Hundreds of thousands
by Patti Harris
Washington, D.C.--Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington last weekend for the fourth national civil rights march to promote equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Under splendid blue skies with colorful rainbow flags, balloons and banners snapping sharply in the wind, the Millennium March on Washington stepped off Sunday, April 30 from the Washington Monument and ended with a rally on the National Mall.
The march was led by gay celebrities and activists including Melissa Etheridge, Martina Navratilova, Ellen DeGeneres, Anne Heche, Dana Rivers, Rev. Troy Perry, and Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of murdered student Matthew Shepard.
The estimated number of marchers varied widely, from 800,000 announced by march organizers, to 310,000 proclaimed by Washington mayor Anthony Williams early in the rally, to 200,000 noted by the Associated Press, to 125,000 estimated by the Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process, a gay group that opposed the march.
The last GLBT civil rights march, in 1993, also saw a wide range of crowd estimates, from 300,000 marchers cited by the National Park Service to estimates of well over 1.1 million by march organizers. Earlier marches also had a range of figures, with an estimated 100,000 attending a 1979 march, and between 300,000 and 500,000 in 1987, according to the lesbian-gay weekly Washington Blade. (The park service stopped estimating crowd sizes in 1995.)
Small gatherings of anti-gay protesters along the route gained little attention except from marchers posing for photos, with one picture-taker calling out, "Hey, you with the hate sign. Smile!" Others tried to out shout protestors’ cries of "Sin, sin, sin!" with loud choruses of "Shame, shame, shame!" amid comments like, "If God really ‘hated fags,’ you’d never know it from the weather today."
The march concluded at the east end of the Mall, with the Capitol as a backdrop for the rally stage. The rally, carried live on C-SPAN, began at noon, and lasted over six hours.
The grassy Mall resembled a gigantic, colorful family picnic with many signs and T-shirts projecting queer family values. Same-sex couples holding babies and pushing strollers held signs reading, "These Are My Family Values" and "Worry About Your Own Family."
Other popular sentiments promoted messages such as "Gender Rights Are Human Rights," "Stop Hate Crimes," and "Lesbian Rights Now!"
Speakers, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, the first openly lesbian member of Congress, and actress Kathy Nijimy challenged the audience to remain politically active. Nijimy led the crowd in a pledge to vote in this year’s elections and to encourage others, gay and straight, to vote as well.
Elizabeth Toledo, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s new executive director, encouraged people to join her organization, or the Human Rights Campaign, or any one of dozens of other groups serving the GLBT community. Alluding to disputes between March planners and other LGBT groups over the past two years she challenged, "And if you don’t like any of these groups, form your own!" to loud cheers and applause.
Transgender activist Dana Rivers, an award-winning California teacher, recounted the discrimination she faced for "following my doctor’s advice by living as my appropriate gender." She spoke of the ongoing discrimination transgender people face even within the GLBT community, noting that at the star-studded Equality Rocks concert the night before, "the word transgender was not uttered once from that stage."
President Clinton and Vice President Gore both sent videotaped messages that were played on large video screens beside the stage. While Gore’s video was being introduced, some in the crowd chanted "Where’s Gore," wondering aloud why the presidential candidate did not appear in person at the March.
Moments later, this same crowd began cheering when Gore declared, "I stand with you, and am with you every step of the way" and promised he would not rest in the fight to end discrimination against GLBT people. He further promised that hate crimes against all people, including gays and lesbians, would be severely punished.
The rally, with a four-page-long lineup of speakers, was behind schedule almost from the start. It ended at 6 pm with many scheduled speakers providing a rushed version of their prepared remarks or departing from their original speech completely. Some speakers, who had also addressed Saturday night’s Equality Rocks concert, simply repeated their speech from the concert.
Others speakers, waiting backstage to address the crowd, were bumped entirely. These included U.S. Rep. Barney Frank and Clevelander Leslie Powell-Sadasivan, mother of 14-year-old gay suicide victim Robbie Kirkland.
