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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 22, 2000

Murderer to claim Warren was sexual predator

by Anthony Glassman

Grant Town, West Virginia-An attorney for David A. Parker, one of the teenagers accused of killing Arthur "J.R." Warren has admitted that he will use a version of the gay panic defense in his client�s trial.

Warren, a black, developmentally disabled gay man, was beaten nearly to death the night of July 3. His attackers then drove him to a rural highway and repeatedly drove over his body with their car, intending to make the crime look like a hit-and-run.

Stephen Fitz, the attorney for Parker, who, along with the other defendants, is white, said his client had a long-standing sexual relationship with Warren, according to an article printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The article stated that Fitz said that he will point to the age difference between Warren, who was 26 at the time of his death, and Parker, who was 17, in affect portraying the victim as a sexual predator.

"What�s going to come out in the trial is going to disappoint a lot of people," Fitz added. "The case is a lot more complicated than simply framing issues of anti-gay or anti-race."

Parker, according to statements given to the police by the young men involved in the murder, was angry with Warren. On the night of the murder, Parker accused Warren of telling people in town that the two of them had engaged in sexual activity.

"When someone�s 10 years older, that kind of goes into the willingness and volitional aspect of the thing," Fitz said.

"Don�t they do that in every case?" asked G. Richard Bunner, the current county prosecutor. "You try the victim and the police if you�re a defense attorney."

Bunner will not be prosecuting the case; his term of office ends next month. The incoming Marion County prosecutor has dismissed himself from the case since he currently shares an office with one of the defense attorneys. An outside prosecutor will be brought in for the case.

Three youths were involved in the attack: Parker, his cousin Jared Wilson, who was also 17 at the time of the murder, and Jason Shoemaker, 15 at the time, who told his mother about the incident. Shoemaker�s mother informed the police, leading to the arrests.

The two 17-year olds were ordered to stand trial as adults, due to the brutality of the crime. They are also being tried separately, since they are expected to testify against each other. Shoemaker was tried as a juvenile, and is also expected to testify against the Parker and Wilson.

Fitz also plans to introduce evidence indicating that Parker was beaten in his youth, and that he has a history of drug abuse.

"This young man is messed up. He�s scared, and he�s confused, and it�s not just all about this incident," Fitz said. "J.R. Warren is just as much a victim of [Parker�s] history as my client is."

Grand jury testimony and statements from the three boys tell a dark picture of the events leading up to the murder.

The three young men were painting a house together, and drinking beer from a case in the refrigerator. According to Fitz, Parker had about 24 beers over the course of 12 hours. Warren showed up at around 11 pm, and the youths asked him to get them a prescription tranquilizer, which they proceeded to grind up and snort.

Parker expressed anger at Warren for telling people in town that they had slept together. Shoemaker told the police, however, that Wilson and Parker also stole $20 from Warren�s wallet, and Warren was beaten after an argument stemming from his discovery of the theft.

Parker said that after beating Warren unconscious, he loaded him into the back of the car. Shoemaker, however, testified that Warren was still awake, and begged to be taken home, but the two older boys pushed him back into the car before driving him to a spot near a power plant. There, they dumped him on a gravel turnout beside the road and drove over him repeatedly with their car, causing his death.


LGBT community looks to Bush
transition for a glimpse of the next four years

by Eric Resnick

President-elect George W. Bush has been working to set the tone and priorities of his administration, reaching out to nearly every minority and traditionally disenfranchised group except for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

In his acceptance speech December 13, Bush called for a "more civil society" and for an America that is "united in diversity," defining diversity twice in the speech - once as "race and origin", the next as "race and party."

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists have been speculating as to what the next administration will mean for the movement and for individuals.

"We are disappointed with the results of the election," said Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch, "but we need to move forward."

"During the campaign, Bush touted �compassionate conservatism�. This is the chance to test it," added Birch.

Noting that the incoming Senate will have 60 votes in favor of federal hate crime legislation inclusive of sexual orientation and gender and over 50 votes for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Birch said, "We know that some progress can be made."

