Lesbian-Gay Center welcomes
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland--The Lesbian-Gay Community Center of Greater Cleveland unveiled their new home May 21, in an open house that raised an additional $10,000 to defray the costs of the move.
The new center, at 6600 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland, vastly increases the amount of space at the Centerís disposal. The new space, at 7,000 square feet, is almost doubles size of their old location on West 29th St.
The new offices are in the basement of the historic Gordon Square Arcade, giving the center an almost labrynthine feel, another common area or office at every turn.
There will now be a drop-in space for the Prysm youth group, as part of a community area in the middle of the complex. A television lounge, soon to be furnished with couches, stood waiting silently for its first visitors.
The open house was a well-attended affair, with staff members and volunteers shuffling visitors around to tour the facility. The mood was celebratory; the running joke was whether executive director Linda Malicki would get a new desk to go with her new office. Flowers adorned the covered pool table, where the staff hopes gay youth will soon find themselves at home.
Following the tour, visitors were ushered out into the atrium of the Gordon Square Arcade, where a buffet of pastries and deli trays was laid out for the enjoyment of those present. Members of Prysm, volunteers, staff, and visitors mingled, chatting amiably in the sunny afternoon under the skylights of the enclosed courtyard.
Visitors donated almost $10,000 in cash and pledges to help defray the costs of the move along the course of the day.
Later in the day, Linda Malicki and board president John Farina were present at the Tool Shed bar to receive a donation from the Rainbow Wranglers, Clevelandís LGBT line-dancing organization. Patrick Cusick of the Wranglers handed Farina an oversized display check for $6,800, explaining that the real check was for $7,000, to make it an even amount.
The money, according to Malicki, will be a welcome addition to the centerís operating fund.
by Brian DeWitt
The facility presently known as the Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland has had five other locations in its 25-year history, before its latest move to the Gordon Square Arcade.
Established in 1975 as the Gay Education and Awareness Resources Foundation, or GEAR, the organization initially had no offices. Meetings were held in membersí homes, and a Friday night "rap group" met at the Cleveland Free Clinic, 12200 Euclid Ave.
GEAR established the Gay Hotline in 1976, and it was briefly operated out of a dingy second-floor office at West 25th St. and Clark Ave. Later, it was call-forwarded to volunteersí homes.
The first Gay Community Center was opened by GEAR in May, 1977. It was a three-room suite on the third floor of the Coventryard building, at 2785 Euclid Hts. Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.
The following January, an electrical fire destroyed the building, and GEAR was once again without a home. (The building presently on that site was created from the first floor of the former three-story structure.)
In late 1978, GEAR rented space on the first floor of the New Dimensions gay disco, at 1012Ĺ Sumner Ave. in downtown Cleveland. This location is presently a sports bar, across East 9th St. from Jacobs Field.
Two years later, GEAR purchased the former Bernard Furniture store, a two-story wooden structure at 2641 West 14th St., at Auburn Ave. in Tremont. Five apartments on the second floor were rented out, and the first floor became the community center.
By 1982, the organization had fallen on hard times, and the center was moved to the first floor of a duplex house owned by a GEAR board member, at 2100 Fulton Rd. in Ohio City. The West 14th St. building has since been demolished.
Better times came in 1988, and in November a new Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland was opened at 1418 West 29th St., next to the Ohio City Oasis gay bar. The GEAR Foundationís name was also changed to match that of the center.
Over the next 12 years, the center occupied two, then three, then four storefronts and parts of the basement, eventually outgrowing the space. The new location, at 6600 Detroit Ave. almost doubles the facilityís size.
by Eric Resnick
"Barry never told me of the harassment he was facing," said Pat Kutteles of Kansas City, Missouri. "When things got tough, Barry would always say to me: Suck it up and drive on, Mom."
Kutteles is the mother of Pfc. Barry Winchell, whose murder at Fort Campbell last July compelled the Department of Defense to admit, after years of denial, that there is a "disturbing level" of anti-gay harassment in the armed forces.
Pvt. Calvin Glover, 19, was convicted of Winchellís murder and sentenced to life in prison. Another soldier, Spc. Justin R. Fisher, was accused of goading Glover into the act. He pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and lying to investigators, and is serving a 12Ĺ year sentence.
Remembering her sonís advice, Kutteles has done something unprecedented. She has filed suit against the Army for the wrongful death of her son under the Military Claims Act, and in doing so, has become a champion for gay rights and the repeal of the militaryís "donít ask donít tell, donít pursue" policy.
