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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 1, 2000


 

Committee passes
Lakewood hate crime bill

by Anthony Glassman

Lakewood--The Rules and Ordinances committee of Lakewood City Council moved the city one step closer to adding sexual orientation to its ethnic intimidation ordinance at its November 28 meeting.

Councilmember Michael Skindell chaired the fairly short meeting, which had only the proposed amendment on its agenda. He announced a few changes to the proposal: One of the other city ordinances it referred to was incorrectly cited, and this was corrected. The ordinance was also expanded to cover gender, age, and disability, as well as sexual orientation.

"Bias crimes are worse than regular crimes in that they target the victim because of who he or she is," Skindell told the committee, "and that causes a breakdown in the trust in the community."

Council vice president Nancy Roth expressed concern that the ordinance did not list telephone harassment as one of the crimes whose penalty would be increased if bias was found to be the motivation.

Lakewood legal director Kevin Spellacy explained that the ordinance increases severity of offenses one degree: a third-degree misdemeanor would become a second-degree misdemeanor, for example. However, telephone harassment is already a first-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, and the city cannot raise it to a felony based on a bias motive unless allowed by state law, as it is with certain other offenses.

The training of police officers to recognize and handle hate crimes properly was discussed as well. Skindell suggested that a small number of officers be extensively trained in hate crime law and ordinances, beyond the normal training other officers will receive, to serve as "point men" in the battle against bias.

Police chief Dan Clark also told the committee that his force last summer had undergone hate crime training put together by the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League, along with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Only three Lakewood residents attended the committee meeting. Two of them spoke passionately in favor of the amendment, and no one spoke against it. This does not, however, mean that there will be no opposition to the final passage of the ordinance at the city council meeting on Monday, December 4.

"We�re talking about a piece of legislation that impacts upon the right of the gay and lesbian community to live in peace within the Lakewood community, and I think members of the community should be present Monday to voice their support," Skindell said.

A domestic partner benefits ordinance that the city tried to pass last winter was blocked, partly due to a large effort by the religious right to argue against it in council meetings, as well as arguments of fiscal responsibility from some council members. There has been little opposition thus far to this proposal, however.


 

TG girl, 6, may eventually be
returned to parent

by Eric Resnick

Columbus�The parents of a six-year-old transgender girl and the agency that took the child away from them have agreed to resolve the case by mediation. The process may eventually return the child to one of the parents.

Franklin County Children Services removed the child from the home of Paul and Sherry Lipscomb on August 23. Two months of maneuvering in court and in the media followed, ending with the child being placed in foster care and the Lipscombs separating.

All parties in the case, the Lipscombs and their attorneys, Children Services and their attorneys, two attorneys representing the child and three assistant county prosecutors, agreed November 22 to enter mediation supervised by Franklin County Juvenile Court.

In order for all parties to agree to mediation, the parents had to agree that state intervention was warranted on behalf of the child and Children Services had to drop their charge that the Lipscombs neglected the child.

The child was removed from their home last August after the Lipscombs tried to enroll her as a first grader at McVay Elementary School in Westerville, where she attended kindergarten as a boy.

Born with male genitalia and the name Zachary, the child, diagnosed with gender identity disorder, has identified as a girl since age two and now goes by the name Aurora, which she chose. Prior to the custody battle, the Lipscombs had filed with Probate Court to have the child�s name legally changed.

The now-dropped neglect charge was not part of Children Services� original complaint. It was added September 11 to the original charge of dependency.

Under Ohio law, children can be removed from the home for three reasons, abuse, neglect, and "dependency," which means, broadly, the child is in need of government intervention. In this case, dependency was based on Children Services� belief that the child�s needs were not being met.

According to the rules of negotiation, all parties are forbidden from discussing conclusions. In September, Franklin County Juvenile Court Judge Kay Lias put a gag order on the Lipscombs following Sherry�s appearance on network television and in Time magazine. Ohio law prohibits Children Services officials from discussing the case.

The final plan must be agreed to by all parties. Lias will accept or reject the plan and rule on any unresolved issues in open court in January. Until then, the child remains in foster care, where she is forced to live as a boy and use the name Zachary.

Guardian ad litem (child�s court-appointed guardian for legal affairs) Rebecca Steele told the Columbus Dispatch that gender identity is not the real issue in this case.

Steele, who fought in October for a gag order on the Lipscombs and engineered legal maneuvering described by the Lipscombs� former attorneys as "trying to poison the well," also attempted to assert last fall that Sherry Lipscomb suffered from Munschausen syndrome by proxy.

Munschausen by proxy is a rare condition where caregivers attempt to bring attention to themselves by harming someone in their care. A magistrate ruled Steele�s discussion of the syndrome out of order.