"We don�t have the luxury or option to wait for Bush to stumble, we have to move forward and make progress where we can," Birch said.

Passage of ENDA or hate crime legislation is less certain in the more conservative House and less than likely to be signed by Bush.

Very concerned about Bush�s appointments to the Supreme Court and federal bench, Birch said that HRC will be setting up a judicial watchdog function to "keep an eye on every name that gets floated."

"There can be incredible harm done if the wrong people get empowered," said Birch, "We will be vigilant."

There is already concern among LGBT activists with regard to new cabinet appointees. So far, Bush has announced he will nominate retired general Colin Powell to become Secretary of State. The front-runner to be nominated for Secretary of Defense is former Indiana Senator Dan Coats.

Both Powell and Coats fought President Clinton over ending the ban on gay military personnel.

Powell, who was then chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, threatened to resign if the ban was lifted. Clinton said the "don�t ask, don�t tell" policy resulted from a compromise between him and Powell.

During testimony before Congress in 1993, Powell responded to a letter written to him by former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-Colorado), a supporter of lifting the ban, who asked Powell to reflect on what the armed services were like when they were racially segregated.

Powell testified, "I am well aware of the attempts to draw parallels between this position and positions used years ago to deny opportunities to African-Americans. . . . Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument."

As a Senator on the Armed Services Committee, Coats said, "I do not believe the ban can be lifted because military effectiveness must not be compromised and the lives of our soldiers must never be placed at risk."

He also said, "When we are dealing with homosexuals who by definition have a sexual preference for someone of the same sex and put them in intimate enforced living conditions, we reach an insurmountable problem."

The Secretary of Defense is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the entire armed services, especially in matters of personnel, leading C. Dixon Osborn, co-director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, to say, "We have new challenges on the horizon here." The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network monitors "don�t ask, don�t tell" and represents members of the military affected by the policy

"It is clear that Congress will not be doing anything to get rid of "don�t ask, don�t tell", so all the dialogue will be with the administration, itself," said Osborn.

Osborn said that the current Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, has been the most willing of the three serving President Clinton to have a frank dialogue. "The process is not complete," said Osborn, "but he has taken steps."

"The question is will the next administration work toward better implementation?" Osborn added. "One cannot ignore the role Coats played in 1993 as a vocal opponent to lifting the ban."

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Elizabeth Toledo is also disappointed with the election results, but hopes LGBT activists will put increased focus on local activism during the next 2-4 years.

"We have long recognized that with regard to the Washington beltway, our movement has an insider and an outsider strategy," said Toledo. "We have just been ousted from one of the insider power bases - the White House."

"This election was difficult for the presidential race," she said, "but it was also difficult for many races throughout the country where the margins of victory were small."

"And here we were in the middle, with LGBT issues in the core debate." Toledo added, "Our community will be very engaged and at the forefront of what this nation is grappling with."

Toledo talks of collaborative efforts with national and local groups to work to stop any hostile judicial appointments by Bush. Speaking of the progressive political movement that includes LGBT activists, Toledo said, "We did some great work around Bork."

Robert Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan only to be stopped by a collaborative effort of progressives lobbying senators on the judiciary committee.

Toledo said NGLTF is willing to work with those calling for electoral reform. "Political disenfranchisement affects all the progressive community," she said.

Asked if the president-elect would continue Clinton�s executive orders prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender for federal employees, Bush spokesperson Scott McClellan said, "Once [Bush] takes office, all executive orders will be reviewed and he will decide then."

When questioned as to whether or not Bush would sign a statement of non- discrimination in his own office, McClellan repeated the position taken by the campaign - "Everyone in the administration will be treated with respect."

Asked if Bush is seeking LGBT people to appoint, McClellan said, "It is not something he asks."

