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April 7, 2000

Dayton mayor tries to put rights limit into tax vote

Eric Resnick

Dayton--Mayor Mike Turner, who last December blocked a measure to add sexual orientation to the city�s civil rights ordinance, is attempting to make its future passage less likely through a procedural maneuver.

Turner, who is widely supported by Christian conservatives, is attempting to attach an amendment to a city income tax renewal that voters will decide May 2. At stake is $24.4 million for city services.

The measure would prohibit the city from ever changing its civil rights ordinances without a voters� referendum. This would create a dilemma for voters: no way to approve the necessary tax without also approving his resolution.

Turner is now claiming that support of a gay and lesbian civil rights ordinance would reduce support for the tax.

City Commissioner Dean Lovelace is working with openly lesbian City Commissioner Mary Wiseman to win support for her proposed ordinance. They are holding town hall meetings to reach out to the African-American churches that threatened to repeal December�s ordinance by referendum, had it passed.

"I don�t know what is motivating the mayor to do this," Lovelace told the Dayton Daily News.

Turner responded by saying that Wiseman was purposefully waiting until after the tax renewal before re-introducing her civil rights ordinance.

"I don�t feel this is fair to the community, and the commission should take a stand that any gay rights ordinance be placed on the ballot for public approval," he said.

Turner put the words, "Neglecting the rights of citizens to have input could have a negative effect on the passage of the income tax renewal" as a warning on his amendment, which the commission was to vote on April 5.

There are five city commissioners, including Turner, whose mayoral title gives him no additional power or the ability to veto the commission�s decisions.

Lovelace and Wiseman are expected to be joined in opposition to Turner by Commissioner Lloyd Lewis.

"[Turner] is connecting things like a tax concern with civil rights," Lewis said. "It�s horrible."

"The mayor is certainly against the issue of equal civil rights for gays," Lewis added, "although sometimes he appears he is for them."

Twenty supporters of equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens showed up at the March 29 city commission meeting to voice their opposition to Turner�s measure.

City officials say they are not hearing voters threaten to vote against the tax if Turner�s anti-gay resolution is not attached to it. The tax is expected to pass.

"No one has raised the anti-discrimination ordinance as an issue at any level of the public presentations held about the tax renewal," Deputy City Manager William Gillispie told the Dayton Daily News.

Wiseman continues to charge that Turner is just trying to set different rules for one group of citizens, which is clearly discrimination.|

 

 

 

Reform rabbis make same-sex unions kosher

by Eric Resnick

Greensboro, N.C.--A convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis almost unanimously adopted a resolution March 29 declaring that same gender couples are "worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual" and officially giving support to rabbis that perform same gender union ceremonies.

The central conference is a body of 1,800 Reform rabbis that governs the religious interpretations and literature of Reform Judaism.

The resolution also mandates that the conference develop educational and liturgical resources relating to same gender couples.

With the resolution, Reform Judaism joined the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ, and the tiny Reconstructionist Judaism in official support of same-gender unions. With its 1.5 million members, Reform Judaism is the largest of the four, as well as the largest branch of Judaism in the United States.

The resolution originated in the Women�s Rabbinic Network, which passed the resolution to bring the issue to the floor of the central conference convention general assembly in March 1999. A similar resolution was tabled by the assembly two years earlier.

The resolution supports rabbis that perform same gender unions, and those that choose not to. More than half of North American Reform rabbis already perform same gender unions.

"This doesn�t change the practice," said Rabbi David Horowitz of Temple Israel of Akron, "It changes the public posture of the Reform movement."

Horowitz is also the president of Akron P-FLAG, the father of a lesbian, and was one of the earliest champions of gay rights within Reform Judaism.

"Reform Judaism has been �tolerant� since 1990, when we said we would ordain gay rabbis. We�re beyond that now. This is about celebration of our same gender couples," added Horowitz.

In addition to the ordination of rabbis, the conference�s support for civil rights for gays and lesbians goes back to 1977, when it called for the end of sodomy laws and anti-gay discrimination. A 1996 resolution declared the conference "in support of the right of gay and lesbian couples to share fully and equally in the rights of civil marriage," and voiced opposition to governmental efforts to ban same gender marriages. The central conference would not allow the Boy Scouts of America to exhibit at its 1998 convention, and passed a resolution calling for congregations to sever ties to the Boy Scouts.

