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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 7 , 2000

Backers gather sponsors for
Ohio anti-marriage bill

by Eric Resncik
with wire reports

Columbus--Backers of a proposed Ohio law to deny recognition of same-sex marriages are collecting co-sponsors and expect to introduce the bill in the state House and Senate the week of January 10.

The measure, called the "Defense of Marriage Act" or DOMA, would "reassert that marriages between a man and a woman would be the only legally recognized marriages in Ohio, and further declare that same sex marriages are against the public policy of the state."

The Senate sponsor is Senator Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), who introduced a similar measure in 1997 in the House, which died in committee.

The House sponsor is Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana). Jordan was a co-sponsor of the 1997 bill.

Ohio already outlaws same-sex marriage. Hottinger said he reintroduced his bill after the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in that state must be granted the rights and benefits of civil marriage. He wants to deny Ohio recognition of a possible Vermont same-sex marriage.

"We need this language in place right now to protect families from the non-traditional values others may try to bring into our state," Jordan said.

Jordan spokesperson Ray Yonkura was not sure exactly what day the bills would be introduced, but says Jordan believes the bill will have "a better chance now than in 1997," because of the recent Vermont Supreme Court ruling.

Yonkura and Hottinger spokesperson Susan Wittstock said that they have given other legislators until January 10 to sign on as co-sponsors.

Currently, Hottinger has three Senate co-sponsors.

Jordan has ten House co-sponsors. He is not releasing their names until the bill is introduced, but the Senate co-sponsors are Sen. Doug White of the 14th district in southwest Ohio, Sen. Eugene Watts of Columbus, and Sen. Lynn Wachtmann of the 1st district in northwest Ohio. All are Republicans.

Wittstock says it is too early to predict the chances of the bill becoming law. Both promise there will be additional co-sponsors.

The Dayton Daily News called the measures "hysterical" and "redundant" in a January 3 editorial.

"Neither marriage nor the family is so fragile or �traditional� values so vulnerable that they�ll crumble at mere exposure to differing beliefs--beliefs that, incidentally, the constitution guarantees those �others� the right to hold," the Daily News said.

"Accordingly, Ohio lawmakers might better spend their time this year making state law less discriminatory, not more so," the editorial concludes.

Of the editorial, Wittstock said, "Obviously, we�re not real happy, but we expect that."

Yonkura said, "This is not a popularity contest. Rep. Jordan doesn�t just do things for popularity. You have to do what you believe is best for public policy."

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists are gearing up opposition to the bill. Organizers of last year�s Equality Begins at Home event, which included a legislative lobby day, are using the Internet to alert people statewide.

"Defeat of Hottinger and Jordan�s bill has become a top priority," said organizer Sarah Fox of Columbus.

Doreen Cudnik, executive director of Stonewall Cincinnati, says her organization will be also organizing some actions itself.

"We�re planning events and urging people to contact elected officials," she said.

"Just like in 1997, this is just a big red herring," said Cudnik. "It is a way for Hottinger to keep his right wing supporters happy and make us scapegoats. And Hottinger knows it. We have to beat him by exposing it for what it is again."

Thirty states and Congress have passed similar "defense on marriage" acts in the last three years. Conservative activists are now using the measures to challenge local domestic partner ordinances and policies, such as one now being considered by the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood.

 

Diversity campaign will include
lesbians and gays this year

by Denny Sampson

Cleveland--A media campaign designed to encourage respect for individual differences and promote inclusiveness will include a brief interview with Rabbi David Horowitz, president of the Akron chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG.)

Organized by the Greater Cleveland Roundtable and the National Conference for Community and Justice, the "CommUnity 2000" campaign will use all forms of media, including television, cable stations, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards, and an internet site, to send a unified message-celebrate diversity.

The interview with Horowitz will be included in a TV special, which will play a central role in the campaign. The special is scheduled to air on Monday, January 17 at 7:30 pm on all of the commercial stations in northeast Ohio.

The special will feature "Champions of Diversity: the bridge builders in our communities, schools, and workplaces who help to interpret differences and create understanding," according to a CommUnity press release.

"Last year the show featured five stories. This year we will feature 4 stories so we can also include four interviews with people who are doing great work in bridging differences in our communities," said Barb Grothe of the Roundtable. "Rabbi Horowitz is going to be interviewed on the show. He will be a very attractive speaker for the gay and lesbian communities, and he will be even more effective because he is a rabbi."