McClellan said no decision has been made as to whether or not the new administration would have an office of liason to the gay community. "Again, we�re not looking at these things until he becomes president," he said. However, McClellan indicated that Bush is committed to a faith-based task force that will be housed in the White House. "He talked about this during the campaign," he said.

Questioned about Coats and if the implementation of "don�t ask, don�t tell" is figuring into the selection process, McClellan said that Bush supports Don�t Ask Don�t Tell and is committed to continuing it, leaving its implementation up to the military leadership.

Kevin Ivers, spokesperson for the Log Cabin Republicans said he is heading a committee of 10-15 gay Republican activists that is attempting to gain influence into the transition process.

According to Ivers, it is too early to be asking about policy questions. "This transition isn�t off the ground yet," he said. "There are hundreds of appointments that need to be made, then there may be some answers."

Ivers said the gay and lesbian influence in the Bush administration will be commensurate with the perception that our community helped to elect and can re-elect the president.

"It�s that way with every group," said Ivers, "and it would have been the same for HRC had Gore been elected."

"Our job is going to be to convince them that we played a role in the election, that we can help with the re- election, and that we have strong common agreement on issues."

Ivers and Birch are stressing community unity. "If we unify as a community, we can achieve great things," said Ivers. "Everybody has a role to play in this."

"During a campaign, you campaign hard. You go over the mountain for your candidate," said Birch. "We did it for Al Gore. The Log Cabin Republicans did it for Bush."

"It is obvious that we were both aggressive and it got heated," said Birch.

Birch said that politicians� anti-gay records should not be forgotten, but also should not become a barrier. "We judge by history, but we believe in redemption," she said.

"We need to be mature, to allow space, to be ready to be fierce if necessary, but also be willing to meet them halfway," Birch added.

Toledo agrees that a bipartisan approach may give the LGBT movement additional opportunities for progress, but she warned, "We have to be cautious when we make concessions. We have to be sure that what we give will get us something to move forward."

Ivers said of Bush, "He�s going to be our next president. We all need to get behind our president. This is our nation."


A gay movement or a gay market?

by Bob Roehr

The Millennium March on Washington (MMOW) last April was surrounded by controversy from its beginning, a controversy that not only continues to this day, but also casts doubt on the possibility of future lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights marches.

Those opposed to the march questioned its legitimacy as a top down activity orchestrated by the Human Rights Campaign. They claimed that past marches on Washington had been grassroots efforts that percolated up from and with the participation of local communities. Without such participation the event lacked legitimacy.

They said the prime reason for the event was to create a marketing event targeting the lgbt community, as there was little political rationale or tie-in to pending legislation that would deem such a march necessary.

Others questioned the organizational ability of those nominally in charge of the event. The MMOW committee seemed to confirm that evaluation through its inaction, closed financial records, series of changes in key personnel, and eventual subcontracting out of most of the planned activities.

The hope that corporations would lay out big bucks to become sponsors of the event went largely unfulfilled. The biggest donors were the gay media outlets online and in print, and most of their contributions were not cash but in-kind donations of promotional space. This provided further ammunition for those who called the MMOW merely a marketing opportunity.

HRC tried to insulate itself from the controversy when executive director Elizabeth Birch left the MMOW board, but at the same time its staff and board members held key positions within the MMOW. It also set up a parallel event, the stadium benefit concert "Equality Rocks" with some big name draws donating their talent. HRC pulled in a tremendous amount of cash from the concert.

Supporters and opponents put out conflicting numbers on how many people attended the main event on the Mall on April 30. Whichever number was more accurate, the crowd clearly was smaller than that at the last such event, in 1993.

Equally disturbing were charges that someone had absconded with huge sums of money from the concession area that the MMOW had been counting on to pay the bills. MMOW officials initially suggested that as much as a million dollars was missing, a figure that upon closer scrutiny seemed to be a rather gross exaggeration, but one that matched their debt. The FBI investigated but no charges were ever filed.

As the year ended, HRC and gay online companies forgave close to a half million dollars owed to them by the MMOW. That left the organization about a half million dollars in debt to vendors who did much of the actual work at the event.