"Since 1990, no pro-gay resolution has failed at CCAR," said Horowitz.

According to Horowitz, the new resolution represents a political shift.

"Not even the homophobes wanted to be seen as against gay people," he said, "but it�s about who�s on the outside and who�s on the inside. Those who opposed this resolution two years ago are now on the outside."

"Fred Phelps cured any homophobia," said Horowitz, noting that the Topeka, Kansas anti-gay street preacher and his family picketed outside the Greensboro convention with their god hates fags signs. "We should have hired them two years ago."

Horowitz indicated that there were only two speakers against the resolution, which passed by a nearly unanimous voice vote.

"Their opposition was other things, not that they were opposed to same gender unions," added Horowitz. "One opponent spoke about how the resolution might affect Jews in Israel who might not understand same gender couples as North American Jews do. The other opponent was concerned about the reaction from Orthodox and Conservative Jews and the perception of breaking from the community.

Horowitz said that subsequent e-mails from Israel reported "no reaction and no stir" caused by this resolution.

Rabbi Susan Stone of Temple Beth Shalom of Hudson, Ohio, the co-president of the Women�s Rabbinic Network, said that the final resolution was brokered the day before the vote behind closed doors.

"Some of the �whereas� were moved into background because the background is not debatable," she said.

One of the sticking points negotiated was the nature of the Hebrew word kiddushin, which is a derivative of the word meaning "holy" and is used exclusively to describe Jewish marriage between a man and a woman. The 2000 resolution does not change that, instead using kedushah, another derivative of "holy," to describe same gender unions.

The fact that no state currently recognizes the unions as civil marriage played a part in that distinction, which disappoints Horowitz.

"My grandparents were married in Europe back when they didn�t even record civil marriages. There has never been any question that theirs was kiddushin," he said.

Rabbi Stone said her gay and lesbian congregants on the left and the right were opposed to the word kiddushin, too. "Those on the right wanted to reserve kiddushin for traditional marriage, and those on the left didn�t want their relationships to mirror heterosexual marriages."

But all sides of the debate wanted there to be action on some resolution and moved to broker one that would be unified. And they did.

"We did something historic and we knew it," said Stone. "Passage of this resolution was a defining moment in many rabbinates, and we felt honored to do it."

Horowitz described the general assembly, immediately after passage, joined hands and broke out in celebrating the "Sh�chechyanu", the prayer Jews say to thank God for bringing them to historic moments like the birth of a child.

"What this does is normalize same gender unions," say both Horowitz and Stone.

"I can call New York and say I have a ceremony between two lesbians, send me ketubah [marriage contract] number 18," said Stone.

Orthodox Jews have expressed outrage at the resolution. Rabbi Kenneth Hain, president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, said Reform Judaism has made "another tragic assault on . . . the sanctity of our people."

"Endorsement of homosexual unions is beyond the pale of acceptable Jewish teaching and practice," said Hain.

"We didn�t care what they think," said Horowitz.

Noting that Orthodox and Reform Jews have far more serious differences over questions like "who is a Jew?" Horowitz added, "The only thing that would satisfy them is if we all put on black hats and grew beards."

Conservative Jews, however, who fall ideologically between the Orthodox and the Reform, may also take this issue up in the future. Conservative rabbis that do same gender unions are starting to raise the issue.

"Our resolution gives impetus to those in the Conservative movement who want to give voice to this issue," said Stone.

The rabbis are also aware of the impact of their resolution on Protestant Christian denominations, notably the United Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians.

All three are currently debating how gays and lesbians will participate in their churches. The United Methodists are widely expected to split over the issue when they meet in Cleveland in early May.

"These are communities in ferment over this issue," said Stone. "By adding religious weight with our decision, we opened the door and have given them a place to walk."|


Attorney general backs an unwritten hate crime bill

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland--Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery says that her position on hate crime legislation protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is "consistent with what it has always been," even though the bill she is advocating has never been written.

Montgomery spoke at a meeting of the American Jewish Committee in Cleveland March 16. The Cleveland Jewish News reported, and Montgomery spokesperson Chris Davey confirmed, that most of the speech dealt with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremicist groups operating in Ohio.

A report was released last week documenting that during 1999, Ohio had 26 hate group rallies, more than in five Southern states combined.

