the future. But Schaefer’s local prosecutor, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, filed an appeal with the church’s highest judicial body, the Judicial Council.

The council will hold a hearing on the matter at 11 a.m. Oct. 22 at the Doubletree Hotel, 185 Union Ave. in Memphis.

The public is permitted to attend, but a decision isn’t expected to be announced until several days after the hearing concludes.

Schaefer currently ministers to a university community in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Before that, he served as pastor of Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pa.

In a prepared statement, Schaefer said: “My hope is for the Judicial Council to allow me to continue as a United Methodist clergy because it would keep the discussion going. If you exclude those who disagree, you close the door to a much-needed dialogue which, in turn, invites a schism.”

He also noted the diversity within his immediate family.

“I have three gay children. I believe God gave them to me so I would get the message. Gay or straight, we are all created in God’s image. Gay or straight, God blesses our love relationships.”


Appeals court denies Schneller’s request

The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals last week denied a request by anti-LGBT activist James Schneller to intervene in a pending marriage-recognition case.

Last year, Cara Palladino and Isabelle Barker filed suit in federal court, seeking recognition in Pennsylvania of their Massachusetts same-sex marriage.

The defendants are Gov. Tom Corbett and Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.

Schneller sought to intervene in the case, alleging that its outcome could affect his civil rights.

But in a six-page opinion issued Oct. 15, the Third Circuit said Schneller has no right to participate in the case.

The Palladino case remains pending until all appeals are exhausted in the Whitewood case, which established marriage equality throughout Pennsylvania.

Schneller had no comment for this story.

Michael L. Banks, an attorney for the plaintiffs, expressed agreement with the court’s decision.

“There’s no need for Mr. Schneller to be a party to this,” Banks told PGN. “This is a dispute between people that are aggrieved — Palladino and Barker — and the state. Schneller’s involvement is unnecessary for the case to be resolved.”


Nizah committee plans demonstration

At their Oct. 20 meeting, members of the Justice for Nizah committee said a Center City candlelight march and vigil will be held Dec. 22 to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the death of Nizah Morris.

Morris was a transwoman who was found with a fatal head injury on Dec. 22, 2002, shortly after getting inside a Philadelphia police vehicle for a Center City “courtesy ride.”

She died two days later, of blunt-force trauma to the head, and her homicide remains unsolved.

Details of the demonstration will be finalized at a planning meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 24 at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St.

In other business, the committee agreed unanimously to request a meeting with District Attorney R. Seth Williams. Committee members expressed numerous concerns about the handling of the local investigation into Morris’ death.

The committee also finalized a letter to be sent to Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, requesting a state probe of the Morris case. About 20 organizations have signed on to the letter so far.

Additionally, the committee agreed to reach out to elected officials in the region to obtain additional support for a state probe of the Morris case.

— Timothy Cwiek


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