Several speakers compared their speaking last at the rally with their issues being considered last by their government, their GLBT communities and even the march organizers.
In addition to the march, thousands flocked to the weekend-long Millennium Festival which took over Pennsylvania Avenue from 3rd to 9th Streets. The street festival, complete with brightly colored tents and canopies and a rainbow-balloon-framed entertainment stage was packed with vendors selling everything from food and beverages to the standard gaywear of hats, T-shirts, bumper stickers and rainbow jewelry.
The impact of the Internet with its high numbers of GLBT users could be felt throughout, as many vendors were either directly signing up new members or were prominently advertising their web sites for those not willing to stand in long lines to purchase souvenirs. One T-shirt summed up that presence by proclaiming, "We’re here, we’re queer, and we have e-mail."
Organizers of "The Wedding" a mass same sex marriage ceremony that took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday morning, estimate that about three thousand couples participated. A thousand couples pre-registered, 1,200 who registered on site, and several hundred other couples who participated in the ceremony but did not register.
The event was sponsored by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. The gay and lesbian denomination’s founder, the Rev. Troy D. Perry, wore a rainbow stole as he led the ceremony. Perry was also present at several other engagements around town including the March.
Among the couples were Flo Givens and Bobby Sherman, a lesbian couple from Venice Florida, and Toronto, Canada who have been together for an inspiring 42 years and represented the oldest lesbian couple present.
"We met in a dirty little pub back in 1957 in Toronto," said Givens. "It was the only pub that there was for gay and lesbian people."
Also on hand was the oldest gay couple at the event, Rev. Ralph Lascher and Harry Gibson, who have been together for 45 years. When asked where they met, Lascher replied, "I told you I wasn’t going to tell you, but I will. It was at the Everard Baths in New York City."
Couples’ outfits ranged from full tuxedos and wedding gowns to jeans and T-shirts. Some couples even had parents and bridal parties present, like Ann Clark and Laurie Piavo of Connecticut, who brought friends Lily Brouillette and Jeanie Ciarleglio to stand up for them, and Laurie’s mother Nancy Piavo.
"I’m so glad I met you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you," said Piavo to Clark when Perry called for the couples to tell each other why they love each other. "I can’t do it," said an embarrassed Clark.
"I proclaim together our rights as couples," Perry concluded the ceremony. "In hopes that the day will come when not only will our own community recognize our relationships, but the law of this country also. Couples, you may kiss!"
Brian Damron and Matt Newburn of Cleveland Heights, who have been together for a year and a half, were also married, in matching tuxedos. The couple drove to Washington together, so they saw each other before the ceremony. "We’re not that superstitious," said Damron. He was asked if they had anything blue on. "My underwear, but I’m not going to show you that," said Newburn.
"The speakers were wonderful. I actually cried," Newburn added.
After the ceremony, the Gay People's Chronicle had the opportunity to speak with Troy Perry.
"I believe in couples’ rights," Perry said. "After love comes marriage for most Americans. We’re denied that. We pay the taxes for everybody else’s kids to go to school and we don’t mind that, but then damn it, they’re going to treat us like everybody else."
Perry spoke of his next big project. "I plan a fight with Immigration and Naturalization to make sure couples don’t get pulled apart."
He was referring to the plight of Tony Sullivan and Richard Adams, two men who were unable to stay together because they couldn’t marry when Adams’ visa ran out.
Also on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial were protestors led by Newark, Ohio, street preacher Chuck Spingola, who was just acquitted of a hate crime in tearing down a rainbow flag at Columbus Pride. His son wore a sign that read, "Got AIDS yet?"
As expected, Fred Phelps’ family was in town, as well as other minority Christian groups toting signs that read "Matt in Hell" and "I once was gay, now I’m happy."
But they were not the only ones in town unhappy with the weekend’s festivities. Outside of the Human Rights Campaign offices at 919 18th St., about a dozen protesters walked in a circle on Friday carrying signs saying "Elizabeth Birch, not my kind of queen" and "HRC doesn’t speak for me."