Fellow soldiers believed Winchell was gay and harassed him for months before Glover beat him to death while he was sleeping in his cot, Kuttles said. The Army knew about the harassment, but did nothing to stop it.
The suit also alleges that Fort Campbell officials ignored underage drinking on the base, and did not provide a way for soldiers to call 911 from the barracks. Glover has said he was drinking before the attack.
The Military Claims Act is usually used by families of servicemembers killed by friendly fire or accident. Kuttelesí suit seeks $1.79 million in damages and will be tried under Kentucky law, where Fort Campbell is located. The damages represent Winchellís potential lost earnings and conscious pain and suffering from the time he was beaten by Pfc. Calvin Glover to the time he slipped into a coma.
The complaint was served on the Army April 26. Kuttles is represented by Adam Pachter of the Washington law firm Covington and Burling, who has represented hundreds of "donít ask donít tell" victims, and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which monitors military compliance with the policy.
According to Pachter, the Military Claims Act was chosen because civilian courts are reluctant to hear cases against the military that military courts have not tried to resolve first.
"This would be an administrative decision," he said, "and we want the military to stand up and take responsibility for what happened."
The military has a policy against public comment on open claims, and refused all comment on this case.
Pachter said there is no deadline for when the military must complete its internal investigation and rule on the case, but he expects them to be timely, even though they have delayed giving him documents he requested through the Freedom of Information Act. Those include trial transcripts, relevant complaints of harassment as witnessed by other soldiers in Winchellís unit, and the autopsy report.
"We will continue public pressure and demand congressional oversight if the delays become unacceptable," said Pachter.
Kutteles describes her relationship with her son as "close," so she was surprised when she found out that the harassment he suffered was because he was believed to be gay.
"My first reaction was that I was very upset that he didnít tell me," she said. "We would stay up until 3:00 in the morning talking about ethics, morals, life, and everything there was."
Kutteles, who is a psychiatric nurse, said she often shared with Barry her feelings for the gay youth she worked with, including how much it hurt her that some of their parents didnít want anything to do with them.
"So, I was very hurt that if Barry was gay, that he hadnít talked to me about it," Kutteles said. "Barry had just broken up with his girlfiend that he had been going with and had plans to marry, and he was devastated." Kutteles added that others reported to her that her son did have a gay experience and that it was his first. "They said he was feeling very comfortable with who he was and that he was trying to find out about his sexuality."
"It made me realize that Barry would have told me when he felt that it was right," said Kutelles. "I think Barry was in the middle of finding out who he was."
"The most devastating thing to me out of this was when I thought Barry was doing so well, I mean after his being labeled all his life for having a learning disability and fighting that stigma and going into the Army and succeeding.
"He was an excellent soldier. He wanted to be a warrant officer, and they took that away from him." Kutteles added, "After fighting labels all his life, it was the label, it was the perception that killed him."
Kutteles said that her son probably didnít tell her about the daily harassment he endured for four months because he didnít want her to worry, but he had written a letter to his ex-girlfiend telling her that he thought he was tranferring and that he was glad to be getting away from Fisher.
Kutteles said that she learned of the Armyís attempts to cover up the facts of this case from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
"Until then," she said, "the military was assuring me that this was not a hate crime, that it was just these two guys that were drunk and had become violent."
"Without the work of SLDN, the nature of this crime never would have come out," said Kutteles.
Pachter said that despite the prior cover-up attempts, he feels the Army will not be able to escape responsibility, even as it investigates and judges itself in this proceeding.
"We believe that the facts are beyond dispute. The court martials already showed the relevant facts in this case and the Army is already responsible for the facts that are already out," he said. "Further investigation will only corroborate the claim."
"The Army is a top-down institution," said Pachter, "and once they become convinced of the urgent need for change, they are capable of reforming themselves."
"Besides, if it doesnít work, we are not precluded from other judicial avenues or congressional hearings," added Pachter.
"But I think one should never lose sight of the irony here," said Pachter. "Barry Winchell loved the Army, and this is not about trying to tear down the military. Itís about reforming the Army."
Kutteles says if the Military Claims Act suit is unsuccessful, she is prepared to go "all the way," even to the Supreme Court.
Kutteles praised Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and other helpful members of Congress and Vice President Al Gore for his support. She also said that her friends and relatives have been very supportive of her actions.