While it seems that Steele has stopped pursuing the Munschausen claim, she now says that the child is violent and needs treatment. The child has seen 13 doctors and been hospitalized four times. She also has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, which is related to autism and obsessive, sometimes violent behavior.

Both parents, Paul and Sherry Lipscomb, are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which triggered a voluntary supervision by Children Services from February to July of this year. During that period, Children Services made no issue of the child�s gender identity disorder.

But 17 days following the Lipscombs� termination of their supervision, Children Services sought and were granted emergency protective custody of the child, citing the gender identity issues in the complaint.

The Lipscombs originally hired openly gay Columbus attorney Mark Narens and transgender Cleveland area attorney Randi Barnabee and prepared for a protracted legal battle which would have included a federal civil rights suit against Children Services, the guardians ad litem, and other Franklin County officials.

The Lipscombs had a good chance of prevailing in the suits and regaining custody of their daughter until an October Time magazine interview with the couple appeared.

Paul Lipscomb told Time that he believes he also has gender identity disorder and was planning to transition frome male to female. Sherry Lipscomb told the magazine she would never leave Aurora and her father alone at night because "they are both too hotheaded."

Paul and Sherry separated in October. Attorneys Narens and Barnabee withdrew from the case, as they could not ethically represent both Lipscombs after the separation.

Sherry Lipscomb is now represented by Dorothy Painter of Columbus. Paul Lipscomb is represented by Kara Morgan of Columbus.

Two facilitators are leading the mediation process, which will negotiate a plan for each of the Lipscombs to have supervised visits with the child, then after a January hearing, move to unsupervised visits, and eventually return her to custody of one of the parents.


OAC moves retreat after camp
cancels to avoid gays

Woodland Lakes official says they �don�t support the homosexual agenda�

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Cincinnati--The Ohio AIDS Coalition�s next "Healing Weekend" retreat will go on, if not at the location originally planned.

The Columbus AIDS service organization signed a contract on August 19 and made a deposit to the Woodland Lakes Christian Camp and Retreat Center in Amelia, Ohio, for the organization�s next quarterly AIDS healing retreat. Organized by local volunteers, the retreats move around the state to accommodate people in all parts of Ohio.

One of the volunteers, a Cincinnati area minister, was familiar with the organization that runs the campground 20 miles east of the city; it was an anti-gay Christian group that might have problems with the retreat. He approached a camp official, explaining the concern, and was told that the camp employee would look into the matter.

A few weeks later, Woodland Lakes returned the deposit check and canceled the contract. According to OAC executive director Kim Jackson, a camp official said that Woodland Lakes doesn�t support the "homosexual agenda." They have not, however, sent her a letter stating in writing the reason for the cancellation.

"We follow state guidelines to represent populations with AIDS," Jackson said. "We try to keep it 50-50 men and women, a certain number of Latinos and African-Americans."

A number of the 75 people at the retreat will be gay, proportionate to the percentage of AIDS cases reported among gay men.

OAC has located another campground, Camp Joy outside Cincinnati.

"It�s a really great place," said Jackson. "They do outreach for organizations doing retreats for various illnesses."

The purpose of the AIDS healing retreats is to provide support and therapy for people with the disease, as well as to disseminate information on new treatments.


Men are the focus of worldwide AIDS Day observances

by Bob Roehr

"All Men--Make a Difference!" is the slogan of World AIDS Day activities on December 1. The optimistic spin "is to encourage all men to increase their awareness of the risks of HIV and AIDS" and their responsibility to help stem the spread of the epidemic.

"We all know this disease is spread by men," William Malekgapuru Makgoba said last July at the International AIDS conference in Durban. He is president of the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the nation�s counterpart of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.

The low social and legal status of women contributes to the spread of HIV in much of the world. Makgoba said that attention should be paid to "disempowering" the male in this process. "We need to focus upon men, their biology and their sociology."

The World Health Organization has released a new report estimating that 5.3 million people in the world became infected with HIV during the last year. It offered a glimmer of hope that for the first time the number of new infections seems to have stabilized in sub-Saharan Africa.

But even with that stability, the amount of diseases and death of the slowly developing infection will continue to grow for years to come. An estimated 3 million people will die of HIV this year.

The situation remains stable in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to estimate that at least 40,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, and nearly a million live with the infection.

While gay men continue to be the population hardest hit, the epidemic is growing most rapidly among people of color and women. Half of all new infections are in people 25 and younger. Those who have access to therapy and adhere to the regimen generally do well in controlling the infection.

Monkeys do well with interruption

Structured treatment interruption, or STI, is one of the more interesting developments in research on therapy. It involves periodic drug "holidays" to reduce exposure to drug toxicity and to try to stimulate the immune system to better fight HIV. Most of our knowledge has come from a series of anecdotes on individual patients.

