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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 15, 2000

Stocking the pantry
Cheri Smith, co-owner of the Nickel, works on a display for the FACT program holiday food drive. Organized by Jon Brittain, the food drive accepts donations of non-perishable items liked canned goods and hygiene products at a number of bars around the Cleveland area. The items donated wil be given to stock the food pantry at the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.


Bill introduced to monitor hate crime violence

by Eric Resnick

Columbus -- A state senator has introduced a bill to the Ohio State Senate that could move Ohio closer to protecting against hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation.

State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a Democrat representing Cleveland�s east side, introduced a bill December 12 that will establish a permanent center at an Ohio university to collect data on hate crimes committed in Ohio and monitor the activities of groups whose purpose is proliferation of hate crime violence.

The bill first recognizes that Ohio is a major center for such hate groups, then makes it a function of the state to keep records and better educate the public about these groups� criminal activities. It requires law enforcement to provide detailed reports to the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation on a monthly basis and create a nine-member advisory committee made up of members of groups typically targeted by hate crime violence.

Fingerhut�s bill uses the existing definition of hate crimes as defined by Ohio�s ethnic intimidation act passed in 1978 which does not include sexual orientation and gender.

However, Fingerhut, who has been a supporter of broadening the law to include sexual orientation and gender, sees the introduction of this bill as the first step to doing that. Republicans, who have the majority, have blocked passage of a bill for four years in the House by Columbus Democrat Joyce Beatty to add sexual orientation and gender.

"First," said Fingerhut, "we change what we call them to �hate crimes� from �ethnic intimidation� under the current law."

"The term �ethnic intimidation� itself implies exclusion of sexual orientation," said Fingerhut.

With only days left in the current legislative session, Fingerhut acknowleded that it may be impossible to pass this bill, but said its introduction gives it legitimacy and signals that it will be reintroduced next session.

But Fingerhut noted another political opportunity to be gained with this bill. He indicated that Rep. Beatty intends to reintroduce her bill in the house as a first order of business when the legislature returns for a new session in January.

"I will introduce her bill in the Senate as a companion to this one and encourage her to introduce this one in the House as a companion to hers," Fingerhut said. "Then we will have a full session to get them both passed."

Fingerhut also said that even if his bill passes during this session and hers does not, there is still some benefit gained. "By creating the data collection center, we create a place for people to meet and learn," he said, "and the scholars gathering at that center will not turn a deaf ear to hate fomented against gays and lesbians."

"The discussion generated there will further the cause of changing the law to include sexual orientation and gender," Fingerhut concluded.

The Ohio Senate has not addressed the issue of hate crimes since passage of the current law in 1978.

The bill�s co-sponsor is Republican Scott Oelslager representing Stark County.

Oelslager is expected to become the chair of the Senate Judiciary committee next session, which is the committee this bill will be referred to.

Oelslager�s record has not been friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender needs and he has not been supportive of attempts to make Ohio law inclusive of those groups.

But Fingerhut said that by co-sponsoring this bill, Oelslager supports moving forward on hate crimes under the current definition.

Fingerhut acknowledged that passage of the bill will be an uphill battle but added, "The introduction of this bill now makes it a permanent part of the record of the Senate and there is commitment to move forward."

Anti-gay amendment could cost Cincinnati 2012 Olympic bid

by Anthony Glassman

Cincinnati�With its bid due December 15, members of Cincinnati�s government, business and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities are looking to bring the Olympic games to Ohio in 2012. There�s only one hitch: the same anti-gay charter amendment that the Convention and Visitors Bureau says cost the city $63 million so far might also cost Cincinnati the Olympics.

The US and International Olympic Committees have a commitment to diversity and non-discrimination. The International Olympics Committee also has sexual orientation explicitly stated in its non-discrimination policy.

Article XII, also known as Issue 3, was passed in 1993 and took effect in 1998. It prevents the city from passing any gay rights protections. Coupled with the Olympic committee�s commitment to diversity, it could cost the city its bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

A committee representing a spectrum of religious, business, and social organizations in Cincinnati has formed to repeal the amendment, a proposition Mayor Charlie Luken supports.

To further complicate matters, the Columbus City Council passed a resolution supporting Cincinnati�s bid to host the 2012 games, but only if the event welcomed everyone. The resolution�s language specifically included sexual orientation, and was seen as a form of prodding for Cincinnati to do something about Issue 3.