" ĎDonít ask, donít tellí is the same as McCarthyism," added Kutteles, "Itís finger-pointing. Itís labeling and saying to people ĎThis is what you are.í And the military discriminates more than anyone."
"The military has the wherewithal to lead our country and make a difference," Kutteles said. "It is a shame that with all that power they are so insensitive and they feel that they only have to be accountable to themselves. They forget that they are serving the people of this country, not themselves."
Kutteles, who recognizes her role as an "accidental gay activist" said, "Gays, lesbains, bisexuals and transgender people can be a very powerful force out there, but the voice doesnít get out enough. There will be changes if groups like the military feel like theyíre being watched."
Army Secretary Louis Caldera will issue the Armyís final decision on Kuttelesí case.
"Barry was a caring, wonderful person who was sensitive to others he didnít think were getting a fair shake," said Kutteles. "I think he would be proud of this suit."
"When I get tired, I hear his voice say ĎSuck it up and drive on, Mom.í It keeps me going."
by Julia Lieblich
Baltimore--The Presbyterian Churchís highest court heard arguments May 19 on whether individual churches should be bound by the denominationís law prohibiting "practicing" gays and lesbians from holding church office.
"A literal interpretation of this law threatens to destroy or seriously damage a church," argued counsel Peter Oddleifson, referring to Christ Church in Burlington, Vermont, which voted to reject the church rule. "Itís not just one church. Our entire denomination is in agony over it."
Oddleifson said the rule against ordination of sexually active LGBT people is not an essential tenet of the church, and should be treated only as a guide.
But counsel Gordon Fish countered that church governing bodies enter into a solemn contract with the church and are responsible for assuring compliance with church rules.
"Allowing individual interpretations threatens the unity of the church," he argued. The approach advocated by Oddleifson, he said, would "balkanize" the church.
No ruling was expected before next week. A decision by the 16-member commission is binding unless the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) overrides it at their quadrennial meeting next month.
The Christ Church case stemmed from its refusal to comply with a strict interpretation of a 1997 amendment to the Presbyterian constitution forbidding active LGBT people from holding church office. The 2.6-million member denominationís Northeast regional court had directed church authorities to bring Christ Church into compliance.
The Presbyterian high court also heard a case stemming from a same-sex union ceremony performed in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. The Northeast regional church court ruled that ceremonies of holy union for same-sex couples may be conducted if it is made clear they are not marriages.
Counsel Sharon Davison told the high court that such holy unions are not marriages, but rather moments of faithfulness and friendship celebrated and recognized by the church.
But Fish argued that church officials were engaging in "semantic hair-splitting." Same-sex couples didnít talk about being "holy unioned," he said.
By focusing on language, he said, church officials ignored the larger issue: scriptural prohibitions against same-sex marriage.
The Northeast commission also was challenged on a decision involving a gay candidate for the ordained ministry who said he did not intend to remain celibate, even though church rules require clergy to observe either "fidelity in marriage" or "chastity in singleness."
In that case, the commission decided that he could continue as a candidate, and that his "manner of life" could be evaluated prior to ordination.
LGBT issues will surface again when the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meets in Long Beach, California, from June 24 to July 1. Among legislation to be considered: a proposal to ban same-sex marriage.
Rev. Mel White has announced that Soulforce, which he founded, will demonstrate at the assemblyís Sunday morning opening service, on June 25. Two weeks ago, 191 Soulforce demonstrators were arrested in a similar action at the Methodist general conference in Cleveland.
by Anthony Glassman
San Francisco--Two recent cases are adding a new angle to the militaryís "donít ask, donít tell" policy: a financial one.
The Pentagon is demanding that two gay former servicemembers repay tuition for education they received in the service, despite a 1994 policy intended to end the practice.
In the more recent case, John Hensala, an Air Force psychiatrist now living in San Francisco, was honorably discharged in 1997 after telling superiors that he was gay, something he felt he needed to do to serve as a psychiatrist.
Three years later, the military is trying to recoup over $71,000 in scholarships, even though he was willing to continue serving.
Hensala filed suit May 18, trying to get a judgeís order saying that he is not obligated to reimburse the Air Force.
According to Steve Collier, Hensalaís attorney, the Air Force is only able to recoup scholarship money if a dischargee commits misconduct, refuses to serve, engages in homosexual acts, or comes out as a means of escaping service.
Since Hensala was more than willing to continue serving his country, they have no right to reclaim that money, Collier said.
In a second, similar case, Tommy Lee Watkins Jr., president of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and a promising Navy pilot, was ordered recently to repay the military for his education, even though a review panel decided he was treated unfairly.