HRC and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches are the original sponsors of the Millennium March.
Diana Onley-Campbell said she was picketing because of a "sense of outrage that one group has the power to mandate to other thinkers and doers. Their approach does not really serve their purpose."
"HRC has been so exclusive, we’re leaving people of color behind," said Sarah Leedom, another protester. "Not marching shows solidarity for those people."
Actor Wilson Cruz, who plays Victor on Party of Five, also took issue with the HRC after addressing the Millennium March. Cruz is known for playing a gay teen on the 1995 TV show My So-Called Life.
"I think that people have a valid point," Cruz said. "HRC is supposed to be working for all of us. If a section of our community feels it isn’t representing them well, then it is our right to say something so that that will change. I’m the first to say that the only people we ever see when we’re talking gays in the media is always some straight-looking muscle man. Every gay person I know is either black, Latino, or a butch dyke. Give us a break."
The Holocaust Museum
On Friday April 28, the United States Holocaust Museum hosted a symposium on Nazi persecution of gays and lesbians. Eight scholars on the subject enlightened several hundred museum patrons on a group often excluded from World War II victims.
The speakers explained how gay clubs were raided, how gay inmates were subjects to bizarre medical treatment or castration, and the harsher treatment of inmates who wore a pink triangle.
Klaus Müller, who was the director of research for the film Paragraph 175, discussed gay survivors with the use of slides, photos and documents.
Five hundred people on the A-list in D.C. this weekend attended the Millenium March on Washington for Equality Opening Gala Dinner at the International Trade Center on April 28.
The evening included the Millenium Awards, a gourmet dinner and was themed around the music of one of Broadway’s finest composers, Jerry Herman (Hello Dolly).
However, like several of the award recipients, Herman was a no-show. Promises of the appearance of Sir Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche left many guests disappointed.
But for their tickets ranging in price from $250 to $500, guests enjoyed local talent, a three-course meal, and Rita Moreno and Charles Nelson Reilly serving as co-masters of ceremonies. Moreno was looking as classy as ever, proving she still has the stuff.
At one point near the end of the evening, Moreno even brought a phone onstage to call Herman.
The Vice Versa Awards
Also on Friday, Q Syndicate hosted the Vice Versa Awards for Excellence in the Gay and Lesbian Press at the Doyle Washington Hotel.
The Gay People's Chronicle was nominated for best publication, and picked up a third place award for Best Redesign for the facelift the paper received a year ago.
The keynote speaker at the ceremony was the editor of the lesbian erotica magazine On Our Backs, Tristan Taormino.
"I’m the one that the Christian Coalition holds up while they say, Abomination!" said Taormino.
She also talked about her three-point plan for her paper to improve content, circulation, and ad sales. "More pussy, more tits, more ass."
All weekend, members of the LGBT media participated in the Gay and Lesbian Press Summit at the hotel.
The Names Project displayed 1,116 new panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Mall from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The panels had all been added to the Quilt since October 1 of last year. Sixty new panels were accepted during the Mall display.
During previous marches, the entire Quilt has been displayed, but at 43,000 panels, it has now grown too large to assemble in one place.
While the rest of events of the week were swarmed with opinions and controversy, this area was quiet except for sniffles from observers and the emotionally charged reading of the names of the deceased.
Jeff Bosacki, the Quilt’s event coordinator, estimates that between 700 and 1,000 people came to view the quilt every hour.
"It went well. Everyone put down his or her differences. When it comes to the quilt, there is no debate," said Bosacki. He noted that he got involved with the Quilt after he came to the 1987 march and saw it for the first time.
"We can complain all we want about whether or not we should have gone [to Washington] this weekend. But we went to engender new activists, and we did," he added.
Those who made the pilgrimage to D.C. found that our community has evolved.