Animal studies allow researchers to control timing and conditions of infection and treatment in ways that are not possible with humans. The first animal study of the STI concept was published in the November 24 issue of the journal Science by Franco Lori, head of the Research Institute for Genetic and Human Therapy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and in Italy. He also presented data on the study at an invitation-only workshop on HIV acute infection sponsored by the National Institutes of Health in October.

Lori and his colleagues infected rhesus macaques with the monkey version of HIV. One group was given no therapy, a second was given continuous therapy, and a third was put through cycles of three weeks on therapy and three weeks off.

The six animals that began therapy soon after seroconversion, six weeks after exposure to the virus, all showed a viral rebound at the first interruption. Three did at the second interruption, one at the third, but none showed viral rebound on the fourth interruption. The pattern of their viral loads showed a geometric decline with each interruption.

Four monkeys that were not put on therapy until a year after they were infected showed a rebound on the first interruption and somewhat lesser rebounds on subsequent interruptions. But there was no pattern or progression in their responses. It appears that their immune systems were learning how to better control the virus with each exposure to significant amounts of HIV.

Toxicities clearly were different. Five of the six control animals continuously maintained on therapy developed glucose imbalances and had to be given insulin. Glucose imbalances seem to contribute to lipodystrophy, or the disfiguring redistribution of body fat associated with anti-HIV drugs in humans. Lori said the glucose levels of animals in the STI arms "were practically normal."

Results are promising

There are several implications from this study that seem to reinforce what has been seen in individual patients. One is that beginning therapy very soon after infection with HIV may be the best way to generate the strongest immune response to the virus. Some patients who do not start therapy until late after infection may gain some limited enhanced immune response with STI, though that is much less clear.

Another implication is that cycling on and off the drugs seems to control the virus as well as continuously maintaining therapy. However, the results are very short-term and may not hold up over time.

Furthermore, it is not yet clear what are the safest ways to discontinue particular drugs with different half-lives in the body so as minimize risk of developing resistance to those drugs. Nor is it clear how long a person should remain off the drugs, what criteria should be used to restart therapy, or how low the virus should be suppressed and for how long before beginning another interruption.

While the idea of STI is encouraging, it remains very much an experimental concept. It should only be tried under a doctor�s supervision, with careful monitoring of viral load and CD4 counts.


 

National church group backs out of marriage statement

Leader says �one man, one woman� language
could be used against gays

by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--The National Council of Churches has withdrawn its endorsement of a statement to support marriage because it could be used to condemn same-sex marriages.

The national council is a group of primarily moderate to liberal mainline Protestant denominations. Its general secretary, the Rev. Robert Edgar, said he withdrew his support November 24 after hearing from church leaders concerned about to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. This included the Rev. Gwynne Guibord of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches whose members are primarily lesbian and gay.

The statement is supposed to address the high rate of divorce in the United States, but it is seen as anti-gay because of its assertion that "marriage is a holy union of one man and one woman."

Edgar realized that the statement also contains "code words" that are harmful to committed same-sex unions, which he supports.

"A Christian Declaration on Marriage," was released November 14 in Washington, D.C. during the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A few hours earlier, 104 Soulforce protesters were arrested at the conference, protesting the church�s treatment of gays and lesbians.

The statement, which was in large part facilitated by New York Times columnist Mike McManus, was initially hailed as an unprecedented ecumenical act. In addition to the National Council of Churches, it was endorsed by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

"Our nation is threatened by a high divorce rate, a rise in cohabitation, a rise in non-marital births, a decline in the marriage rate, and a diminishing interest in and readiness for marrying, especially among young people," says the statement. "The documented adverse impact of these trends on children, adults, and society is alarming."

The document proposes remedies for the problems it describes, including "Influence within society and the culture to uphold the institution of marriage [between one man and one woman.]"

In addition to his withdrawal of support, Edgar offered an apology to those he may have offended by signing the document, adding that he had failed to consult with many of his member churches.

Conservative religious leaders expressed disappointment in Edgar�s change of mind.

"I�m disappointed. I wish it had not happened," said the Rev. Kevin Mannoia, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Mannoia said that the statement was only supposed to help support traditional marriages and lower the divorce rate. "Those issues are separate from the controversy over same-sex unions," he said.

"It is not easy to say you�re wrong," said Edgar, "but I came to the conclusion that my signature on the statement was hurtful to many of my friends."

 


News Briefs

New Zealand gives equal property rights to gay couples

Auckland, New Zealand--The New Zealand Parliament voted November 22 to expand its marital rights laws to give gay couples the same property rights as married heterosexual couples.