The case stems from accusations leveled against Watkins in 1997, when a midshipman claimed that Watkins made advances to him and a number of other midshipmen. The officer who reviewed the case found too little evidence to support the allegations.
Watkins resigned, fearing that because he was gay, he would not be able to get a fair hearing in a military court.
In Watkinsí defense, however, comes a 1994 Pentagon policy document, stating that people discharged for being gay should only be forced to reimburse tuition if there was a specific written finding of "homosexual misconduct."
In Watkinsí case, "there was no finding of any aggravated homosexual behavior," according to a report from the Board for Correction of Naval Records. "Accordingly, the board believes that directing recoupment was inappropriate in Watkinsís case."
Watkinsí attorney, William Ferris, said that he will file suit next month, asking that the Navy be required to follow the boardís ruling.
Carolyn Becraft, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower, asserted that, because Watkins resigned voluntarily, the Pentagon policy did not apply, and Watkins is liable for the costs of his tuition.
Ferris, however, believes that view is absurd, since Watkins would have been kicked out if he didnít resign, but since he resigned, they expect him to pay for his education.
Chicago--The American Psychiatric Association canceled a scheduled panel discussion of whether homosexuality can be altered through therapy, a move that has upset some self-described "ex-gays."
The debate over what is known as reorientation therapy was pulled from the APA's convention agenda on May 17. APA spokeswoman Lynn Schultz-Writsel said organizers could not find any doctors who would argue for the treatment.
The cancellation led to a protest by Exodus International, a Christian organization that claims to help gays change their sexual orientation.
"I'm here as one representative for a virtually unseen but sizable population," said Exodus' national board chairman, John Paulk of Colorado Springs. "I once lived as a gay man, but now I'm heterosexual, something the American Psychiatric Association says does not exist."
The canceled debate was organized by Dr. Robert Spitzer, the same person who spearheaded the APA's decision in 1973 to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. At the time, the Columbia University psychiatry professor argued that homosexuality does not meet the criteria necessary to be considered a mental disorder, calling it instead an "irregular" form of sexuality.
Now Spitzer wants to explore whether homosexuality can be reversed for some people. He contends that the only way to determine whether that is possible is to conduct scientific experiments and share information.
"There is no documentary evidence showing someone's sexual preference can be changed by therapy," Spitzer said. "There is only anecdotal evidence, mostly from the therapists themselves, claiming that what they do works. That's not very scientific.
"On the other hand, there's no scientific evidence to show that this is impossible," said Spitzer, who called the cancellation distressing. "It hasn't been studied."
Toronto seeks power to license same-sex marriages
Toronto--Following a decision last year by the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that gay couples must have the same benefits as heterosexual couples, the city of Toronto has asked the courts to decide if gay and lesbian couples may legally marry.
The case in question revolves around a lawyer, Michael Leshner, and his partner of sixteen years, Mike Stark.
The two submitted an application for a marriage license on May 19. In the past, the application would have been summarily rejected. After the Supreme Court decision, however, Toronto is not sure how the law applies.
The city is seeking the court systemís decision on applying the now-unclear marital laws in terms of same-sex couples. The Supreme Court ruling, much like a similar ruling in Vermont, stated that it was an infringement of constitutional rights for gay couples to be denied legal and financial benefits.
Unlike the Vermont case, however, this ruling is national in scope.
Detroit Lutherans allow gay unions
Detroit, Mich.óThe Southeast Michigan Lutheran Synod decided May 20 to allow its member churches to offer union ceremonies to gay and lesbian couples.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, the largest Lutheran sect in the country, bans gay ordination and generally discourages gay unions, but has not banned them outright, unlike the United Methodists, whose convention earlier this month was called a "debacle" by Jeffrey Montgomery of the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-area gay civil rights group.
He said the Lutheransí decision was "exciting" in that area synod members are "willing to be pioneers in their church."
"This is a baby step for us," said Rev. John Rollefson of Lord of Light Church in Ann Arbor, Mich., "but itís also a significant step that we can rejoice in."
Southeast Michigan is the second of the churchís sixty-five regional synods to allow gay union. The Greater Milwaukee Synod voted to bless gay unions May 5.
Puerto Rico sodomy law challenged
San Juan, P.R.óRev. Margarita Sanchez is mad as hell and sheís not going to take it any more. She and her co-plaintiffs in a suit seeking to overturn Puerto Ricoís sodomy law asked an appeals court May 22 to reconsider their decision to dismiss their case against the U.S. territory.
