Marchers return city’s Pride after five years
by Doreen Cudnik
Cincinnati--Over 1,000 people marched for pride and equality under a bright sunny sky on June 11, bringing back a level of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender visibility that had been absent from the city for five years.
Decorated cars, floats and groups of people marching with banners and signs stretched for more than a mile as the Pride parade made its way from the rally at the gazebo in Burnet Woods to Hoffner Park in Northside.
The parade was the highlight of several weeks of Queen City Pride-related activities, which began with the Drag Races and Festival to benefit AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, and will end with the June 24 Pride Party Cruise 2000 to benefit the Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center.
Sunday’s Pride parade was a "transcendent experience" for first-time marcher Ethan Gilbert.
"It was very affirming and empowering," he said.
Gilbert said he was struck by the variety of different people and different ages, from the group of young people representing St. Xavier High School’s Ally Network to the parade’s grand marshal Peaches LaVerne who, at 75, is Cincinnati’s oldest female impersonator.
"Without exception, this Pride parade is something that needs to be done every year," Gilbert said.
Parade organizer Chris Good said he was "overwhelmed" by the community’s response to the parade. Although figures have not been finalized, he added that the event raised between $1,500 and $2,000 for a parade next year.
Organizers originally estimated that the event would draw somewhere between 300 and 500 people, so seeing the size of Sunday’s crowd was an overwhelming experience for Good and the rest of the committee.
"It just brought a tear to our eyes seeing all those people together for a change," Good said.
As estimates about the turnout increased leading up to the event, Good said, both Park Board officials and the Cincinnati Police were very helpful.
"I have nothing to say but good things about District 5 police and the Park Board," Good said, adding that the relationships that have been established will carry over into the planning for next year’s parade.
"People definitely see the need for this parade to continue," Good said.
Dr. Shane Que Hee, one of the founders of Stonewall Cincinnati, summed up the feelings of many while speaking at the rally, Good said.
"Shane said that this year’s Pride parade and rally was kind of like a recovery parade from all the years of self-imposed exile," Good said. "Our community was depressed, we were angry [after the 1993 passage of Issue 3], and this is kind of a shot of hope for the community and proof that we can all come together."
Good said he was equally impressed with the number of people lining the streets and cheering as the parade passed by, many of them straight allies.
"There are good people in Cincinnati and I think we forget that sometimes," he said.
The energy of the marchers seemed to gather momentum as the parade crossed the Ludlow Viaduct and made its way into the very GLBT-friendly community of Northside. Nearing the festival site at Hoffner Park, marchers were greeted with loud cheers and applause by people lined up on Hamilton Avenue outside the Serpent, Crazy Ladies Bookstore, Jacob’s on the Avenue and other gay-owned and gay-friendly establishments.
"I could just feel the energy in the air at building at Burnet Woods and then just exploding down at Northside," Good said.
Many local media outlets were there with cameras, waiting to interview marchers as they spilled into the festival site.
Marching in her first Pride parade with Stonewall Cincinnati, Stonewall staffer and Xavier University junior Lauren Carey felt the Parade provided a "good start for the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to demonstrate who we really are."
"People need to see that we're more like them than we are different from them," Carey said. "We feel, we hurt, we love, and we want to be respected like we try to respect others. As much as a Pride Parade gives us a day to be proud, every day should be a day that we feel free to celebrate who we are."
by Stuart Tart
Toledo--Approximately 415 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from Toledo, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Mich., and northwestern Ohio danced and dined on the Maumee River Saturday evening June 10, during the fifth annual summer fundraiser for Gays-Lesbians United of Toledo.
Attendance for the dance--held on the museum ship Willis B. Boyer--was at its highest level ever, said Decked Out chair Troy Schaefer.
In addition, several local and state politicians sat down to dinner with GLBT attendees, including State Sen. Linda Furney; Louis Escobar, Toledo’s first openly gay city council member; and Toledo city council president Peter Ujvagi.
Ohio House Minority Leader Jack Ford and Toledo city council member Peter Gerken purchased tickets and sent their greetings, but were unable to attend.
Decked Out began with a catered three-course dinner for the GLBT political organization’s sponsors, prepared by Gladiuex Catering.
Then, other guests boarded for dancing under the stars, with tunes spun by Mobile Music and Bretz the Bar. Great Lakes Sound and Bretz provided sound equipment.