"That�s interesting, for Columbus City Council to say that they support the bid, but only if it�s open for all people," said Doreen Cudnik, executive Director of Stonewall Cincinnati, the area�s largest gay rights advocacy group and a prime mover in the efforts to repeal the homophobic Issue 3. While the bid would benefit Cincinnati most, Cudnik views Columbus� resolution as an acknowledgment of the far-reaching economic benefits of the Olympics, which could bring as much as $5.2 billion to the area.

Cincinnati 2012�s plan would have equestrian events and boxing in Kentucky, and martial arts and wrestling competitions in Columbus.

"We�re talking about a regional event, Columbus, Dayton, Lexington, Louisville, and a lot of those cities have equal rights legislation," Cudnik added.

Nicholas Vehr, president of Cincinnati 2012, who was unavailable for comment at press time, may be an unexpected ally in efforts to repeal anti-gay Article XII before the USOC finishes judging prospective host cities.

"Mr. Vehr is someone who, back in the day, voted in support of Issue 3 when he was a Cincinnati council member," Cudnik said. "He�s started to say publicly that it�s in our community�s best interest to remove this, not just for the Olympics. It�s encouraging that he�s saying these things publicly."

While the bids are due at midnight on the morning of December 15, the selection process is far from over. In the spring of 2002, the USOC is expected to announce the finalists from among the eight cities competing to be the United States� entry into the Olympic ring for 2012.

Then, that fall, the USOC should announce which city it will recommend to the International Olympics Committee as the US candidate for host city, which will compete with cities from other nations.

In the fall of 2005, the IOC will select the host city for the 2012 games.

The other US cities that have thrown their hats in the ring are Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Tampa, and Washington DC/Baltimore.

Some of the other issues which will determine what city is selected are less oriented on social issues. One such issue is light rail transportation, which Cincinnati 2012 says is not really a concern as only five of the other cities have pre-existing light rail systems. Further, the amount of money targeted to be spent to build one in Cincinnati�s bid is double what Atlanta spent on their rails when they hosted the Olympics.

Another issue is housing for Olympians, their coaches and families, and visitors. Currently, there are over 30,000 hotel rooms in the Cincinnati/Dayton area. Combined with riverboats lining the riverfront, and an Olympic Village in the area of Maketewah Country Club, supplemented by satellite villages in other cities where Olympic competitions are being held, organizers are confident there will be ample room for the hundreds of thousands of expected visitors.

But a definite make-or-break on the bid could well be Issue 3�s ban on gay rights ordinances.

"The USOC and the IOC try to avoid any controversy," Dave Syferd, who spearheaded Seattle�s abortive attempt to host the 2012 games, told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "If there�s any controversy, that�s going to hurt. They want the Games to be as peaceful and non-issue-oriented as possible."

In 1996, Cobb County, Georgia, was slated to hold the volleyball competitions during the Olympics held in Atlanta, but the games were moved because of the furor generated over the county commissioners� resolution stating that homosexuality was incompatible with the county�s community standards.

TG Sex discrimination claim headed to federal court

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland�A Cleveland area transgender woman�s complaint to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission claiming workplace sex discrimination is headed for federal court.

The complaint, filed August 7, alleges that the employee was terminated by United Consumer Financial Services July 11 in spite of good performance reviews after other employees expressed concern with her using the women�s restroom and called her "Mrs. Doubtfire" behind her back.

When the complaint was first filed, UCFS and the woman agreed to mediation of the matter, which took place December 12, and failed to achieve satisfactory resolution. Litigation will now be filed in federal district court, according to her attorney, Randi Barnabee of Northfield Center, who is also transgender.

That suit will be filed as a "Jane Doe" in order to protect her interests in another discrimination suit against Cuyahoga County, where the woman is alleging discrimination following 15 years of successful employment as a supervisor.

It was because of the county�s termination that the woman, 58, sought the temporary employment with UCFS.

UCFS is a financial organization owned by Scott Fetzer Company, a division of Berkshire Hathaway Investment Company, the parent of GEICO Insurance, which is often cited by the Human Rights Campaign as an example of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly workplaces.

Scott Fetzer Company products include World Book encyclopedias, Ginsu knives and Kirby vacuum cleaners. UCFS finances Kirby purchases.

The compliant states that the woman was placed by Reserves Network, a temporary employment agency, to do collection work June 30. Case notes kept by Reserves Network indicate a satisfactory job performance up to the point where UCFS attempted to do a background check.

