by Eric Resnick
Dayton--City commissioners may soon have another opportunity to add sexual orientation to Daytonís non-discrimination ordinance.
Commissioners set aside the proposed measure December 22, after opponents threatened a referendum. They passed a non-binding resolution stating their opposition to all discrimination.
Openly lesbian commissioner Mary Wiseman, the original measureís sponsor, and her colleague Dean Lovelace, an African-American, have scheduled public forums and coalition-building events in an attempt to find common ground with opponents and produce a bill the community will support.
"Weíre working it," said Wiseman. "The first time, it was a top-down approach and we saw what happened. This time, it will be a bottom up approach."
Wiseman agreed to remove the original measureís "source of income" provision, which the Greater Dayton Real Estate Investors Association, representing landlords, strongly objected to on the basis that it would require them to accept public subsidy tenants.
"There will be no requirement to participate in Section 8," she said.
Wiseman is also working on the language for an exemption for religious institutions and employers.
Wiseman and Lovelace have attempted to bridge the divide between the lesbian and gay community and the African- American community. It was largely the black churchesí opposition that defeated the bill this winter.
A public dialogue has been scheduled for February 24 which will be a panel discussion comprised of members of the African-American community and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Rev. Mel White will conduct a community worship service March 11 and give a public training seminar March 12.
Wiseman said she and Lovelace are trying to address as many of the objections raised the first time while remaining true to the overall intent of the ordinance. She indicated that people have been positive about this approach.
"Commissioner Lloyd Lewis was pleased by the educational process taking place and he was supportive," said Wiseman.
"This will be the chance that he and Commissioner [Idotha ] Neal have to demonstrate that they have commitment to the gay and lesbian community, and either it will be there or it wonít," Wiseman added.
The remaining commissioner, Mayor Mike Turner, the only Republican and the only vocal opposition to the initial ordinance, told the Dayton Daily News he was surprised that efforts to pass the bill were continuing. He called it "very divisive for the community."
"As I indicated before, no case has been made that we need this, and the negative impact to the community is far too great," Turner continued.
Wiseman countered, "Good leadership is taking a divisive issue and trying to fix it as Commissioner Lovelace and I are trying to do."
She added, "If it isnít needed, it wonít do any harm. What is he afraid of?"
Wiseman wants to introduce the revised ordinance before the end of April
by Eric Resnick
Washington, D.C.--The Secretary of Defense has approved plans for training personnel in "donít ask, donít tell, donít harass" procedures in all branches of the military.
According to the Pentagon, the plans, which were approved by Secretary William Cohen on February 1, incorporate the guidelines for investigating threats and harassment of servicemembers based on perceived or alleged homosexuality.
The plans were submitted as the result of a directive from President Clinton and Secretary Cohen in the wake of the brutal murder of Pfc. Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, Ky.
At a December 23 briefing, Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon said Cohen gave the branches until January 17 to submit revised training guidelines for field personnel which include policies on investigations.
A problem with "donít ask, donít tell" since 1993 has been the lack of guidance for field commanders, especially in the area of investigation of harassment. The new plans are an attempt to correct that.
Michelle Benecke, co-director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington advocacy group that monitors the policy, points out that most of the new programs are a "re-hash" of directives that have been issued before, but which never reached individual unit commanders.
"But," said Benecke, "there are two new pieces, both are as a result of our reports and requests over each of the past six years."
"The first new piece is mandatory training on the limits of investigation, which for the first time will be explained to people in the field," said Benecke.
Training to be part of boot camp
At the February 1 briefing, Bacon said the training will, for the first time, be a part of basic training and commander training and then repeated periodically throughout each servicememberís career. Judge Advocates General and the legal corps of the services will also be trained.
The Army training package includes a trifold pamphlet to be distributed to all members and an article in Soldiers magazine.
"The second new piece is is the strong message from the leadership," said Benecke, noting that for the first time, the top civilian amd military leaders of each branch signed off on the plans.
Bacon conceded that the military has been lacking in its field training on the policy.
"There is certainly anecdotal information that the service was--that some commanders spent more time on the training than other commanders did," he said.
Harassment complaints arenít Ďtellingí
Bacon noted that specific rules on the investigation of harassment are spelled out for the first time.