The evening was almost marred by an announcement at 9 p.m. that a thunderstorm was approaching Toledo, and the music was shut down for about an hour. But the dancing soon resumed and the shipboard partying continued until well past midnight.
Two Toledo activists were also honored at the dinner with biographies in the event program. Stella Stoyanoff is known for bringing gay and lesbian performers, including comedienne Kate Clinton, to Toledo’s GLBT community, sometimes subsidizing costs with her own money. The late John Domrose left money to Toledo’s past political group, the Personal Rights Organization, that has since been used to establish a foundation that funds GLBT educational and political activities.
The co-chairs for Gays-Lesbians United currently are Kurt Erichsen and the Rev. Bobbi Anderson.
Stuart Tart is a Toledo GLU media committee member.
by Eric Resnick
Detroit—Last week’s announcement by the Big Three U.S. automakers that they will give domestic partner benefits to their employees marks a success for the United Auto Workers, which had negotiated for the new policies.
General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler announced at a June 8 joint news conference that they will begin giving health benefits for the same-sex partners of employees in the United States on August 1.
The agreement originated as part of the master contract negotiations between the automakers and the UAW last year. The contract was approved by employees of the three companies during votes held in September and October of 1999.
In that master contract, the UAW and the automakers agreed to look at the possibility of including same-sex domestic partners in the three companies’ health benefit packages if a study, conducted jointly by the UAW and the carmakers, found it to be beneficial. Neither the UAW nor the automakers are disclosing the details of the study.
Similar domestic partner benefits were made available to Canadian UAW employees of all three automakers in 1996.
Domestic partner benefits for different-sex couples have been available in Canada since 1994. In the U.S. agreement, only same-sex couples will be offered the health benefits. Company officials said that opposite-sex couples can get married to receive the benefits, but that same-sex couples cannot.
The three companies together employ 465,000 workers in the U.S.
Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner, which are divisions of DaimlerChrysler with U.S. operations, will not offer the benefits. Workers at Visteon Corp., the parts division that’s being spun off of Ford, will be eligible for the benefits. GM’s former parts division, Delphi Automotive Systems, said it was still studying whether to offer the benefits.
The benefits can include surgical costs, hospital stays, prescription drugs, medical, dental and vision care. They can also cover dependents of partners who are age 25 or younger.
Each automaker will offer slightly different benefits, based on the differences that exist on rest of their union contracts, said T Santora. He is the national co-president of Pride at Work, which represents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers within the AFL-CIO. Santora’s group advised the UAW negotiators on the strategy.
"For example, one company might offer orthodontics, others might not," he said.
"This is clearly a positive step, but it needs to be said that this only covers health benefits, not other things such as pensions," Santora added. "This is piece and part of the entire package, and we don’t feel like we have equality until we have the full piece."
The UAW has long been recognized as a leader in negotiating for groundbreaking benefits packages.
"The fact that the auto industry is [offering benefits to same-sex domestic partners] suggests that a lot of the mainline, old economy companies will probably be considering it as well," said Greg Tarpinian, executive director of the Labor Research Association.
"It’s a tight labor market," said DaimlerChrysler spokesperson Megan Giles, "and you have no idea if perspective employees may not have returned a headhunter’s phone call if they wanted a company that has a public stance on embracing diversity."
Martha Grevatt, a UAW organizer and Pride at Work board menber who is employed by DaimlerChrysler in Twinsburg said, "This represents a hard-won victory by union members in an industry that still has pockets of hatred."
Grevatt said the UAW will be looking to remedy some of what they believe are "shortcomings" of this agreement. In addition to it not covering pensions and bereavement, Grevatt points out that this agreement denies health benefits to partners of current retirees and falls short on fully addressing issues of bigotry in the workplace based on gender identity and expression.
Workers and their partners who receive the benefits will keep them after the workers retire.
The partner benefits also do not include pensions, bereavement leave, vehicle discounts, tuition assistance, relocation allowances, scholarships and child and elder care.
Over the last two contracts, the UAW has gotten all three automakers to include sexual orientation in their non- discrimination policies. Santora said that the Pride at Work training materials call for domestic partner benefits as the next step.
General Motors spokesperson Tom Wickham acknowledged the limitations of this agreement, but said with regard to future agreements, "There is no speculation as to where this might lead."
To be eligible for the new benefits, employees must meet seven criteria including shared committed relationship for at least six months, residing in the same household, not being related by blood or other kinship, and proving that the partners are jointly responsible for the financial well-being of each other.