During her speech, Montgomery urged the strengthening of Ohio�s hate crime law, which currently does not include crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, or disability.

"These are crimes against society as a whole," the Cleveland Jewish News quoted Montgomery. "They fly in the face of the tolerance that America believes in. We cannot allow these incidents to fester."

Following her presentation, Montgomery took questions from the audience. It was then that the News reported Montgomery saying that she promised to support a bill introduced by State Rep. Amy Salerno to add assault to the crimes covered by Ohio�s "ethnic intimidation" law, and cover gays and lesbians.

But Salerno has not introduced any bill on the subject, nor has she written one.

Davey said he showed the Cleveland Jewish News to Montgomery, and she said the quotes reported are accurate.

State Rep. Joyce Beatty is sponsoring a bill, H.B. 277, that would add crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender, and disability to the existing "ethnic intimidation" act. It would also expand the law, which presently applies only to five misdemeanors, to include felonies.

Montgomery has been silent on Beatty�s bill, which is widely championed by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists.

"We just don�t know anything about it," said Davey. "The language of 277 is under review." Davey maintained that Montgomery doesn�t speak in favor of bills she doesn�t know about.

Montgomery�s own notes from the meeting show that she discussed Beatty�s bill with the audience, and had the bill�s analysis with her.

Montgomery said of Beatty�s bill, "It�s not likely to pass. I can�t tell you why it won�t pass. It�s timing."

Davey was speechless when told that Rep. Amy Salerno has never introduced the bill that Montgomery promised to support. Salerno has not drafted any bill on the subject.

"There�s no bill," said Lisa Garrison-Brandt, spokesperson for Salerno. "I wish I could tell you there was, and it is almost a crime that we haven�t, but I can tell you officially, there�s no bill."

Davey said that as attorney general, Montgomery supports Ohio�s current ethnic intimidation law.

"That law was tested in court and prevailed long before [Montgomery] took office," said Davey. "The attorney general favors the expansion of the Ethnic Intimidation Act to cover gays and lesbians as long as it is constitutional, practical, and enforceable," he added.

Davey would not comment as to the constitutionality, practicality, and enforceability of Beatty�s bill except to say, "We�d be happy to take a closer look."

When asked if Beatty�s bill would be supported by the attorney general if it met her criteria, Davey replied, "The attorney general is not a member of the legislature. Her ability to influence legislation is limited."

Rep. Joyce Beatty could not be reached for comment, but her husband and predecessor Otto Beatty, Jr., who introduced H.B. 277 prior to his retirement, said, "If there�s a bill she [Montgomery] wants, she lobbies all the time. She may not testify at the hearing herself, but she sends someone to do it."

Montgomery and Salerno are Republicans. Beatty is a Democrat. Montgomery has announced that she plans to run for governor when Gov. Robert Taft leaves office.

Davey said that Montgomery believes the present conservative Ohio Legislature will not pass Beatty�s bill. He added that the attorney general was referring to that with her "It�s timing" comment.

"Also, 277 was introduced relatively late in the general assembly session," Davey said. "It�s running out of time and it�s not ripe for moving forward."

Beatty�s bill was introduced March 24, 1999, two months into the two-year legislative session. It was assigned to the Civil and Commercial Law Committee of the House where hearings have been held. Committee chair Rep. Ann Womer-Benjamin is considering additional hearings.

The Ohio Association of Jewish Federations joined gay activists, the NAACP and others giving proponent testimony on Beatty�s bill. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League lobbies for passage of federal hate crime laws for sexual orientation and gender. Beatty�s bill is similar to the proposed federal legislation.

Davey described the interaction between Montgomery and the American Jewish Committee as "an intimate group wanting to assess the prospects of a piece of specific legislation that they asked about."

Davey could not explain the attorney general�s position given the facts. "I am not going to be able to reconcile this for you," he said.

Otto Beatty responded, "The facts speak for themselves. She�s willing to promise support for a bill she hasn�t seen if it�s introduced by a Republican, but a bill introduced by a Democrat is ignored, no matter how good it is. That sort of stuff goes on there all the time."|


Fingers may point to hormonal lesbian and gay influence in womb, study finds

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Lesbians and gay men are more likely than heterosexuals to display a subtle masculine trait in their hands, a study has found.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley started their study with a previously established anatomical quirk, that men tend to have shorter index fingers than ring fingers. Women�s tend to be roughly the same length.