Horowitz, a leader in the Reform movement in Judaism, is the rabbi of Temple Israel in Akron. Horowitz and his wife, Tobie, became interested in gay and lesbian issues in 1990 when their daughter Wendy came out to them. Over the years, he has "assumed a very visible role both locally and nationally in helping to bridge the gap between the religious community and the homosexual community," according to a CommUnity press release.

Horowitz has worked within the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Reform Judaism�s governing body, to advance GLBT issues. Over half of the movement�s rabbis now perform same-sex unions.

Through his involvement with P-FLAG, Horowitz has become a civil rights activist in Akron. He was instrumental in introducing the SSAFE (Safe Schools Are For Everyone) program to Akron schools, as well as providing gay sensitivity in-services to the Akron police department. He has been involved with P-FLAG at the national level, and currently serves on the national bylaws committee.

Linda Malicki, Executive Director of The Lesbian and Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland, has been a member of the CommUnity 2000 Advisory Committee. "The issues around homosexuality are very divisive. The only way to resolve them is to bring them out in the open and talk about them. It is very important for our community to be represented on this TV show."

"We were hoping for more, but a short interview is better than not being included at all," said Horowitz.

Those chosen to be featured in a full story on the television show include Rebecca Jarvis, Doris Brenann, the Cleveland Heights High School Unity Club, Rev. Mark Frey and Rev. L.C. Cooper.

Jarvis is a Puerto Rican woman who helps new mothers as a volunteer "Resource Mother" at a Lorain hospital. Brennan, who has been totally paralyzed since 1954, is an advocate for disability rights. The Heights High Unity Club organized a unity rally in August as an alternative to the Ku Klux Klan rally.

Finally, Rev. Frey is from a United Church of Christ in Bath and Rev. Cooper is from a Baptist church in Akron. Five years ago their churches established an inter-racial covenant to get to know each other. They now do a pulpit exchange, a choir exchange, and they share a gardening club.

"I want to encourage people to watch the show, and then to call and let the organizers know they like what they saw, and they want more about gay and lesbian issues next year," said Malicki.

For more information about the show or the campaign, call 216-752-0088 or see www.cleveland.com/unity.


Vermont lawmakers gird
for couples debate

Lesbians and gays point out that a partner law
would omit third-party marriage benefits

Montpelier, Vt.�As the legislature opened its session January 4, lawmakers said their top task is responding to the Vermont Supreme Court's recent ruling on same-sex couples.

In its December 20 ruling, the state supreme court moved the issue to the top of the agenda, ruling that lawmakers must provide same-sex partners all the benefits and protections offered by civil marriage, either by allowing them to marry, or through a domestic partner law.

House Speaker Michael Obuchowski, D-Rockingham, said he could not remember a time when the legislature had to contend with such a potentially emotional issue as that relating to same-sex couples.

"I think this really could tear Vermont apart," Obuchowksi said last week. "The legislature's job will be to bring people together."

Legislative leaders say they want to get the job done this year, as Gov. Howard Dean has requested.

Obuchowski and Senate president pro tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windsor, both say that as the debate develops their chief task may be to preserve a civil atmosphere

 

Pictured above: Peter Harrigan and Stan Baker are one of three couples whose lawsuit resulted in the Vermont Supreme Court's ruling that same-sex couples must be given the benefits of civil marriage.

 

Shumlin said he was confident that as long as the debate remained among Vermonters, it would not become an inordinately divisive affair. But, he added, interference from outside groups could muddy the waters.

"The Legislature is more than capable of having a thoughtful and objective discussion about this issue, as with many issues," Shumlin said. "The only threat is from interests outside of Vermont, who see an opportunity for exploitation."

Few lobbyists so far

Lawmakers expressed concern that national groups will pour money into the state in an attempt to influence them. However, there has been no stampede of lobbyists on the issue at the Statehouse.

"We're taking a wait-and-see attitude," said Heather Farish of the Family Research Council, which opposes same-sex marriage.

The stance is similar to that taken by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders of Boston.

"We recognize this as a Vermont issue and we respect the local nature of it," said Jennifer Levi, a staff lawyer with that group.

Farish said the Family Research Council will eventually make its presence known.