"Benefits are pure and simple compensation," Santora said. "If domestic partner benefits were thought of as compensation, and other groups were denied equal compensation as we have been, even the union members would take to the streets.
He added that Pride at Work will continue to to show organized labor that the disparity of compensation between partners of heterosexual workers and GLBT workers is significant and needs to be addressed.
"We have no civil rights without economic justice on the job," he said. "Until the inequality of compensation gap is closed, we have work to do. We like this agreement as a first step, but we are not ready to celebrate that we got a piece part."
About 3,400 companies, including 93 Fortune 500 companies, now offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners.
by Eric Resnick
Columbus—The LGBT community must reach the "middle minds of America," Judy Shepard told the Columbus Human Rights Campaign dinner on June 10.
Shepard, mother of slain gay college student Matthew Shepard, moved the audience of 850 at the dinner, held in the Columbus Convention Center.
She defined the "middle minds" as "the ones who can’t understand where they are on issues" of equality.
Shepard is preparing to officially launch the Matthew Shepard Foundation later this summer, which will provide start-up funds and operating funds for groups working toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality on a tight budget.
She told a story of sitting in her hotel room preparing to distribute tickets to her son’s funeral, made necessary for security reasons.
"What kind of life is this?" she asked herself. It was at that point that she and her husband Dennis, who live in Saudi Arabia, decided to become involved in the fight for gay-inclusive hate crime legislation.
"I didn’t want to be on TV exposing my heartbreak that way," she said. "Then I realized that was what I was doing all along."
The Columbus fundraising dinner was Shepard’s first appearance as an HRC keynote speaker. The organization’s Washington, D.C. office asked that she replace the previously scheduled speaker, humorist and social critic Al Franken.
Emcee Paul Cianelli kicked off the evening by reminding the attendees how far they had come in a short time.
"The first HRC dinner in Columbus was held in 1983," he said, "It was $50 per plate, and it was all cash because nobody would write a check with the name of a gay organization on it."
The 2000 event, according to HRC Columbus treasurer Doug Kauffman raised in excess of $160,000.
"We will meet our goal of sending over $100,000 to Washington this year," he said
Kauffman also indicated that HRC has commitments from over 100 new Federal Club members--those who contribute at least $1,200 per year.
HRC Columbus is proud that they are the smallest Century Club, those HRC affiliates who send more than $100,000 to Washington each year, and that HRC Columbus sends more money to Washington per capita than any city except Washington itself.
The Michael Howard Greer Humanitarian Award, given to honor those who bridge the gap between the gay and non-gay communities, was presented to Richard Cordray.
Cordray, a former state representative, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Attorney General and US Senate and state solicitor for Attorney General Lee Fisher, worked closely with the citizens of Cincinnati to attempt to defeat, then overturn Issue 3, and has used his campaigns as a platform to fight discrimination.
Cordray, an attorney, has also done work for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Equality Awards were given to Dr. William A. Mains and Jenette Bradley.
Mains was honored for his service to building the HRC Columbus organization and his fundraising.
Bradley was honored for her work as a member of Columbus City Council. She was a supporter of the 1998 attempt to give domestic partner benefits to city employees. The ordinance was passed, then retracted due to threats of a referendum from the religious right, which also threatened to keep Bradley, a Republican, off the ballot in 1999. Bradley was re-elected to her seat.
Mark Brentlinger, a Columbus bussiness owner, was honored with the Benefactor Award.
HRC national co-chair Michael Duffy addressed the group and later indicated that HRC would be endorsing Columbus Democrat Maryellen O’Shaughnessy for the 12th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat will be open this year due to the retirement of GOP Rep. John Kasich.
Duffy was not sure of any other Ohio races HRC would be endorsing in at this time.
School board changes handbook, but not bias
by Anthony Glassman
North Olmsted, Ohio--Despite impassioned pleas from students, teachers, and parents, the school board in this Cleveland suburb voted 3-2 not to add sexual orientation to their anti-discrimination policy June 1.
The members of Spectrum, North Olmsted High School’s 40-member gay-straight alliance, were outraged at the decision, a feeling echoed by others both on the board and off.
Board members John Dailey and Joanne DiCarlo both voted for the change; Claire Hayes, Thomas Herbster, and board president Donald Frazier felt that sexual orientation was covered under the district’s existing sexual harassment policy.