"It’s awesome to see the diversity of ages and races," said Stonewall Cincinnati director Doreen Cudnik. "Obviously, there were some concerns early on in the organizing. But what you see in an event like this, is that the march becomes whatever the people who show up decided to make it."
In the course of controversy, the events, although lacking universal support, did manage to give our community exposure in the nation's capitol.
Methodists conference opens
Decisions on lesbian-gay issues may cause church to split
by Denny Sampson
Cleveland--The United Methodist Church opened its General Conference on May 2, where church policy makers are expected to make decisions on homosexuality that may cause the church to split.
An estimated 3,000 people attended the opening procession held in the Cleveland Convention Center. The United Methodist Church is America’s third-largest religion, with 8.5 million U.S. members and 1.2 million overseas.
The General Conference, held every four years, is the lawmaking body of the church. Homosexuality has been an issue at every conference since 1972, when the church officially declared that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." The last time the Methodist church faced an issue so divisive was 150 years ago, over the issue of slavery. Recent controversy over Methodist ministers performing same-sex union ceremonies and gay ordinations will make this conference as sharply divided.
Good News, a conservative Methodist group that wants to keep the church’s anti-gay stand, sent delegates a video that raised the possibility of "a church split or substantial defection of members, churches and clergy" should delegates vote to reverse the current policy.
A total of 992 delegates (half clergy, half lay members) are sent to the conference where the delegates revise the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions.
Within the Book of Discipline is a section entitled "Social Principles," which codifies the church’s position on current moral and social issues. Thus, if the delegates are so inclined, they have the power to replace all anti-gay language in the church doctrine with gay-affirming language.
New "legislation" is submitted to the conference through petitions filed by groups and individuals. Each petition is assigned to one of ten legislative committees, where it is debated. Committees then make a recommendation of concurrence or non-concurrence of each petition or group of petitions to the entire delegation for action.
The only actions that are official are those made in the plenary sessions, late in the conference. Delegates usually spend most of the first half of the conference in committee, and the second half in plenary sessions.
The issue of homosexuality has been assigned to the Faith and Order committee, which considers possible changes to "Social Principles," including such other social issues as abortion, human cloning, and criminal justice. One hundred ten delegates have been assigned to this committee.
The Faith and Order Committee will have the most petitions to consider--348.
The subject matter of the petitions ranges from routine to highly controversial. Those concerning homosexuality are quite diverse.
Some seek to retain the current teachings, some seek to remove anti-gay language, other petitions suggest language that simply states that "although faithful Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all."
Another asserts that any individuals who have sex outside of marriage is sinful, regardless if the behavior is between members of the same sex or members of the opposite sex.
One petition, which was proposed by the California-Nevada Conference, redefines "marriage" in Methodist doctrine as a sacred bond between "two persons" that "should be considered by the participants to be a lifelong commitment."
The Rev. James Heidinger, of Good News magazine, said that many the delegates "don’t see any resolution on this issue that’s tearing away at the fabric of the church. Neither do we."
Protests outside the conference
Peaceful protests began May 1 on the eve of the conference, with a vigil to "protest the hate and discrimination directed at our children by a judgmental society," led by the Cleveland chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action.
In a steady rain, members of the groups gathered at 6 pm next to the "Free Stamp" sculpture at East 9th St. and Lakeside Ave. The location was on the path convention delegates took to dinner at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Soulforce, a group dedicated to justice for sexual minorities, will be holding a march and direct action on Wednesday, May 10 to coincide with the arrival of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican church, who will address the conference.
The group will have a non-violence training in civil disobedience the night before, and a rally featuring civil rights leaders Arun Gandhi, grandson of India’s Mohandas Gandhi, and Yolanda King, the eldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"We are not in Cleveland to protest the presence of these Christian leaders," said Soulforce co-founder Rev. Mel White. "They are our sisters and brothers. We are marching on the Convention Center to protest their policies against God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered children and to help them understand the tragic consequences of those policies."