According to Mike Trnian, controller for UCFS, background checks for collection workers include a driver�s license check, validation of the social security number, and a criminal record check.

The compliant states that on July 10, collections manager, Brian Davis, summoned the woman to the office of UCFS vice president, William Ciszozon. Also present was personnel officer Debbie Woolworth.

During that meeting, it was explained to the woman that the personnel department was having difficulty verifying her high school records. The woman graduated in 1960 with a male name. In 1973, she legally changed her name to her female name when she began her transition to female.

The woman completed three years of college, which proves high school graduation. Given Trnian�s statement as to the nature of the background checks normally conducted, it is not clear why UCFS was looking for her forty-year-old high school records.

At that meeting, according to the woman�s statement, Ciszozon "proceeded to ask numerous probing questions as to whether I was a man dressed as a woman" and "What gender are you?" The statement claims that Ciszozon said by looking at [her], he couldn�t tell, and then asked, "Have you had an operation?" The woman protested, saying that nothing Ciszozon asked was appropriate and did not concern her ability to do her job.

Then, she asked Ciszozon, "Did someone complain or what?" He responded that an employee complained July 6 that "a man dressed as a woman was using the ladies room."

The woman presented Ciszozon with her court documents showing her name change, her driver�s license, and her Ohio Notary Public ID.

But Ciszozon said that wasn�t enough. He demanded her medical records.

The next day, Woodworth informed Reserves Network that the employee had been terminated.

Case notes from the temporary agency show that on July 7, an agency representative visited the facility to check on the placement and was asked by Woodworth if she "noticed anything peculiar about [the employee]." Then, Woodworth told the representative "employees here have named her Mrs. Doubtfire . . . but they don�t say it to her face."

"The police never questioned me that way," said the woman, referring UCFS�s confusion about her gender. She pointed out that even when pulled over for traffic tickets, police did not mistake her for a man. "No one ever has," she stated.

When asked about UCFS hiring practices, Trnian said medical records are not part of the investigation of employee prospects. "Not in a normal background check," he said, "We don�t request them."

Scott Fetzer Company�s legal department declined comment on the matter.

UCFS is represented by attorney Lee Hutton of Duvin, Cahn, and Hutton of Cleveland. Hutton said that UCFS would claim in defense that the woman lacked bona fide occupational qualifications, or BFOQ, a legal term essentially saying that her condition makes her unable to do the essentials of the job.

Barnabee attacked the BFOQ defense saying, "This isn�t like she�s working at Hooters, where she may have a BFOQ issue. She was working in a cubicle."

Barnabee pointed out that a transgender person cannot claim sex discrimination in Ohio because Ohio law has not kept up with federal common law, so this case is to be litigated in federal court.

Barnabee said that it will be tried under the little- used 1989 US Supreme Court decision Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins which holds discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against for not conforming to the gender stereotype behavior expected by another person or social norms.

"UCFS engaged in sex-stereotyping," said Barnabee. "Most companies get away with this stuff because they are not this stupid. UCFS tipped their hand when they asked her questions about her sex and admitted that employees were mocking her because she is not as feminine as they thought she should be."

Barnabee was also confident in the mediation process, but said, "This is a strong case. It is a simple case, and I will love taking it to court."

Barnabee believes this case may have the opportunity to make stronger law protecting the rights of transgender people. The case will now be investigated by the civil rights commission who will issue a right to sue letter within 180 days. Barnabee will then have 90 days to file the suit.

News Briefs

Black leaders call for clemency for lesbian
scheduled for execution

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma-Saying her case illustrates the injustice of the death penalty, black leaders intensified their clemency bid December 11 for Wanda Jean Allen, a lesbian scheduled to become the first woman executed in Oklahoma since statehood. Allen is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 11.

At a news conference, Oklahoma City NAACP president Roosevelt Milton and others argued that Allen�s sentence should be commuted to life without parole and outlined plans to petition the state Pardon and Parole Board to recommend clemency to Gov. Frank Keating. The board meets December 15 in Lexington.

Among other things, they contend Allen had an inadequate defense and her jury did not have information about her impaired mental capacity.

Representatives of the state and national coalitions to abolish the death penalty joined the local leaders.

Allen was convicted of shooting and killing her lover, Gloria Leathers, on December 1, 1988, in front of a police station in The Village, a suburb of Oklahoma City. Testimony was introduced that the two women, who had met in prison, had a turbulent relationship.