"We are contemplating having a lobbyist presence, but if we do, there won't be a lot of fanfare," she said.

No �gateway� to other benefits

In its ruling, the state supreme court indicated that a parallel domestic partner law could satisfy the requirement that same-sex couples receive the same rights and benefits that opposite-sex couples get from civil marriage.

But lawyers representing lesbians and gay men argue that the term marriage itself is critical, because of its impact on treatment by other states and businesses. The distinction isn't just a matter of semantics, they say.

Even if domestic partnership is adopted now, legal scholars suggest that Vermont is likely to accept same-sex marriage eventually.

Legislators have said they are likely to create a domestic partnership policy rather than amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples.

But that doesn't satisfy Susan Murray, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case.

"In addition to the bundle of [state-sanctioned] rights, by conferring the status of marriage on a couple, the state is providing a gateway to other benefits and protections provided by other parties," she said in an interview. Domestic partnership would not offer the same "gateway" status, she asserted.

"To the extent the state confers a gateway status to couples who marry, they have to confer the same gateway status to same-sex couples," she said.

Marriage would assure same-sex couples access to benefits from third parties such as businesses, Murray said. It would also offer their relationships legal standing in states that haven't ruled out recognizing same-sex marriage, and give them the opportunity to challenge the laws in states that would not recognize their Vermont union. Third, inclusion under the marriage laws would give same-sex couples the potential, again though a court challenge, to gain the 1,049 federal rights and obligations associated with marriage.

"It can't be that you are obligated contractually to one another in the state of Vermont but if you travel elsewhere you are unobligated to one another," Murray said. "That violates basic concepts of contract law."

Murray, like gay civil rights advocates around the country, thinks the issue of states' refusal to recognize same-sex marriages sanctioned elsewhere is ripe for a challenge.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, denies federal recognition to same-sex couples, even if their marriages are sanctioned by one of the states. It also says that states are not obliged to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Since no state has yet granted same-sex marriage, the federal DOMA law and states' ban on recognition have not faced court challenges.

The Vermont high court�s decision is based on the "common benefits" clause of the Vermont Constitution, which says in part that government should ensure the common benefit of the entire community, rather than secure advantages for any particular set of people. The court didn't rule on whether the state's obligation to same-sex couples ends with state-sanctioned protections.

"It is important to state clearly the parameters of today's ruling," Chief Justice Jeffrey Amestoy writes in the majority opinion. He says that the plaintiffs' claims centered on their exclusion from the statutory benefits of marriage under Vermont law, and that issue is what the decision addresses.

"While some future case may attempt to establish that--notwithstanding equal benefits and protections under Vermont law--the denial of a marriage license operates per se to deny constitutionally protected rights, that is not the claim we address today."

Murray acknowledged that she and her law partner, Beth Robinson, did not focus on the "gateway" issues in their previous arguments.

"We don't know what the Supreme Court would say about that because it was not addressed by the court and it wasn't addressed by us in the litigation."

For now, the lawyers plan to take their case to the legislature. Murray said it was too soon to know if they would challenge a domestic partnership statute in court if that were the legislature's solution.

Associated Press


Bush advisor quits over
his refusal to meet with Log Cabin

by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--George W. Bush�s education adviser has quit his campaign over his refusal to meet with the gay and lesbian Log Cabin Republicans.

Dr. Diane Ravitch served the GOP presidential candidate�s father, President George Bush, as assistant secretary of education and has advised the candidate on three education speeches.

Ravitch�s resignation was in protest of the younger Bush�s statement on NBC�s Meet the Press November 21 that he probably would not meet with Log Cabin.

Meanwhile, pundits are speculating that the Bush camp is planning a whisper campaign in South Carolina against GOP rival John McCain for his having met with Log Cabin.

Bill Kristol, who publishes the conservative Weekly Standard and appears regularly on ABC�s Sunday morning This Week, said on the show that Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition and now a Bush strategist, told him, "If McCain wins New Hampshire, Pat Robertson will come out for Bush in South Carolina."

Going further, Kristol, citing unnamed sources, said he believed the Bush campaign was already trying to curry favor with South Carolina conservatives by getting out the word about McCain�s meeting with the Log Cabin Club.

Kristol was referring to a series of anonymous envelopes placed in the mailboxes of 23 South Carolina state representatives supporting McCain, and other McCain supporters around the state, about a week after his meeting with the Log Cabin Club last fall.