The rally and training will be 7 pm Tuesday night May 9, at Cleveland State University auditorium, 2121 Euclid Ave. Soulforce is asking people who wish to join the direct action to attend the training.
The Wednesday event begins at 6:30 am on Mall B, next to the Convention Center on Lakeside Ave.
In addition, Soulforce members will be conducting 24-hour candlelight vigils at the Convention Center beginning May 8.
by Denny Sampson
Cleveland—While making arrangements for Soulforce University, set for May 6 to 12 to coincide with the United Methodist General Conference, the Rev. Dr. Mel White spoke with the Gay People’s Chronicle.
White found an instant best friend when the office cat jumped up on his lap. For the next twenty minutes, the two kept each other company. Offered a cup of coffee, White said, "I would adore one." From the look on his face, he meant it.
Could this be the leader of possibly the largest faith-based GLBT activist organization in the country? It is hard to imagine this trim, gentle, down-to-earth man who delights in such simple pleasures could be the same man who is on the road well over half of the year, confronting the homophobic beliefs of the nation’s religious leaders.
"I was called to this ministry, and I continue to be called every day," said White.
Contrary to his current beliefs, White was raised as a fundamentalist Christian.
"But I knew I was gay when I was 15," he said. Accepting the church’s anti-gay doctrine, he believed he was sick and that his homosexuality was an abominable sin. "I was a victim of misinformation and biblical abuse," he said.
In the closet, White was married for over twenty years and had two children. He did graduate work in communications and film at University of Southern California, received his doctorate and was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary for over a decade.
White was a pastor for the evangelical Christian community, a best-selling author, a prize-winning television producer and filmmaker, and a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, and Billy Graham.
White struggled for many years to overcome his homosexual feelings through prayer, fasting, exorcism, and various aversive therapies, including electric shock. He attempted suicide several times.
After two decades of non-productive therapy, White consulted Phyllis Hart, a psychologist at the Fuller seminary.
"Mel, you aren’t sick. You’re a gay man," Hart told him. "You just need to fall in love with another gay man!" This affirmation from a Christian professional was a turning point in White’s life.
Coming out for White was a gradual process. After a time of severe depression, White finally reconciled his Christian faith and his sexual orientation. In 1993 he came out publicly when he was installed as dean at the Cathedral of Hope of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in Dallas, with 10,000 members.
White announced during his first sermon, "I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation." This statement has become his signature mantra.
White and Gary Nixon met and fell in love fifteen years ago at a church where White served on the vestry and Nixon sang in the choir. Nixon and White co-founded Soulforce in 1993, and have worked together full time as activists.
Since then, White has devoted himself full time to minister to the LGBT community and to work on their behalf in the media, in the political process, and with fellow religious leaders.
White described his struggle to understand and accept his homosexuality, and to reconcile it with his Christian faith in his 1994 book Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. He is currently working on a sequel, Storming the Gate.
White has made his share of enemies among evangelical Christians.
Years ago, Azusa Pacific University asked White to speak at his daughter’s graduation. At Fuller, he was named "Professor of the Year." Now he is barred from both campuses. Because of the many death threats against him, he needs to wear a bulletproof vest.
"But many people in the gay community don’t like me either," said White. "Some don’t like me because I represent the church. Others don’t like me because they think I used to write against homosexuality. I wrote biographies."
As White rose to have his photo taken, the cat jumped off of his lap. White looked down at his black shirt and trousers that were now covered with white hair. Without missing a beat, he brushed the hairs off, and met the photographer.|
by Eric Resnick
Washington, D.C.—The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments April 26 on whether the Boy Scouts of America can refuse to accept gay members and leaders, or if they must comply with civil rights laws in New Jersey and ten other states that include sexual orientation.
The Scouts are challenging a unanimous ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court last August that they are a public accommodation and must allow gays to join, under the state’s civil rights law.