Last year the Advocate purchased the financially troubled Out, putting the nation�s two largest gay magazines under the same ownership. Then in the spring, the online company PlanetOut announced an agreement in principle to acquire the parent company that publishes the two glossies as well as pornographic magazines. That effort has stalled, though the players say it will be completed in 2001.

In November, the two biggest online sites competing for lgbt Internet surfers, PlanetOut and Gay.com, announced a merger of their empires. It seemed that all of nation�s major gay media would soon have a single owner. PlanetOut president Megan Smith raved about gays and lesbians as "a large group of customers." She spoke of the prospect of offering them "a wide diversity of products and product offerings."

All of these companies, now coalescing as one, had been major backers of the MMOW and HRC. Not to be outdone, the folks who brought you "Equality Rocks" have created "equality shops," though they do not actually call them that.

This fall, HRC opened a store in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC, a prototype for what they hope to be a string of shops in gay ghettos across the nation. They hope to lure customers with trendy T-shirts and baseball caps that bear their logo, collecting names to add to their mailing lists.

It further blurs the line between movement and market. It leaves one wondering what gays are fighting for, equal rights or the equal right to shop?


News Briefs

Gov. Ventura�s domestic-partner plan to move ahead

St. Paul, Minn.-Gov. Jesse Ventura indicated December 15 he will seek to extend benefits to same-sex partners of state employees without getting prior permission from the Legislature.

Ventura said the attorney general�s office told him that the administration "has the authority to negotiate these benefits through the bargaining process without need for additional legislation."

He concluded a news release by saying, "The Ventura Administration will pursue the establishment of these benefits during the labor contract negotiation process in 2001."

Ventura�s plan would cover health, dental and life insurance and sick leave. The administration previously said the benefits probably would cost less than one million dollars annually because less than one percent of the state�s 53,000-member workforce would be expected to take advantage of the offering.

The Legislature last considered the issue in 1997, when the Senate defeated an attempt to let cities and counties grant benefits to same-sex partners.

 

No clemency for death row lesbian

Lexington, Okla.-The state Pardon and Parole Board, after hearing emotional appeals from both sides, voted 3-1 December 15 to deny clemency for a lesbian set to become the first female executed in Oklahoma since statehood.

Wanda Jean Allen begged the board for mercy.

"Please let me live. Please let me live," she said in her final remarks.

Allen was convicted in 1989 of killing Gloria Leathers in front of a police station in The Village, an Oklahoma City suburb. Testimony was introduced at trial that the women had met in prison and had had a lesbian relationship.

The Rev. Robin Meyers, minister of the Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, pleaded Allen�s case before the parole board. He argued that she was denied due process and that her jury did not have information about her mental disabilities and a previous brain injury.

"Wanda Jean has never got her day in court," he said, pointing out that her attorney was paid only $800 and attempted to quit the case.

Sandy Howard, assistant attorney general, told the board not to be swayed by arguments that Allen was mentally impaired. She said tests showed Allen�s I.Q. was 69 in 1975 and had risen to 80 in 1990. She said Allen was a "fully functional adult" who knew what she was doing.

Another mitigating circumstance was that Allen had been hit in the face with a hand rake before the shooting, which was a continuation of a domestic fight, McClary said.

Howard said there was no credible evidence presented that Leathers had attacked Allen with a rake.

Prosecutors say Allen is "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.

At Friday�s hearing, Allen turned to the audience that included family members of the two victims and said she was sorry.

"I want to live and I�m very ashamed and very sorry for what I did," she said, her voice choking with emotion. At times, she spoke in an inaudible whisper.

Gov. Frank Keating has rejected a request for a moratorium on executions from Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa.

 

Civil unions repeal is doubtful

Montpelier, Vt.-The likely next speaker of the Vermont House is raising doubts whether the Republican-dominated body should try to repeal the civil-unions bill.