The envelopes contained a copy of the November 10 Washington Times article reporting the meeting with an introduction that read, "Log Cabin Republicans said yesterday that Arizona Senator John McCain is going after the homosexual Republican vote as no other serious presidential nomination contender has in his party in recent history."

Little typed notes were attached to the piece which read, "So this is the candidate you�re supporting? Hmmmm?"

Although Reed is denying any involvement in this, he has a history of doing such things. In 1996, Reed saved the Dole campaign in Iowa by coordinating a series of "push polls," phone banks attacking opponent Steve Forbes for, among other things, "tolerating his father�s alternative lifestyle."

Bush campaign spokesperson Scott McClelland has denied on the record any involvement in the whisper campaign, but would not return calls from the Gay Peoples� Chronicle to discuss the matter.

The Log Cabin Republicans also would not comment on it.

 


News Briefs

Second man to be tried this week in soldier�s murder

Fort Campbell, Ky.--The court-martial for a second soldier charged in a murder case that has prompted scrutiny of the military�s policy towards gays and lesbians is scheduled to begin Saturday, January 8, the Army announced on January 4.

Spc. Justin R. Fisher, 26, faces four charges in connection with the July 5 beating death of Pfc. Barry Winchell.

In December, Pvt. Calvin N. Glover, 18, was convicted in a court-martial of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Glover used a baseball bat to smash Winchell�s skull as he slept in his cot at Fort Campbell. There had been a swirl of rumors on the post that Winchell, 21, was gay, and prosecutors said Glover was driven by hatred of gay people.

Glover never addressed the allegation that he despised gays. His attorneys argued that Fisher, Winchell�s roommate, goaded Glover into the attack.

 

Diocese supports new rights law

Augusta, Maine�The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said January 4 that it will throw its support behind a bill to put a gay civil rights proposal to a vote because provisions that address church concerns have been added.

Observers on both sides of the issue say that the support of the Catholic church would help to pass a gay civil rights amendment to the Human Rights Act.

Gay activists and church officials began negotiating after a "people�s veto" referendum repealed a short-lived gay civil rights law in 1998.

It is now up to the legislature to decide whether to put the measure on the ballot. The sponsor, Sen. Joel Abromson, R-Portland, said he was confident it would pass.

With a 30 percent turnout in a February 1998 single-issue election, Maine voters repealed, 51-49, a rights law that had been enacted in 1997.

Backers of the new measure seek a November vote, where it will see the higher turnout of a presidential race.

 

State partner registry opens

Sacramento, Calif.-On January 3, the first business day after a new law went into effect, a total of 71 couples registered as domestic partners in California, and hundreds of applications were given out.

The law established a registry for lesbian and gay couples, as well as for opposite-sex couples over age 62. The legislation was signed into law last year, and took effect New Year�s Day.

Registered domestic partners will be entitled to visit their partner in the hospital, which could otherwise be restricted to family members. Health coverage will be extended to the partners of state employees and to the partners of local employees who are enrolled in the state retirement system.

Forms to register as domestic partners are available online at www.ss.ca.gov.

 

Anti-marriage vote sought

Carson City, Nevada--A group filed papers January 4 for a petition drive to amend the Nevada Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriages, and deny recognition of ones from other states.

If the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage succeeds, Nevadans will vote on a measure to elevate an existing state law to the state constitution, thus preventing lawmakers from changing it.

Legislators in 1993 repealed a sodomy statute and last year provided workplace protections for gays and lesbians.

The group will need 44,009 signatures of registered voters by June 20 to get the issue on the November ballot. If it passes, it must also pass a second vote in 2002.

Lee Plotkin, a political columnist for the gay and lesbian Las Vegas Bugle, said an antigay petition in 1994 failed to qualify for the ballot, and he predicted the same thing will happen this time.

 

Gay men are more likely to smoke

San Francisco--A recent study shows that gay or bisexual men are about twice as likely to be cigarette smokers than men overall.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco polled 2,600 men who were gay or bisexual. About 48 percent said they smoke. Only 27 percent of U.S. men at large are smokers.

Author Dr. Ron Stall said the smoking rate was 50 percent for those 18 to 24.

The study found that gay men at all education levels smoked more, even though higher education is usually associated with a lower smoking rate.

The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

 

 

 

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