The Scouts argue that they are a private group, and thus entitled to a "freedom of association" exception to public accommodation laws. Four other state supreme courts, in California, Connecticut, Oregon and Kansas, have agreed with this argument. Three of these cases dealt with gender and religious belief; California’s involved sexual orientation.
The New Jersey case began in 1988 when Eagle Scout James Dale was asked to become an assistant scoutmaster after his eighteenth birthday.
Dale attended Rutgers University, where he participated in a seminar on the needs of gay and lesbian youth. A local newspaper covered the seminar, and included a photo of Dale.
The Boy Scouts promptly removed Dale as an adult leader and revoked his membership, later saying that they expelled him because the Boy Scouts "specifically forbid membership of homosexuals."
Dale sued the Scouts in July, 1992. That court ruled in Dale’s favor, and ordered his membership be reinstated.
The Boy Scouts appealed the trial court decision to New Jersey Superior Court. In November 1995, Judge Patrick McGann dismissed Dale’s case, citing the Bible and calling gay people immoral.
In March 1998, an intermediate appeals court reversed McGann’s decision and found that the Boy Scouts were not exempt from New Jersey’s public accommodation law. This was subsequently upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
During the U.S. Supreme Court hearing, justices questioned New York attorney George Davidson, representing the Boy Scouts, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund staff attorney Evan Wolfson, representing Dale.
Davidson is confident that the Boy Scouts will prevail. He said the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case "because they thought it was important, and New Jersey Supreme Court got it wrong."
The Boy Scouts claim that public accommodation laws are in conflict with the First Amendment and the rights to free association. They content that if Dale prevails, girls could join the Boy Scouts and boys could become Girl Scouts and that heterosexuals could demand to join and lead gay and lesbian organizations.
"This would literally destroy the missions of a host of social, cultural, religious, and charitable organizations," the Scouts say in their brief.
A group calling itself Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty submitted an amicus curiae, or "friend of the court" brief agreeing with this position, which is quoted throughout the Boy Scouts’ brief.
They cite web pages and advertisements promoting gay travel and mens choruses as examples of gay groups that "seek exclusively gay environments."
Wolfson said the GLIL brief "just doesn’t address the facts of this case."
Davidson told the court the Boy Scouts were concerned with expression and conduct inconsistent with the Scout oath and law.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg asked, "Are you saying the policy is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ or is the policy ‘if you are gay, you are not welcomed in the Boy Scouts.’ Which is it?"
Davidson replied, "The policy is not to inquire. The policy is to exclude those who are open. The policy derives out of the morally straight and clean requirements of the [Scout] law."
Davidson said later that the Scout Handbook requires "purity," which he defined as "chaste conduct."
The justices asked if the Boy Scouts policy applies to heterosexual couples who live together without being married.
Davidson responded, "Well, there’s certainly adulterers or other people that have engaged in heterosexual behavior which the Boy Scouts has not regarded as morally straight who have been excluded."
The Boy Scouts also referred to the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, in which the court said that "a speaker has the autonomy of its own message." The ruling upheld a decision to exclude a gay group from carrying a banner in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
But Justice David Souter, who wrote that opinion, told Davidson, "This is not like the Hurley case." The case dealt with a specific act of expression, a parade.
"The focus of this case is that the Boy Scouts are asking the court to specifically excuse them from civil rights law, but they have failed to show an expressive purpose why they need the exception," said Wolfson. "To allow them to disobey the law simply because they don’t want to follow it would swallow up all civil rights law."
Wolfson said he thought Justices William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia were intent on finding reasons to side with the Boy Scouts.
"The Boy Scouts didn’t present anything they didn’t say to the New Jersey Supreme Court," said Wolfson, "And the New Jersey court found their arguments either unpersuasive, or untrue."
Wolfson told the court that gay and lesbian groups that open their membership to all as the Boy Scouts do, and become public accommodations, also cannot discriminate against heterosexuals that want to join.
"It’s [the Boy Scouts’] burden . . . to show that their specific expressive purposes, not simply views they hold implicitly, but expressive purposes of conveying any such views are significantly burdened . . ." Wolfson told Scalia.