Allen maintained that she acted in self-defense after being hit by Leathers with a hand rake before the shooting, which was a continuation of a domestic fight. Facial injuries from the rake were still visible in photographs taken of Allen five days later in jail.

The Rev. Sean Baker, investigator for the NAACP, said Allen was denied due process at her 1989 trial.

Tonya McClary of Washington, DC, representing the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Allen�s attorney tried to step aside and let a more experienced public defender represent the accused woman, but the trial judge would not let him.

Therefore, she said, Allen�s attorney, Bob Carpenter, represented the woman for a payment of only $800, the most Allen�s family could come up with at the time. Carpenter did not have the experience or the financial resources to try a capital murder case.

McClary also said important issues not raised at the trial included Allen�s IQ, measured between 69 and 80, her psychological state and brain trauma from previous injuries that would have affected her actions.

Prosecutors have called Allen "a hunter" who would kill again if she is not executed. They note she was convicted of manslaughter for a similar killing that sent her to prison, where she met Leathers.

In a release issued by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the last African-American woman to be executed in the United States was Betty Butler in Ohio in 1954. The last woman executed in Oklahoma was in 1903.


Order outlawing anti-gay bias is overturned

Des Moines, Iowa�Gov. Tom Vilsack suffered a setback in his fight for equal rights for gays December 7, as a district judge in Polk County ruled that the governor exceeded his authority in issuing an executive order banning discrimination against gay men, lesbians, and transsexuals in state employment.

"The court concludes that he has infringed upon the legislative authority by creating law," District Judge Glenn Pille wrote in his decision.

"The question is not whether the order is fair or just, but whether legally, under our system of government and the separation of powers clause in our state Constitution, the governor . . . is exercising powers properly belonging to the Legislature," he added.

The Democratic governor�s executive order was challenged in court by a coalition of Republican lawmakers in the state, who were overjoyed at the news of the governor�s defeat.

"Whenever you start expanding rights to people based on their alleged behavior, then you�ve opened up a list that there�s no end to," State Senator Steve King told the Des Moines Register.

Democrats in the state�s legislature claim that the attempt to overturn Vilsack�s 1999 executive order was politically based and rooted in anti-gay bigotry. The Republican legislators, who were especially upset at the inclusion of transsexuals, argue that the governor was usurping the legislature�s powers.

Vilsack said he wanted to review the judge�s decision before deciding whether to appeal. In a statement released by his office, he expressed his goal to work with the legislature on a law to provide "equal opportunity in state employment to all persons." He added, "Given the quality of the people who lead our state agencies, we are confident that no discrimination will take place until such time as the legislature acts."

The attorney, Mark McCormick, representing the lawmakers in their effort to nullify the executive order is a former Iowa Supreme Court justice who ran against Vilsack for governor in 1998. He and the plaintiffs have refused the governor�s requests that they make public a list of donors whose contributions funded the challenge.


Teen pleads guilty in anti-gay attack

Stafford, Virginia�An 18-year-old who hit a gay schoolmate over the head with a metal pole plead guilty December 6.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, Thomas Rivers will be sentenced for one count each of malicious wounding, felony wounding, and misdemeanor assault. In exchange for the plea, the prosecution dropped a charge of attempted murder and a second felony wounding charge. Under the original charges, he could have faced life in prison if convicted; under the lessened charges, the maximum cumulative sentence will be 26 years. Sentencing is scheduled for March.

The attack followed months of harassment by Rivers against the gay teen, after one of their classmates told Rivers the boy thought he was attractive. Rivers pushed the boy, shouted epithets at him, and spit on him on a school bus. Eight months later, Rivers jumped out of a car to assault the boy, who was walking into an area park.

Rivers had originally entered a plea of not guilty, and his attorneys planned to use a defense of temporary insanity. They claim that he felt a sudden and uncontrollable urge to attack the boy, and that his hatred for the youth stemmed from a psychological disorder caused by sexual molestation three years ago.

The attack left the youth, now 16, with lingering difficulties, although he recovered fairly well from the fractured skull inflicted in the attack.

Virginia�s hate crimes laws do not protect people on the basis of sexual orientation; an amendment to include sexual orientation was defeated in committee in the state�s legislature last week.

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


Evenings Out

Brothers, can you spare a song?

by Bob Findle

To be honest, I am a bit hesitant to write this article. Part of me wants to keep the Aluminum Group out of the commercial spotlight, keep the Navin brothers a niche musical product that only a select bunch of people know about. Our cool, little secret, as it were.