Scientists believe that men�s higher levels of androgens, male sex hormones like testosterone that are found in both men and women, produce this difference.

In the study, published in the March 30 issue of Nature, researchers interviewed 720 adults at three street festivals in San Francisco. They asked the subjects their sexual orientations, and measured their fingers.

The hands of self-identified lesbians more commonly displayed a shorter index finger than those of the straight-identified women. The findings suggest a higher level of male sex hormones in the womb during gestation, according to the researchers. They also found evidence of a similar trait in gay men.

The study adds to a body of evidence that sexual orientation is at least in part biological, not simply a choice or the result of external influences.

It also provides evidence for the theory that exposure to higher levels of male hormones in the womb can be a contributing factor in someone being gay, despite the stereotype of the effeminate gay man.

"This calls into question all of our cultural assumptions that gay men are feminine," said Marc Breedlove, a psychologist who led the Berkeley team.

He cautioned, however, that the finger lengths hold up only as averages in large populations, and that the differences involved were only a fraction of an inch.

The study adds to previous research suggesting other biological causes of gayness, including differences in brain structure. Psychologist Ray Blanchard of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said the study "is among the better lines of direct evidence of a possible hormonal cause of homosexuality."

The study also showed that men with more older brothers were more often gay, and that they had relatively shorter index fingers. The researchers believed that increasing levels of androgen from one pregnancy to the next would cause both differences.

They also believe that is they had looked at larger groups, they would have found that gays indeed show a more masculine finger pattern than other people. Some earlier researchers have tied male homosexuality to stronger than average masculine traits.

Paula Ettelbrick, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, thinks that many gays will welcome the study because "they argue very strenuously that their sexual orientation is very well defined and biological." She does not, however, believe that the cause of homosexuality will affect the gay civil rights debate.

Other recent studies, though, have brought up the worry that if a biological cause is found for gayness, researchers will start looking for a biological "cure."

The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association no longer regard being gay as a physical or mental illness, and routinely censure members who attempt to convert gays.

The Berkeley researchers, like many of their contemporaries, believe that homosexuality is caused by a mix of biological, societal, and psychological factors, and that both nature and nurture play a part in making people who and what they are.

According to Bernard J. Gallagher III, a psychiatric sociologist at Villanova University, "only a fool would say that we know for sure it�s biological. And I think that clearly only a fool would say it has to do only with the way we were raised."


Germany to acknowledge Nazi persecution of gays

Berlin--German lawmakers proposed March 22 to make amends to thousands of men sent to Nazi concentration camps for being gay.

The governing Social Democrat and Green parties introduced a bill to acknowledge Nazi persecution of gays and ask the government to review whether to annul convictions under a Nazi-era anti-gay law, Paragraph 175. Under the law, even a kiss or glance between men could result in imprisonment.

The bill, approved separately by the parliamentary factions March 21, calls only on the government to review whether an existing law allowing for the annulment of unjust Nazi-era convictions should be expanded to include those involving Paragraph 175.

Of the estimated 50,000 gay men convicted under the law, few ever came forward after World War II because of the continuing stigma--as well as the fact that Paragraph 175 remained on the books in West Germany until 1969.

When the Allies liberated the concentration camps, gay men were often transferred to civilian prisons to serve out their sentences.

The number of surviving gay Nazi victims is unknown, but their plight has gained attention since the release this year of an U.S.-made documentary, "Paragraph 175," which won awards at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals.

A two-part exhibition tracing the lives of 60 victims of the law and documenting the fates of 700 other victims opened March 26 at the Gay Museum in Berlin and another just outside the city at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

The Nazis murdered more than 600 gay men at the camp between 1939 and 1943. The exhibits of documents, photos, drawings, and other objects collected during ten years of research is the largest on the subject ever mounted in Germany.

Guenter Morsch, director of the Sachsenhausen memorial, noted that protests erupted after the first plaque dedicated to gay victims of the Nazis was hung at the Dachau concentration camp outside Munich in the 1980s.

Last year, Germany's national Holocaust Memorial Day commemorated gay victims for the first time with a ceremony at Sachsenhausen.

--Associated Press


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