It was an odd vote, according to the New Zealand Press Association, in that property rights for unmarried heterosexual couples barely passed in an earlier vote. A number of prominent conservative politicians with the National Party then crossed over and agreed with the majority in approving gay couples� property rights.

MP Jenny Shipley, of the National Party, told the press that it would be inconsistent to deny gay couples property rights after granting them to "de facto" heterosexual couples.

The new law defines de facto couples, gay and straight, as having lived together as a couple for three or more years. In the event of separation, the same rules governing married heterosexual couples will now apply, usually providing a 50-50 split.

 

Navy won�t make man pay tuition

Annapolis, Maryland--A former midshipman who resigned from the U.S. Naval Academy amid accusations of homosexuality won�t have to repay the government for his education, the Navy has ruled.

The decision released November 21 means that Tommie Watkins, 25, will not have to reimburse the Navy the $86,000 that covered his training and tuition, plus interest.

Watkins, president of his class and an aspiring Navy pilot, said he was pressured to resign and did so because he feared homophobia would prevent him from receiving a fair trial. After leaving, he came out.

Officer trainees who drop out or are expelled during their junior or senior years are required by Pentagon policy to repay the government for their education, either in cash or through enlisted service.

The Navy�s Board of Correction of Naval Records said last year that Watkins was a victim of "error and injustice," and recommended the academy waive the payment.

That decision was overruled in March by Carolyn Becraft, the assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower. Watkins sued, and on November 21, the deadline for the Navy to respond, his lawyer got word of the reversal.

 

Vatican denounces gay unions

Rome--The Vatican released on November 21 a document calling gay relationships "a deplorable distortion of what should be a communion between of love and life between a man and a woman in a reciprocal gift open to life."

The 77-page document, released by the Pontifical Council for the Family, criticized lawmakers around the world for recognizing same-sex unions, and warned of the "danger" of allowing gay men and lesbians to adopt children.

Italian gay groups, still furious over the Pope�s attempts to scrap World Pride in Rome last summer, immediately condemned the Vatican�s condemnation.

"God�s plan has nothing to do with the lay state," Franco Grillini, former president of the Italian group Arcigay, said, referring to the paper�s comments against secular governmental decisions.

The Catholic church teaches that while homosexuality itself is not a sin, gay sex is.

 

New age of consent to become law

London--The British government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair, last week bypassed the House of Lords to pass a law lowering the age of consent for sex between two men to 16, already the age of consent for heterosexuals.

The new law lowers the age from 18.

The government invoked the seldom-used Parliament Acts to override the House of Lords, the hereditary house of Parliament. The elected House of Commons has passed bills lowering the age of consent three times. All three times, the bill has been shot down by the Lords.

The 1949 Parliament Act allows the Lords to block legislation for a year, but the government, as elected representatives of the people, can then override the Lords.

Shelter turns Rep. Kolbe away

Tucson, Arizona�U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., was turned away by the a Tucson homeless shelter when he offered to volunteer for Thanksgiving, because he is openly gay.

"This decision is based on your publicly announced sexual orientation that is diametrically opposite to admonitions in the Bible," Gospel Rescue Mission board member Evelyn Haugh wrote in a letter to Kolbe.

Kolbe had volunteered at the shelter the year before, but had apparently not announced his intention to do so, which he did this year. Kolbe released Haugh�s letter to the press November 21.

Two days later on Thanksgiving, the Gospel Rescue Mission apologized to Kolbe, and told reporters that turning him down wasn�t "Christian."

 

25 groups join Brandon Teena suit

Falls City, Nebraska�The mother of Brandon Teena, who was raped and murdered when he was discovered to be transgendered, will be joined by 25 local and national groups when she appeals her award in a wrongful death suit.

Jo Ann Brandon sued Richardson County and its then sheriff, Charles Laux, for failing to arrest the two men who raped Teena on Christmas Eve, 1993.

When Teena reported the rape to Laux and identified Thomas Nissen and John Lotter, the sheriff interrogated Teena at length about his gender identity and sexuality. He also informed Nissen and Lotter of the charges being brought against them.

One week later Nissen and Lotter murdered Teena and two others to prevent testimony against them.

A lower court found the county only 14% negligent for Teena�s death, awarding Brandon $17,360. The court assigned most of the negligence, 85%, to Lotter and Nissen, and held Teena 1% negligent in his own murder. Lotter and Nissen, both now in prison, are indigent.

Brandon has asked the Nebraska Supreme Court to increase the county�s liability. The case may be heard later this month.

The groups filing briefs on behalf of Joann Brandon range from gay and transsexual organizations like Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition to the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys and the American Public Health Association.

Compiled from wire reports by Anthony Glassman, Brian DeWitt and Patti Harris.


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