In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court threw out their case challenging the "crime against nature" law, saying that no citizens could show that they were directly affected by it.
Last year, however, a domestic violence case involving a gay male couple was dismissed. The court hearing the case ruled that the laws on domestic violence do not apply to gay couples, since homosexual activity is against Puerto Rican law.
Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, is not alone in having sodomy laws of one sort or another. Eighteen states outlaw oral or anal sex. In Puerto Rico, any consensual sex in same-sex couples and anal intercourse in heterosexual couples are felonies, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines or ten years in prison.
The suit, co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union, claims that the law violates the commonwealth and U.S. constitutions by criminalizing private, consensual activities between two adults, without prostitution as a motive. This argument has been used in court challenges in Maryland, Georgia, Montana, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Actor Sir John Gielgud dies at 96
London--Sir John Gielgud, the last of a triumvirate of British actor-knights who ruled stage and screen for the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, died May 22 at his home in Buckinghamshire, England. Gielgud was 96.
His career started in 1921, playing a court page in Shakespeareís Henry V. Since then he, like Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson, arguably the most famous British stage actors in history, made his name on Shakespeare, playing Hamlet in over 500 productions of the play.
Gielgud went on to appear in a number of movies and television shows. Brideshead Revisited, originally aired on BBC in England, later to become a staple on PBS in the United States, was an epic adaptation of an Evelyn Waugh novel. He also appeared in the movie Arthur, for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Hobson, the long-suffering butler of Dudley Mooreís title character.
Gielgud was arrested decades ago in London on morals charges while in a "cottage," British slang for a public restroom used to engage in illicit sex.
For decades, he was also an outspoken supporter of gay civil rights.
He moved out of London in 1974 for a house in Buckinghamshire, where he lived with his partner Martin Hensler.
Dell predicts Methodist schism
Chicago, Ill.óRev. Gregory Dell, the pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church, is predicting a schism in the Methodist church, the third largest Protestant denomination in America.
Dell was one of 191 protestors arrested outside of the Methodist General Conference in Cleveland earlier this month. Dell, who had been suspended last year for performing union ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples, is to be reinstated at his Chicago church this month.
"The possibility of schism, that is, a separate denomination, is one that we have wanted to avoid," said Dell in a recent interview. "But thatís certainly something that will be under consideration."
Two-thirds of the delegates to the convention voted for keeping the ban on gay marriage ceremonies.
Dell said he will continue to perform the ceremonies, but that it is not an act of protest aimed at the church.
"I canít be concerned about sending a message to the United Methodist Church," he said. "What I am concerned about is the people. For folks to believe that they no longer have an option in a mainstream Protestant church . . . that would be tragic."
Longest-serving gay lawmaker retires
St. Paul, Minn.óSenate President Allan Spear, the first gay male legislator to come out, retired from the Minnesota Senate on May 17.
Spear is departing after 28 years in the Senate. In late 1974, just two years into his legislative career, the Minneapolis DFLer (Democrat-Farmer-Labor) broke new ground when he disclosed his sexual orientation, becoming one of only three openly gay or lesbian legislators in the country.
The other two were Massachusetts State Rep. Elaine Noble, and Ann Arbor, Mich. councilmember Kathy Kozachenko, the first person to win office as an open gay or lesbian candidate, in April, 1974.
Today, there are more than 100 gay or lesbian lawmakers.
More advertisers leave Dr. Laura
Los Angeles--Following Procter & Gambleís decision not to advertise on a new TV talk show hosted by Laura Schlessinger, two more advertisers are expected to follow suit: AT&T and American Express.
Spokespeople for both companies were unable to confirm the decision. But sources indicate that their pulling out was do to the controversy surrounding Schlessingerís anti-gay views, frequently expressed on her "Dr. Laura" radio show.
United Airlines said last week it would no longer accepts ads for her show in its in-flight magazine.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has begun an advertising campaign to convince Paramount, the producer of Schlessingerís TV show, to drop it before it airs this fall.
Full-page ads, costing about $200,000, ran in the May 24 New York Times and Los Angeles Times reading, "Ad time with 'Dr. Laura' is for sale. Here's what you're buying." The ad then lists anti-gay quotes from Schlessinger. Similar ads are set to run in trade publications until May 30.
Compiled from wire reports by Anthony Glassman, Michelle Tomko and Brian DeWitt.
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