"If a servicemember comes to the commander and says, ĎIím being threatened or harassed because people suspect or allege that I am--that Iím gay,í the response is to be, and all the service training plans make it clear, thatís not credible evidence to inquire against the soldier or airman or servicemember. What the commanderís responsibility is, is to investigate the threat, and if they find that there is a threat of harassment, to take action against the threat or harasser."
In the past, a servicememberís complaint of anti-gay harassment often resulted in an investigation of the person making the complaint, for violating "donít tell." The harassment itself was not investigated. This discouraged members from reporting harassment.
Bacon said that the military does not track statistics on how many investigations, appropriate or inappropriate, have been done.
Bacon also acknowledged that anyone who makes a complaint under the new guidelines still runs the risk of being outed and discharged if the investigation leads to credible evidence of homosexuality, but the mere reporting of a threat will no longer be viewed as credible evidence.
Benecke is initially encouraged by the Armyís plan. "Our clients report this has already made a difference in the field," she said. "Military chain of command works when leaders want it to. And some officers are taking this seriously."
"It is important to remember, though, that none of these steps fix Ďdonít ask, donít tellí," said Benecke. "None make it a fair policy, and it needs to be repealed by Congress as soon as itís possible. It is shameful that it took murder for leaders to finally take these steps."
Discharges hold steady in 1999
The number of discharges in 1999, which was also disclosed in the February 1 briefing, still concerns Benecke.
There were 1,034 gay discharges last year, eleven fewer than the 1,145 discharged in 1998.
"But they are still discharging three a day," said Benecke, "and this represents a 73 percent increase over the 1994 figures" when the policy was first enacted.
Benecke also disagrees with the Pentagon over the reasons for the discharges. The military claims that 86 percent of these discharges result from members making voluntary statements declaring their sexual orientation.
Benecke counters that those declarations result from the members reports of anti-gay harassment.
"We hope servicemembers will finally be able to report harassment without reprisal," said Benecke.
The Department of Defense has ordered the Inspector General to survey 38 bases and report the effectiveness of the new training. Their report is due back to Secretary Cohen on March 15.
Benecke says even though the surveys are anonymous, members wanting to report harassment and violations are urged to contact SLDN to learn their rights and possibly find alternatives, in the event there are still deficiencies in the policy.
by Denny Sampson
Cleveland--Police are warning gay men to beware of a credit card thief who frequents gay bars. He befriends men, finds out their credit card information, and then runs up huge bills.
Andrew Maslanka, also called Andy or Drew, is a 20-year-old Caucasian male, with blond hair, blue eyes, a fair complexion, and medium build. He is 5í10" tall, and weighs approximately 150 pounds.
"Andrew is very bright. He pursues the gay culture constantly, especially after gay men," said Detective Arvin Clar of the Cleveland Police Departmentís financial crimes division. "He hangs out at the gay night clubs, befriends men, and then he steals their credit cards."
Maslanka has not always stolen exclusively from gay men. Since November of 1997 he has been arrested once in Beachwood and three times in Cleveland for theft, fraud, misuse of a credit card, and forgery.
Employed at Beachwood Place mall and later at Tower City Center, Maslanka used his position as a sales representative to copy the credit card information of several of his customers, according to police reports.
In Beachwood, Maslanka used stolen credit card information to purchase over $6,000 in goods and services, including an airline ticket for $869, $376 for a hotel stay in San Francisco, $1,028 worth of merchandise from Eddie Bauer, a $966 German shepherd puppy, and rent and other apartment charges of $2,095.
Maslanka has pleaded guilty to charges of theft, grand theft, forgery, and receiving stolen property stemming from the arrests. He was sentenced to three years of "community control"-intensely supervised probation--and inpatient psychiatric evaluation and treatment. He was required to make full financial restitution to his victims. After repeat offenses, he was sentenced to eight months in the Lorain Correctional Institution.
Maslankaís more recent arrests are still pending. In August 1999, while he was using a stolen credit card to stay at the Cleveland Marriot Downtown, he was arrested along with a 16-year-old boy. The boy was later released to his parents and not implicated in the crime. Maslanka was charged with theft, forgery, and misuse of credit cards.