"Sexual harassment is about sex;" said Jeremy Elliott, from Berea’s Midpark High School. "Sexual orientation has nothing to do with sex."
Elliot was one of a number of people there to support Spectrum’s cause. He is the president of Midpark’s Anti-Violence Association, and brought a message to the school board that both his group and its sister group at Berea High School voted to back Spectrum in their fight.
Also present was Greg Arundel, a Westlake man whose son attends North Olmsted High. He read aloud a piece on a day in the life of a North Olmsted High School student perceived as gay, an amalgam of three students’ reports of how they are treated by their fellows.
The language was vicious, and marked one of the few times the School Treasurer Robert Matson was fully awake while someone was speaking in support of Spectrum’s goal. At Arundel’s mention of being called a "fucking faggot," Matson’s eyes snapped open, and he sat bolt upright.
Other people, on the board and off, had very visceral reactions to the statements of the students.
John Dailey, in moving for the board to change its non-discrimination policy, was quite passionate; Joanne DiCarlo, who spoke briefly before seconding the motion, was in tears at the treatment some of the youths were forced to endure.
Two North Olmsted teachers, one current and one retired, and a retired Cleveland City Schools teacher all stood to speak on the necessity of a learning environment free of hatred and violence.
In the end, the students won the battle, if not the war. The school board asked Superintendent Rick Fenton to redraft the student handbook to include harassment based on sexual orientation as a form of sexual harassment. The board will vote later in the summer on the changes to the handbook.
After the meeting, a number of people expressed mixed emotions about the outcome of the evening.
John Dailey was incensed at board memeber Thomas Herbster, whom he said had agreed to vote for a change in the anti-discrimination policy, but backed down during board discussion of the matter.
Susan Meara, Spectrum’s advisor, was more optimistic.
"I think the kids are feeling a little let down," she said, "but hopefully in the morning they’ll realize that they accomplished something tonight."
Dance celebrates a high school ritual, without
by Hannah Lederman
Cleveland--The Cleveland Gay and Lesbian Center’s PRYSM youth group joined high schools around the state in an annual June celebration.
The group hosted a prom.
About 30 queer youth and straight supporters attended the June 3 party, which included dinner and dancing.
The dance, while similar to a regular high school prom, saw a more diverse array of attire ranging from jeans and tank tops to ball gowns, on both girls and guys.
The prom was held in the drop-in space at the center’s new Detroit Ave. location, which was decorated with rainbow streamers and balloons. The evening also included an impromptu drag performance by Destiny Sanchez, who lip-synched "Genie in a Bottle."
For many at the prom, it was refreshing to be able to dance with dates of the same gender and not get strange looks. Those who had not felt comfortable enough to take same-sex dates to their high school prom got a chance to do so in a less judgmental environment.
For the few who did take same-sex dates to their high school prom, it was a chance to have a good time without others’ subtle double-takes, in a more tolerant environment.
This is the first prom in the ten-year history of PRYSM, whose initials stand for Presence and Respect for Youth in Sexual Minority.
"The dance was a way for youth who felt alienated at school to hang out in an accepting environment," said Josh Sebrasky, one of the teens who participated in the event.
The prom was a success, as the goal of PRYSM’s prom was to have a good time with friends, which is exactly what happened.
"The kids really worked hard to pull this together and it really was their event, not an event a group of adults tried to push on the kids," according to PRYSM coordinator Jen Kruger.
Hannah Lederman is a member of PRYSM.
Court’s grandparent ruling is good for same-sex
by Anthony Glassman
Washington, D.C.—In a decision hailed by both sides of the political spectrum, the Supreme Court on June 5 struck down Washington state’s controversial "grandparents’ rights" law.
The decision is "a victory for nontraditional families nationwide," according to Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, "particularly significant for single-parent families, lesbian and gay or low-income parents."
The case revolved around Gary and Jenifer Troxel’s attempts to force visitation with their grandchildren against the wishes of the girls’ mother, Tommie Granville.
Granville and the Troxels’ son Brad had a relationship for a number of years that resulted in two daughters. After the couple separated, Brad Troxel committed suicide. Both before and after his death, the girls’ grandparents saw the children on a regular basis, until Tommie Granville asked that the Troxels restrict their visitation to one short visit a month and certain important holidays. The Troxels sued under a Washington law that enables virtually anyone connected to the children to file for visitation rights.