"I voted against civil unions. I would vote against it again," Rep. Walter Freed said December 15. "But looking at the practical side, I�m not sure it is a good use of legislative time to go through the mechanics of that."

Some conservative members of the House are eager for repeal of the law that grants gay and lesbian couples many of the same rights and responsibilities of heterosexual married couples.

Rep. Nancy Sheltra has drafted a bill that would bar future civil unions and void the 1,450 civil unions performed since July.

Freed said a straight repeal bill was unlikely to survive in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

"Sure, you could pass a repeal bill in the House, if you want to give (Senate Judiciary Chairman) Dick Sears a bill to tack up on the wall and leave there," he said.

Vermont passed the first-in-the-nation law in April, touching off passionate opposition in some parts of the state. Republicans wrested control of the House in November�s election and more than a dozen pro-civil-union lawmakers lost their seats.

Freed brushed off a recent letter to him from an anti-civil union group that claims credit for defeating some of those lawmakers. The letter warned Freed to pass a repeal bill in the House, or face consequences in the 2002 election.

The letter, from Rev. David Stertzbach, was copied to every member of the House and told Freed: "The first step is a roll call vote on the floor of the House. Each and every vote opposing total repeal will be viewed for what it is: a sell-out."

"Lord willing, my growing membership and I will be ready to remind voters which legislators did their duty," wrote Stertzbach, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Williston and president of the Vermont Defense of Marriage Committee.

Freed was unimpressed.

"I�m not intimidated by very many people," he said. "I don�t care what the reverend wants. . . . He doesn�t vote in my district."

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


Evenings Out

Eric Brouman, right before your very eyes!

by Anthony Glassman

When you think of magic, generally three names come to mind: Merlin, Doug Henning, and David Copperfield.

When you think of gay magicians, Doug Henning may come to mind again.

Prepare to change the way you think.

With a multi-million dollar deal with NBC set to launch him into superstardom, Eric Brouman is about to become a household name.

Born and bred in Greater Cleveland, he�s done a little of everything: Kent State University student, cruise ship entertainer, Eddie Haskell�s son on the Leave It To Beaver reunion series, stunt double for the female lead on the Disney Channel show The Jersey.

"Would you be comfortable wearing a wig?" Brouman recalls the casting agent asking him.

"More details," he asked back.

"A female wig," she told him.

He agreed, and then she asked the most difficult question of all: "Can you throw a football?"

"I had to lie there," Brouman said. "�Yes, I can throw a football.�"

He got the part, which required getting tackled by the Bay Village high school football team.

But sucking up to the Cleavers and rolling around in the mud with high school football players, surprisingly enough, is not his main occupation. That would be magic.

"Magic is the only escape for me--to be onstage," Brouman told the Gay People�s Chronicle. "I have no other way, unless I�m a stripper or something."

And he�s got his escape set up perfectly. In a warehouse on the west side of Cleveland is the Future of Magic, Brouman�s production company, filled with all the trappings of magic: stage, props, costumes, pool table, video game, bar, living room.

"I wine and dine clients here," he said. "There are magicians that you look up in the phone book...you call them up, and they say, �I�ll be glad to come out and see you, and I�ll bring my magic.� They�re floored that they�re hiring me, so they come out here."

"I�ve had IBM, I�ve had Ford, I�ve had Sony Music here, and they come in and I show them my video, we relax and play pool sometimes. That was my whole idea for the place, you know, take a client out to dinner and wine and dine them."

"Well, here we have a bar, and a lot of restaurants or bars hire me for magic, and I can have them sit there, not at their bar but at mine, and I do magic behind the bar, let them see what it�s like."

Brouman had been doing shows in the gay community for years without either of his parents finding out about his sexual orientation. No amount of hocus-pocus can calm down a Jewish parent after their son comes out.

"Two or three years ago, we were in Coventry and my mom and I were eating at Tommy�s," he related. "She had met some friends there while we were eating. We were walking out and someone picked up a Chronicle in the lobby, and my picture was on it for doing Pride, and they�re like, �oh, look at this.�"

Cue moment of panic for intrepid young gay magician. Without having brought any smoke pellets, how would he escape?