Most recently, Maslanka was arrested by the Cleveland Police on December 11 for theft by deception and misuse of a credit card. One of the victims told the police that he had met Maslanka over the Internet, and had allowed him to stay at his house for two weeks. During that time, Maslanka reportedly stole the victimís credit card and the number from the victimís motherís credit card.
According to the police report, Maslanka made over $6,000 worth of charges on those cards for house rent and a rental car. This case is still pending.
"The gay community should be warned to stay away this guy," said Clar.
by Eric Resnick
Sacramento, Calif.óThe governor and other officials have taken sides in a battle over a ballot initiative to bar recognition of same-sex marriages.
Proposition 22, sponsored by Republican state senator Pete Knight, would make it impossible for the state to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples joined in other states.
Knightís son David, who is gay, appeared at a January 30 fundraiser for the measureís opponents.
California Governor Gray Davis, a Democrat, announced January 28 that he opposes the "Limit on Marriage Initiative," calling it unnecessary. Davis said he opposes same-sex marriages himself, but said Knightís measure would "serve mainly to stir up prejudices and hostility, sometimes with tragic consequences."
"As governor, I will do everything within my power to honor the dignity, humanity, and privacy of every Californian, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation," said Davis.
California Republicans attended a prayer breakfast February 6 near San Francisco where same sex marriage was described as "filth and pornography of another kingdom."
Speakers at the breakfast included Knight and evangelist Bill Bright, co-founder of the Campus Crusade for Christ.
State party chaplain Doc Burch made jokes about public school officials allegedly taking teenagers into a "gay and lesbian and homosexual recruiting office" where they are asked, "Have you ever had a sexual feeling you didnít understand?" "I never had one I did understand," Burch continued.
The California Republican Party endorsed the Knight initiative at its last convention.
Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley have denounced Proposition 22, and have used their campaigns as bully pulpits to speak against it while campaigning in California.
The city councils of Los Angeles and several smaller cities have passed resolutions denouncing the initiative. Entertainers, including Melissa Etheridge and the cast of Will & Grace, have also encouraged voters to reject the measure.
But recent polls show a 52% to 59% majority of voters favor it.
The referendum will be decided with 19 other ballot initiatives during Californiaís primary election March 7.
So-called "defense of marriage" acts have been passed by legislatures in 29 other states, but the California Assembly has twice voted Knightís bill down.
The sponsor of a 1997 Ohio version of the measure has recently reintroduced it in the legislature.
Anti-gay activists in three states are using the marriage bans to challenge local domestic partner benefit measures.
by Michelle Tomko
Cleveland--The fifth annual "Paint the Town Red" raised $21,000 for the Open House AIDS service organization.
The Saturday, February 4 gala also included a silent auction. "Kiss" tickets admitted clients of the Open House to attend the event.
Joe Valenti led the aesthetics team that transformed the food court in Clevelandís historic Halle Building into Cupidís lair on a budget of less that $500. Valentiís solicitation of donations coupled with his sense of style brought his design in over $3,500 less than last yearís efforts. He also left extra flowers for guests to take, filling the room with little Ophelias and divas with nosegays.
Event coordinator Marry Ann Gall-Rowland enlisted the help of strolling performers ventriloquist David Johnson, dancers Sarah Morrison and Mark Kamit, and tarot card reader Julianne Stein giving an added Parisian street theme touch to the event.
The food, catered by Sammyís, was presented on raised platforms under a trumpeting cherub. The trademark display of signature desserts from all over town was well placed next to the silent auction so that those with a sweet tooth would be compelled to place a bid or two.
The auction had bargains galore with items ranging from an autographed k.d. lang photo to the 1,500-year-old Roman coin this reporter now has on her mantel.
Karma was at work for auction volunteer Bill Martin. He was rewarded for his work by winning the fur coat that was raffled off at the end of the evening, which he proudly modeled for the crowd.
"I only bought three tickets," Martin said. "I only put my name on one."
The Open House, led by executive director Sister Marian Durkin, works to enhance the quality of physical, mental, psychosocial and spiritual health for people living with HIV and AIDS, and their family, friends and caregivers.
Clients receive massage therapy, homebound patient care, and vouchers for food, entertainment and transportation.