The Supreme Court struck the law down as too broad, and against the fundamental protection of the right of a parent to decide how to rear his or her child.
"The Washington nonparental visitation statute is breathtakingly broad," wrote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, in the majority opinion in the case. "[The law] contains no requirement that a court accord the parent’s decision . . . any weight whatsoever."
"The [Washington] Superior Court’s order was not founded on any special factors that might justify the State’s interference with Granville’s fundamental right to make decisions concerning the rearing of her two daughters," O’Connor continued.
"This is a very important decision for lesbian and gay families who are at the forefront of family law changes," said Ruth Harlow, deputy legal director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "The court adopted a sound middle course in this case, one that not only appropriately respects the rights of parents but acknowledges that no hard-and-fast rule should govern every single family dispute."
None of the justices’ opinions specifically referred to gay or lesbian parents, but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in his dissent, and Justice O’Connor both wrote about the changing face of families in America.
"[The] conventional nuclear family . . . is simply not the structure or prevailing condition in many households," wrote Kennedy.
"The importance of familial relationship, to the individuals involved and to the society, stems from the emotional attachments that derive from the intimacy of daily association, and from the role it plays in promoting a way of life through the instruction of children as well as from the fact of blood relationship," Kennedy continued. "Some pre-existing relationships, then, serve to identify persons who have a strong attachment to the child with the…motivation to act in a responsible way to ensure the child’s welfare."
In a case of politics making strange bedfellows, in addition to the ACLU and Lambda praising the decision, the arch-conservative and anti-gay Family Research Council had called for the Supreme Court to make the very decision which the liberal left is now hailing.
"The law is so broad that it doesn’t even make outsiders prove their importance in a child’s life," wrote FRC spokesperson Janet Parshall in a January statement, "but puts the onus on parents to prove to a judge why someone should not see their child."
Observers expect the decision to have far-reaching ramifications in visitation battles being fought across the country by same-sex couples who were raising children together. Both Maryland and New Jersey have recently witnessed such legal battles, with courts in both states acknowledging rights of non-biological parents to visitation with their children.
Texas’ sodomy law is ruled unconstitutional
Houston--A Texas appeals court declared the state’s sodomy law unconstitutional on June 8, throwing out the case of two Houston men who were arrested in 1998 for having sex in the privacy of their bedroom.
A three-member panel of the 14th Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, said the law was not legal under the Texas Constitution because it outlawed oral or anal sex for same sex partners, while leaving it legal for opposite-sex partners.
"The simple fact is, the same behavior is criminal for some but not for others, based solely on the sex of the individuals who engage in the behavior . . . [This] violates the Texas Equal Rights Amendment’s guarantee of equality under the law," Justice John S. Anderson wrote in the majority opinion.
The law was challenged after John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested on Sept. 17, 1998 when police entered Lawrence’s unlocked apartment and found the men having consensual sex. They were charged with "deviant homosexual conduct," a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $500.
The officers entered the home after a third man, Garner’s roommate, falsely reported an armed intruder was there.
The Harris County District Attorney’s office is expected to appeal the ruling.
Texas is one of 16 states with sodomy laws on the books. Three of these, in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, only apply to gays and lesbians. Ohio repealed its sodomy law in 1973.
Methodists dismiss gay pastor
Columbus—For the first time in the history of the West Ohio conference, a United Methodist minister has been dismissed for being gay.
Almost a thousand clergy members debated for a half hour before voting May 31 to oust Rev. Phil Hart.
Hart was a probationary deacon, an intermediate step before becoming a full, or "elder," minister. He was a pastor of a church in Ironton, Ohio.
Hart, given a chance to plead his case before the vote, "told them that I thought the church had gotten caught up in the cultural stereotypes of homosexuals."
"I have been pained by the church’s stance," said Bishop Judith Craig, who ordained Hart in 1996.
The United Methodist General Conference in Cleveland voted earlier in May to keep strictures against homosexuality in the denomination’s Book of Discipline.
Thief sentenced to one year in prison
Cleveland--A thief who steals from gay men he meets in Cleveland bars will spend one year in prison for multiple convictions of theft, credit card fraud, forgery, and receiving stolen property.
In February, Common Pleas Judge Katharine Situla sentenced Andrew Maslanka to seven months in prison.
On May 3, Common Please Judge Stuart Freedman gave Maslanka three different one year prison sentences and a six month sentence. Freedman ordered all of these sentences to be served concurrently with Situla’s sentence.