"My mom�s looking at it, and I�m like, �Arrgh!� and then she puts it down, and we walk out, and there�s nothing said, and my mom asks where I�m parked. I said, �Over there,� and she asks, �In the gayrage?� It was the first time that anything was ever said about it."

What brought him to this juncture? How does one go from a small child in South Euclid to the cusp of international mega-stardom?

"I would say luck," he revealed. "I did work hard. I remember when I was living with my parents. They couldn�t believe I was on the phone every day, after school, trying to book shows, doing shows for free for benefits."

"I couldn�t find a ride, didn�t have a car or whatever, I always found a way to get there. But I was always bad in school. I was getting Cs, sometimes Ds. My grade point average was two-point-something. I went to college for two years at Kent State and got an offer on a cruise ship and went to that and dropped out of college because school wasn�t for me, so I don�t have a degree in anything."

"I started doing magic when I was really young, like in elementary school, and there was a kid who did magic and I was his assistant. My parents saw that I liked it so much, and my dad used to go on golf trips and every time he went out of town, he would bring me back things, magic things, like two or five dollars, and I would build up magic acts."

Now, saying that someone does magic can mean a lot of things. There are very different schools of magic out there. Does he make the Statue of Liberty disappear? Does he stick a big needle through his arm? What type of magic does Brouman do?

"My show is comedy magic. Most of my magic on stage is acting, and it�s non-scripted," he said. "A lot of magicians come out and go, �Hello, my name is blah blah blah.� I�m going to see Adam Williams [another gay magician], and Adam is totally different from me show-wise. His show is scripted, and he�s asked me for advice, and I�ve asked him for advice, because they�re totally different kinds of shows."

"Mine is improvisation, it literally comes to me as I�m going, make up stuff and it comes out. So I used to have a lot of training in improv, Cleveland Playhouse, Tri-C, and I went to all this improv. I even taught improv for two years, and I had a troupe called Witty Bitz. So I use my improv in everything I do."

Which, of course, can sometimes be a bit of a problem. When you�re used to saying whatever comes to mind, you might have a little trouble saying what someone else wants you to say.

"A couple of months ago I did a show for Lil� Tykes Toys...I was told when we were rehearsing and setting up that this was the new product, the unveiling of this year�s new line coming out. They wanted me to come out before my show, say a certain thing, wave a magic wand, and these curtains would open and all the CEOs would look at these products and see these things."

"So now I�m under pressure. I learn this five minutes before I go on. I have to say, �Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the new 2000 line whatevers.�"

"I couldn�t get it. Over and over again, I said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, it�s about time...� and they would say, �No, no, no, Eric, you need to say...� and I couldn�t get it. So, we wrote it down. My assistant stood in back, a wore a headset which I always have, but it was off, and he had one in the back, and I just lipsynced it. He said it, �Ladies and Gentlemen,� and I just went like this and did the motions."

"�That�s great, do it like that!� they said. They had no idea I was lipsyncing. After the show was over, I told the agent and the manager. If someone sets a script, I can�t do it."

So what�s coming up for the twenty-something Mr. Brouman? In addition to the NBC specials, currently in the editing room, he has a couple of local fundraisers scheduled, one tentative for the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland and one solid for the Open House�s Paint the Town Red Benefit in February. He�s also working to re-open the Centrum Theater in Coventry, where he plans to use the multiple stages to bring national acts to Cleveland, perhaps some comedians, some impersonators, and, of course, some magicians.

"I�d like to have at least one night a week dedicated to gay entertainment," Brouman said.

And while broadcast dates haven�t been set for his NBC shows, he hopes to have the Centrum running by New Year�s Eve.

What does the future look like for Eric Brouman? Well, to quote Timbuk 3, the Future of Magic is so bright, we�ve gotta wear shades.

 

 


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