Wolfson said the Boy Scouts have not shown the court how the exclusion of gays is an expressive purpose of the organization.
"The classic example of this," said Wolfson, "is the Klan prohibiting blacks from joining because it is the expressive purpose of the Klan to exclude blacks. But the Boy Scouts have not shown that their purpose is to exclude gays."
The Boy Scouts themselves seemed to contradict their own case along that line when asked if losing this case would cause them to cease operations in New Jersey.
"No it wouldn’t," said Boy Scout spokesperson Brian Thomas. "We don’t want to see scouting end anywhere."
"That further shows that allowing gay people to participate will not undermine the purposes of the Scouts," said Wolfson.
Davidson indicated that the Boy Scouts would likely change their handbook to make its policy prohibiting gays more explicit, if the court denies their freedom of association claim, rather than allow gays.
Wolfson countered, "I doubt that. The only way they have gotten away with this discrimination for so long is by not promoting it. They can’t have it both ways."
Thomas was quick to point out that the Boy Scouts have practiced non-discrimination with regard to other groups.
"There has been no prohibitions with regard to color or religion in our 90-year history," he said. "I think no one is a fan of discrimination."
Thomas added, "These 20 years of litigation have been focused on our morally straight principles, not any anti-gay stance. We believe we will win this case, then be able to get back to what is important, which is the kids."
Thomas said the Boy Scouts have no plans to change the ban on gays. "Proposals have been floated from chartering organizations and from councils in St. Paul, Minnesota and Providence, Rhode Island, but I can tell you there will be no change in Boy Scout policy regarding homosexuals."
Wolfson reiterated why the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts are a public accommodation.
"This is one of the least-private organizations in the country. They have an association with the government. They invite all boys to join, and many of their chartering organizations are government agencies. To allow this organization to practice discrimination would harm all civil rights."
Friends of the court filed briefs on both sides. The National Law Journal observed that there were more amicus briefs filed in this case than any other.
Amicus briefs were filed for James Dale by the American Bar Association, the ACLU, teachers organizations, the NAACP, American Jewish Congress, American Psychological Association, American Public Health Association, eight major cities, the Deans of Divinity Schools and Rabbinical Institutions, and nearly every civil rights organization in the United States.
The Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty were joined by an array of anti-gay groups filing on behalf of the Boy Scouts. These include the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Eagle Forum, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United States Catholic Conference and the Mormon Church.
The Boy Scouts are not concerned that this case has pitted them against the entire civil rights establishment in the country. "The ACLU has always been against the Scouts on civil rights," said Davidson.
"I wouldn’t characterize the Mormons as fundamentalist," said Thomas. "They are pretty mainstream in that they charter more Scout units than anyone in the world."
Wolfson commented that the Supreme Court has come a long way in its treatment of GLBT issues.
"There we were, a gay rights organization standing with the rest of the civil rights community talking about civil rights, and the court engaged us on our presentation of this as a civil rights case," he said.
"There I was as an openly gay man representing Dale and the other civil rights groups and the court was respectful of that," added Wolfson. "That was a big change since the Hardwick case."
The Supreme Court upheld state laws against oral and anal sex in the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick case.
"I sat in the courtroom beside Michael Hardwick when Chief Justice [Warren] Berger shook his finger at Michael from the bench and said, ‘They used to put people to death for this’," said Wolfson. "What a difference."Neither Wolfson nor Davidson would speculate on the case’s outcome. A ruling is expected by July.
Judge says Salt Lake school must allow gay club, for now
Salt Lake City--A student club that focuses on gay and lesbian issues will be allowed to meet while its case against the school district is considered, a U.S. federal judge has decided.
U.S. Judge Tena Campbell on Wednesday granted PRISM--People Respecting Important Social Movements--a preliminary injunction, ruling that the school district unfairly denied the East High School students permission to meet.