In a world numbed into an aural coma by blenderized pap from 98 BB Boys Synching in the Backstreet, I guess I really shouldn�t keep such a good thing as Frank and John Navin and their music to myself. Although they say they don�t mind being a word-of-mouth group.

"That is a joy for Frank and I," says John. "I think it is special that somebody might listen to us, like it and then pass it on to a friend. It�s grassroots. That is a beautiful thing in itself." He pauses, "But, I am not going to lie, I would like to see more people know about us."

Pelo, the Aluminum Group�s latest release on their new label Hefty Records, is already being snapped up by fans. It is more of the Navins� smooth, nuanced sounds, velvet vocals and intimate, thoughtful lyrics. More of, but yet different from what can be heard on predecessors Pedals (1999), Plano (1998) and Wonder Boys (1998).

John says of making the CDs: "Each one is that the criteria are not to ever be duplicated, but to make each CD something we are proud of, number one, and two, that we go into a new area and we stay fresh."

Because their music is unique, many comparisons get pulled out to describe the Navin brothers� crop of work. While almost every critic throws in a wise nod to the pop mastery of Burt Bacharach, I first thought of them as being in the vein of the Style Council�s complexity, but less frantic than Paul Weller can be at times. Also, there is the similarity to the silky throat of Brian Ferry. Lyrically, the quality is reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys, early Everything but the Girl and Morrissey, during and after the Smiths.

The ten-number Pelo takes a couple of listens to fully grasp everything.

So much vibe and quiet beat are syncopating in the background, they can be elusive. Considerably more instrumental than previous releases (the trancey almost six-minute "Good-bye Goldfish, Hi Piranha " has a scant 30 seconds of vocal from Sally Timms), the tight production adds not a guitar strum too many nor an extra organ chord to bog down the often seamless transitions from track to track.

The best example of this are the three "relationship" songs "Worrying Kind," "Satellite" and "Cannot Make You Out." Almost a suite, the three pieces feature Frank and John, along with Timms and Amy Warren trading vocals and harmonizing. The women�s sophisticated higher vocal registers complement the guys� equally cultured baritones like clear wine and smoky cheese.

Going back to Plano, you can hear the progression of the Navin sound. A masterpiece collection of 12 tracks, the CD is one encapsulated moment after another. Mostly love songs ranging from happy together to sad you�re gone, it is sweet to hear words of male-for-male affection overlaying hard-to-forget melodies. "Sugar & Promises," "Sunday Morning" and "Chocolates" take up residence in your brain and refuse to leave. "Star Wish" is the standout for me, with a rich, flowing vocal by Frank and close harmonies by John. It is followed by "Photograph," another pleaser with a gently tumbling vocal.

Pedals moves the sound into a more arty tone. Suave vocals; clever lyrics dotted with mentions of iconistic trash and treasures such as fortune cookies, Valley of the Dolls, artist Marcel Duchamp and author Thomas Hardy; the occasional banjo or saxophone accent, all make this CD work like a soundtrack to a 10 one-act show. The three- and four-minute "dramas" all come from the Navins� fertile minds. Love here is urban and its workings variant and sometimes weary-making.

Plano, an FM feast; Pedals, a salon offering; Pelo, a pop-laced progressive musical haiku.

Frank offers an explanation for the directions: "When John and I first started out we wanted all of our music to sound like it was coming from an AM radio--that simple and at that level. As we have worked, we have dissected songs. They are very constructed songs, not jam sessions. We talk about this at great length--how we want to fashion a song, experiment with the song."

Their sexuality, Frank says, contributes to their music, but it is not the whole driving factor.

"We are primary people and that is really important to me," he says. "My sexually does play a role in my life, but it is not everything I do. I am a songwriter. I am gay, gay, gay. As far as song writing goes, I do draw from personal experiences, but I also tell stories. It is all intertwined."

John adds: "Our music is about people relating to people, whatever you are.

I do hope that it can transcend to where it is more about identification, that when people listen, they get a lot of things out of our music."

When they were first putting the group together, John says he was very conscious and deliberate about being out as a gay man.

"That is what I am, so that is what filters through every thing I do," he says. "I am a very sensual and sexual person. Music is about what is interesting to me. I write about what I know best: my own experiences."

According to Frank, being open hasn�t been a career issue.

"We don�t deal in the music industry," he says. "We are not selling millions of CDs. We are dealing with a select group of people."

Which brings me back to the cool, little secret of the Aluminum Group. Now, you know it too. Join.



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