"He will get a year in prison, time served," said Sergeant Doug Burkhart of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. "Since these are nonviolent crimes, Maslanka’s not going to get any more than a year."
"Actually, the way the courts are today, a year in prison for a fraud case is a stiff sentence," Burkhart added. "With Maslanka’s history of repeat offenses, they are trying to send him a message."
On May 30, Maslanka was arraigned in Judge Christine McMonagle’s court on another charge of theft. This case is still pending.
Maslanka, 20, was most recently employed as a dancer in gay nightclubs.
Activist fined for newspaper complaint
Columbo, Sri Lanka—A gay activist was fined for complaining about a newspaper item advocating that lesbians be raped.
Sherman de Rose, director of the national gay and lesbian civil rights group Companions on a Journey, filed the complaint.
De Rose criticized a letter to the editor the paper ran in August, 1999 from a P. Alles, in response to a story about Companions on a Journey’s plans to hold a lesbian festival in Columbo.
Alles suggested that police "let loose convicted rapists among the jubilant but jaded jezebels when their assembly is in full swing so that those who are misguided may get a taste of the real thing."
On June 2, the Press Council, made up of five journalists and lawyers, found in favor of the paper, and in addition fined de Rose 2,100 rupees ($28) for trying to "promote sadism and salacity."
Lesbianism was added to the criminal code in 1995 and is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.
De Rose intends to challenge the Press Council’s decision.
Brazil recognizes same-sex couples
Brasília--The government of Brazil issued a decree June 8 granting same-sex couples spousal rights in the areas of pensions, social-security benefits and income taxation.
"This decision is historic and unprecedented [in] all of Latin America," said Toni Reis, director of the gay group Dignidade.
The move came as a gay "civil partnership" bill remains stalled in Congress. The bill’s sponsor, Congresswoman Marta Suplicy, said the decree "increases the chances that my bill can be approved after the [October] elections."
Brazil is both more and less gay-friendly than other nations in the region. On the one hand, 77 municipalities ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and 54 percent of the population supports the idea of a gay partnership law. But the nation also has the highest recorded rate of anti-gay murders in Latin America.
P&G pushed to advertise on ‘Laura’
Cincinnati--Members of six anti-gay groups met with Procter & Gamble executives on June 12 to pressure them to reverse a decision not to advertise on Laura Schlessinger’s new TV show.
The company announced in May that it would not sponsor the show, which gay and lesbian groups are protesting. Schlessinger, on her "Dr. Laura" radio show, has called gays "deviants," "biological errors" and "predatory of young boys."
P&G spokesperson Gretchen Briscoe said executives will get back to the groups by June 19. But, she added, "It’s very doubtful that we will reverse our decision."
Briscoe said managers expected a discussion about how both sides could encourage development of more family-friendly TV programming. But the anti-gay coalition was only interested in persuading them to advertise on the Schlessinger programs.
"We were disappointed with the outcome of the meeting," Briscoe said.
A "who’s who" of anti-gay groups sent representatives to the meeting, including the American Family Assn., Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and the Cincinnati group Citizens for Community Values.
Board to pay teacher’s estate
Byron Center, Mich—The school board has voted to pay money owed to the estate of a music teacher who died of a heart attack after he was hounded out of school for being gay.
Gerry Crane was a well-liked music teacher at Byron Center High School in 1995 when anti-gay parents, who had heard of his committment ceremony, started a loud campaign to have him fired.
The school board issued a statement denouncing homosexuality and put Crane on probation, then in July 1996, negotiated an agreement for him to leave and receive monthly payments for a year.
Crane died of a heart attack in January, 1997 at age 32. Kent County forensic pathologist Dr. Stephen Cohle said that while Crane had a congenital heart condition, the stress of his conflict with the district may have contributed to his death.
Citing a clause in the agreement that Crane was to use "good-faith" efforts to obtain new employment, the district cut off the payments, saying his death made that impossible.
Crane’s estate sued for the remaining money, $25,800 plus interest, and on May 26, a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a 1999 judgment for the estate.
"Well, hallelujah, amen, hallelujah, amen!" Crane’s life partner and estate executor Randy Block told the Grand Rapids Press. "I’m very pleased that it’s over and they finally did the right thing."
Compiled by Denny Sampson, Patti Harris, Rex Wockner, Anthony Glassman and Michelle Tomko.
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