This year, the Open House welcomed back WEWS Channel 5 news anchor Ted Henry, who covered the organization when it opened in 1993. He and his wife Jody Cleary served as honorary chairs for this yearís event. It was a sight to see them slow-dancing amidst several gay couples.
Street preacherís trial for flag burning incident begins
ColumbusóThe ethnic intimidation trial of the man accused of ripping a gay rainbow flag from a Statehouse pole began on Monday, February 7.
Charles Spingola, a 44-year-old street preacher from Newark, Ohio, was charged with violating the city's ordinance against ethnic intimidation.
He has previously admitted to pulling down the flag, which was flown with official permission at the Statehouse during the city's annual lesbian and gay Pride march last June 27.
Two others were also charged in the incident. Donald L. Richardson, 64, of London, Ohio, was found guilty of disorderly conduct on January 27.
Toni L. Peters, 26, of Columbus, faces charges of arson and ethnic intimidation. She admitted to setting the flag on fire after Spingola pulled it down, and is scheduled for pretrial hearings later this month.
Spingolaís attorney, Thomas Condit, has subpoenaed Gov. Robert Taft to testify as to who allowed marchers to fly the flag and whether the permit to do so was lawful. Taft is resisting the subpoena.
Judge W. Dwayne Maynard did not rule on whether Taftís testimony would be needed. He said an oversight by the governorís office could be relevant, but another member of the office, rather that Taft himself, could testify about the permit.
Jeff Redfield, executive director of Stonewall Columbus, filed the complaint that led to Spingola's ethnic intimidation charge.
"When somebody has done something purely motivated by hate, then there is going to be a response; they are going to be held accountable," he said.
But Spingola contends he doesn't need to apologize for anything he did.
Church mulls fate of 67 ministers
Fairfield, Calif.--An investigating committee of seven pastors is expected to decide this week whether to bring formal charges against 67 United Methodist ministers who participated in a lesbian holy union in Sacramento last January.
The service, uniting Ellie Charlton, 64, and Jeanne Barnett, 69, involved over a hundred ministers from across the country who joined in protest of a 1998 church rule forbidding same-sex marriages.
The Methodist ministers who took part could face removal from the clergy if found guilty of violating church law, although pastors on both sides of the dispute have said that they considered it unlikely that the punishment, if any, would be that severe.
The committee heard three days of testimony from ministers, theologians, and ethicists and began private deliberations Friday January 4.
School must allow gay-straight club
Santa Ana, Calif.óA judge ordered El Modena High School to allow a gay-straight student club to meet on campus until their lawsuit against the school is resolved.
U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter ruled February 4 that the club's members were being denied the same privileges as other students.
El Modena students Anthony Colin, 15, and Heather Zetin, 16, said their proposed Gay-Straight Alliance is meant as a forum for students to discuss sexual orientation and discrimination. They filed a federal lawsuit in November, saying the school board violated their free speech rights by denying the club.
In court papers, attorneys for the school district said the club was disallowed because it covers issues taught in the curriculum, specifically sex education. The district said it would reconsider the club if it changed its name and refrained from discussing human sexuality topics.
McCain doesnít approve of Ďlifestyleí
Greenville, S.C.--While campaigning in South Carolina on February 8, Senator John McCain appeared to displease some people in his morning audience in North Augusta by stating his support for the "donít ask, donít tell" policy on gays in the military.
"Itís a lifestyle I donít approve of," McCain added.
However, to date, McCain is the only Republican candidate who has met with the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group.
Governor supports violence bill
Springfield, Ill. --Women and gays who are victims of violence could sue their attackers under legislation Illinois Gov. George Ryan has promised to support.
The Gender Violence Act allows lawsuits by anyone who suffers violence, including rape, because of their gender or sexual orientation.
Ryan announced support for the act during his State of the State address last week. He said the bill would "open the doors to justice for women who have been beaten or sexually assaulted, and . . . provide opportunities to seek justice for those whose lives are damaged or destroyed by violence because of their sexual orientation."
Ryan wanted Illinois to be the first state to enact a version of the federal anti-violence law, Hoffer said, and he wanted it to include gay men and lesbians.
Compiled from wire reports by Denny Sampson and Michelle Tomko.
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