months, George Ihlenburg has been requesting that Judge Paul
J. Czajka step down from overseeing his Family Court cases
in Columbia County. Ihlenburg said the judge’s decision to
recuse himself from contempt-of-court hearings last week was
a step in the right direction.
Ihlenburg, one of many Columbia County residents claiming
unfair treatment by Czajka, was charged with contempt of court
on Oct. 15 for violating a gag order placed on him by Czajka
[Newsfront, Nov. 14]. Under the rules of the order, Ihlenburg
was not allowed to share any information about his case with
outside parties. But Ihlenburg had informed his parents of
the time and date of a custody hearing in which he was trying
to regain parental rights of his three children. When his
parents showed up for the hearing, Ihlenburg was charged with
contempt of court, but continues to protest that the gag order
is a violation of rights granted to him by the First Amendment.
right to freedom of speech has been denied,” said Ihlenburg.
“The fact that I can’t say anything regarding my case is just
Last week Czajka announced that he would step down from the
contempt hearing, as he was a witness to the incidents in
the court that led to the charges. With a new judge to be
assigned for the contempt hearings, Ihlenburg hopes his allegations
of unfair treatment will fall under scrutiny where it matters
most—in a court of law.
hope is that he will recuse himself from my case [entirely],”
Ihlenburg said. “But that has not been before an administrative
Ihlenburg, who has not been allowed to see his children for
almost four years, filed a complaint with the New York Commission
on Judicial Conduct asking Czajka to recuse himself from all
of his Family Court proceedings due to a conflict of interest.
Czajka previously represented Ihlenburg in a different divorce
Ihlenburg has joined Volunteers for an Impartial Court System,
a group in Hudson that meets to discuss their difficulties
with Columbia County’s Family Court system. Ihlenburg said
his experiences and similar stories shared by members of VICS
have led him to believe that the Family Court system is severely
charge of social-service law is not to tear apart families,”
Ihlenburg said. “It is to put families back together again.
But this is not always generated by the system.”
less then one week until the New York state Senate comes back
to Albany to tie up a few loose ends, it is still anybody’s
guess what legislators will do about the landmark gay rights
bill, SONDA, which is expected to come up for a vote next
The passage of the Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act
would make it illegal, under the New York state’s human-rights
law, to discriminate against people because they are gay,
lesbian, bisexual or straight. The bill has been pending for
31 years in Albany.
But advocates for transgender rights have their issues with
the bill and hope that an amended version, which would provide
protection for transgender people as well, will be allowed
to come up for a vote. Many have been fighting to change the
language of the bill to include gender identity or expression.
As it stands now, there is no explicit inclusion for transgender
people in the bill’s language, nor in the state human-rights
The state’s largest gay rights advocacy group, Empire State
Pride Agenda, has been resistant to include transgender language
for fear that it would kill the bill’s chance of passing.
In October, many were angered when ESPA agreed to endorse
Gov. George Pataki in what was believed to be a strategic
move by the group in return for Senate Majority Leader Joseph
L. Bruno’s (R-C TROY) promise to allow SONDA to come up for
a vote this year.
Bruno has repeatedly said that he has no intention of allowing
an amended bill, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan),
to come up for a vote.
unnecessary,” said Bruno.
However, according to Michael Kink, legislative council of
Housing Works Inc., an AIDS advocacy group, Bruno can’t pass
SONDA without the support of Senate Democrats. Just last month,
Senate Minority Leader David Paterson (D-Manhattan) said he
might not support SONDA without an amendment. Kink is hopeful
that other Senate Democrats will follow suit. Without the
support of the Democrats, said Kink, there won’t be adequate
support among the 37 Republicans alone to pass the bill.
not that we are anti-SONDA, but we think we need a fully inclusive
SONDA that protects all people in the LGBT community,” said
Kink. “There is a clear recognition that the bias and discrimination
faced by transgender people, by gender variant people, is
very real and very harmful, and protections in law is what
this whole thing is supposed to be about.”
U.S. Against Them
sentiment is on the rise the world over, according to a global
attitudes survey conducted this past summer. The Pew Research
Center for the People and the Press surveyed a total of 38,000
people in 44 nations and found that, while majorities in many
nations continue to view the United States and its citizens
favorably, American approval ratings have suffered sharp declines
in the past two years.
While disdain for the United States was most prevalent in
the Muslim nations of the Middle East and Central Asia, the
report found that the overall anti-American trend was unspecific
to any particular region. And approval ratings for the United
States have dropped significantly since 2000 in 19 of 27 nations
where survey data was available.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are some common
gripes among those who rated this nation unfavorably: Many
contend that our government fails to take the interests of
other nations into account when crafting international policy,
and believe the growing gap between rich and poor nations
is fostered largely by the United States.
most dramatic declines in attitudes toward the United States,
outside of the Middle East, were found in Germany, the Slovak
Republic, Indonesia and Argentina, where the percentage of
people rating this country positively plummeted to 34 percent,
down from 50 percent two years ago. In Great Britain, our
staunchest ally in the war on terror, the States fell out
of favor with an additional 8 percent of the population since
2000, leaving 75 percent still rating this nation favorably.
Particularly significant are the poll’s findings on Turkey,
a Muslim nation and key Middle Eastern ally. According to
the survey, only 30 percent of people there hold a favorable
view of the United States, and an overwhelming 83 percent
oppose U.S. use of Turkish bases to wage war against Iraq.
A telling six-nation follow-up poll revealed widespread mistrust
of the United States and suspicions regarding its motives
for any military action against Iraq. While the majority of
people in most nations agree that the current Iraqi regime
poses at least a moderate threat to world stability, sizable
percentages in all nations polled, including majorities in
France and Russia, believe that America’s desire to control
Iraqi oil would be the primary reason to attack Iraq. Twenty-two
percent of Americans subscribe to this view.