In the ruling, she suggested that school officials violated their own policy and the U.S. Constitution in snubbing PRISM.
In 1996, the school district eliminated all nonacademic clubs rather than allow a gay club at East High, a move that was upheld in federal court.
In response, Jessica Cohen and Maggie Hinckley applied in February to set up PRISM as an academic club. The club's goal is to discuss history through gay and lesbian issues, and their application said the club would "expand and enhance our study and understanding of American history and government."
But Cynthia Seidel, assistant superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District, turned them down.
She said the club's gay subject matter was too narrow, and thus not curriculum-related.
Judge Campbell disagreed, saying the school board was being unfair because no narrowness provision had been put in writing.
"She has vindicated the important Constitutional requirement that when government regulators, including school officials, set about restricting free speech . . . they can't keep moving the goal posts," said Stephen Clark, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represented Cohen and Hinckley.
Anti-gays want Bush’s ear
Austin, Texas--A coalition of anti-gay and religious groups is demanding equal time with Republican candidate George W. Bush, after the Texas governor met with gay and lesbian Republicans last month.
The group, which includes the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Family Association, and the Family Research Council, sent Bush a letter April 28 imploring him to meet with them.
Bush has been trying to run on a platform of inclusion, dubbing himself a "compassionate conservative."
According to Bush spokesman Scott McLellan, the candidate regularly meets with "pro-family" leaders, but no decision has been made whether or not he will meet with the groups who sent the letter.
"There is a desire for a confrontation and an ultimatum," openly gay former Wisconsin Rep. Steve Gunderson, one of the gay Republicans who met with Bush, told the Austin American-Statesman. "There is no question that the struggle within the Republican Party is to hold together an increasingly diverse coalition . . . I would hope that could be done in ways other than public debates through press releases."
May will fight Army discharge
Phoenix--One of the Army’s top chemical weapons defense officers, Arizona State Rep. Steve May, refuses to resign in the face of an impending military hearing which will likely result in his dismissal for being gay.
The Army is currently investigating the case, but sent May asking him to resign from his post in the Army Reserve, and included a resignation letter for him to sign.
May’s attorneys are arguing that the investigation illustrates the failings of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. May discussed his homosexuality in his capacity as a state lawmaker, while inactive in the Reserves. He was recalled soon after during the Kosovo campaign, and the investigation started.
"The Army apparently believes that a reserve officer is prohibited from discussing his or her sexual orientation," wrote Christopher Wolf, one of May’s attorneys, "even if done in the course of fulfilling his or her responsibility as a legislator, and even if done as a private citizen."
May is seeking help from a fellow Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose presidential campaign he supported by raising money in the gay community.
Publisher and AIDS activist dies
Los Angeles-- Robert Fenton Craig Jr., an AIDS activist and publisher of the Frontiers gay magazine, died April 28 from AIDS complications.
Craig, 65, passed away in Los Angeles, the city where he was born May 22, 1934, at Midway Medical Center.
Craig attended North Hollywood High School and spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as an MP before going to the University of Southern California.
In 1974, Craig opened the Hayloft, a gay bar in the San Fernando Valley where men could enjoy movies, and served with Christopher Street West for fourteen years.
Craig is survived by his partner Joel Heurtebise.
Two cleared in hand-holding attack
Boston—Suffolk County prosecutors have dropped charges against two of the three Boston High School students that allegedly attacked a Moroccan classmate while riding a train home from school.
The victim said January 27 she was teased, molested and beaten for holding hands with another girl, a common custom in her homeland.
Suffolk District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II said April 28 that only one of the 15-year-olds would be prosecuted for a single count of assault. All three, two girls and one boy, have been expelled from Boston High.
After witnesses from the City Year youth program gave conflicting accounts of the story, several other charges were dropped.
The action comes four days after Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said he would seek a civil rights injunction against the teenagers, that would punish them with prison time for any future harassment.
Compiled from wire reports by Anthony Glassman and Michelle Tomko.
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