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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
June 23, 2000

Activists give away P&G products as Phelps pickets

by John Zeh

Cincinnati--As Fred Phelps denounced gays, lesbians and Proctor and Gamble�s decision to drop ads from Laura Schlessinger�s TV show here on June 19, gay activists and mainstream clergy prayed for the Kansas minister, "countering his hate with love" by distributing P&G products to people living with AIDS.

Phelps and four followers picketed outside the consumer products giant�s headquarters, carrying signs saying god hates p&g fags and matt in hell, a reference to the late Matthew Shepard, whose funeral Phelps also picketed.

"That sign absolutely slays me," said Jeff Bixby of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, who joined a silent vigil organized by P-FLAG, Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians. "I want a sign that says "God hates hate."

In a curbside interview, Phelps attacked gays, but also called Schlessinger "filthy and depraved" herself for "marrying and remarrying."

Inside the P&G building above Phelps and the P-FLAG demonstrators, company officials said the protest wouldn�t change anything. They stand by their decision not to advertise on Schlessinger�s "Dr. Laura" radio show, nor her new Paramount TV series, to be carried by WCPO-TV here.

P&G said it is concerned its advertising message would get lost in remarks calling gays "deviant" and " biological errors," as well as others Schlessinger has made. She opposes divorce and women working outside the home if they have children, P&G spokeswoman Gretchen Briscoe said.

"While those are traditional family values, we serve a diverse group of consumers and like to avoid those kinds of controversies," Briscoe said. "We really view Dr. Laura as an extremely controversial figure on a lot of issues, not just her comments on homosexuals."

Organizations such as Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council say they are disappointed about the decision and may boycott P&G products now that the company has declined to overturn its decision.

Six city police officers, one on horseback, politely kept the pickets off of P&G�s plaza, prompting Phelps to protest more than two blocks away from downtown lunch crowds. He was largely unseen and unheard except by media and people driving by the area.

Three blocks away, words of love and acceptance echoed inside St. Xavier Church. Stonewall Cincinnati, a gay civil rights group, convened several church and community leaders to support for P&G and oppose Phelps.

Stonewall displayed P&G products that it had collected for social service agencies. To thank the company for distancing itself from Schlessinger�s "hurtful, hateful rhetoric," Stonewall had encouraged Queen City residents to purchase P&G products to be donated to charity.

"You can see the fruits of that labor," said Stonewall executive director Doreen Cudnik, surrounded by dozens of boxes of Pampers, Tide, Cheer, Folgers, and other P&G products.

Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr. of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, said, "Rev. Phelps, you are not welcome in our city, because we have a city that we want to make livable and tolerable for all of its citizens. You cannot come in here and divide us. Your venom spewed across the nation has no resemblance to a Gospel preacher. It is unbiblical, not in the tradition of the Lord Jesus Christ. Get on back to Kansas."

Joining Cudnik was Romaine Patterson, mid-atlantic regional media manager for GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

"Hate speech starts to foster discrimination," she warned. "Phelps� and Schlessinger�s hate speech has a direct impact on everyone�s lives. It�s not okay for hate speech to go unchallenged."

A Wyoming native, Patterson became a social justice activist when her good friend Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a fence in Laramie, Wyoming. To counter a Phelps picket at Shepard�s funeral, Patterson started Angel Action, which worked to block the Phelps protest with the large wings of angel costumes.|

John Zeh edits Rainbow News at He can be reached at

Church offers scholarships to LGBT seminarians          

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Cleveland--The United Church of Christ set up a $500,000 scholarship fund for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seminarians June 16 and urged wider acceptance of them by other denominations.

The fund will provide as many as ten annual scholarships of at least $2,500 to "self-affirmed" LGBT people planning to serve in the church ministry. The 1.4 million member church will seek to double its size through a campaign for donations.

The scholarships are intended to underscore the church�s openness to gays and lesbians, both as members and as ministers. It was named for the first openly gay man to be ordained by the UCC, the Rev. William R. Johnson, currently a staff member at the church�s national offices in Cleveland

Johnson, who was ordained in 1972, said he lost his seminary field job in 1970 after he disclosed his sexual orientation. Only a scholarship arranged by an elderly church member, Genvieve Macliver, allowed him to remain at the seminary.

"She knew God had called me to ministry, and she was determined that social prejudice would not stand in the way of my graduation and ordination," Johnson said.

Johnson said he is hopeful the scholarship program would encourage other denominations, especially the Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, to review policies against active gays and lesbians in the clergy.

"The vitality of the United Church of Christ depends on equipping our best and brightest for ministry in the twenty-first century," said Rev. John H. Thomas, president of the denomination. "This scholarship fund is a powerful reminder that the response to God�s call to ministry should not be limited by economics or sexual orientation."

The Rev. Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and a United Methodist minister, said he wasn�t surprised by the UCC�s action. Edgar predicted it will be applauded by some, but not all, of the council�s 35 Protestant and Orthodox denominations.

"You have to respect the prophetic work of the United Church of Christ," he said.

The United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 with the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. In 1985, the church�s General Synod started encouraging local churches to be "open and affirming" to gays, and in 1983 started encouraging local ordaining bodies not to discriminate based on sexual orientation.|


Senate passes hate crime measure;
House nod unlikely

by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--The Senate passed an amendment to a defense appropriation act June 20 adopting the language of the failed Hate Crime Prevention Act adding sexual orientation, gender, and disability to the categories of bias crimes protected by federal law.

The amendment, renamed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, passed by a vote of 57 to 42. Both Ohio senators, Republicans George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, voted in favor of the amendment.

The measure was sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and contains the language of a hate crime act sponsored by Kennedy and Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter in 1997 and again last year. Both attempts to pass the earlier act as a stand-alone bill were defeated in committee by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Last year, the Senate passed the measure as an amendment to another bill, but the House did not. The 1999 amendment was passed by a voice vote, while this year�s was passed by a roll call vote, which leaves a record of how senators voted.

Support in the House for this year�s measure is not very strong.

As they did last year, the Senate also passed a Hatch amendment intended to be a substitute for Kennedy and Smith�s. Hatch�s measure called for a study to determine the number of times hate crimes were and were not punished by state and local authorities, and gave grants to states for those prosecutions.

However, Hatch�s amendment does not add sexual orientation and gender to the categories of hate crimes.

The June 20 measure passed on nearly a party line vote with 13 Republicans joining all but one of the Democrats, West Virginia�s Robert Byrd, who opposed the proposal.

The Clinton administration has been seeking a hate crime bill that includes sexual orientation, gender and disabilities since 1997.

It is unlikely that either amendment passed in the Senate will become law because the House has already passed its defense authorization bill with no hate crimes amendments. Currently, there are no measures in the House to amend their version, and it is unclear what the conference committee, which reconciles House and Senate versions of bills, will do.

Hatch claimed the Kennedy-Smith measure was unconstitutional, an opinion he has long held on laws protecting sexual orientation and gender, but not ones based on race, religion, and national origin.

"The Hatch amendment is a study," Kennedy responded. "We are beyond study. The American people want action on hate crimes."

Smith urged his Republican colleagues to vote for both Hatch�s and Kennedy�s amendments. "There are two important words missing from Hatch�s amendment--sexual orientation."

"Many here are reflexively inclined to vote no on anything containing those words because of personal feelings or religious reluctance" Smith continued. "I know because I used to be one of you."

Smith concluded, "It�s time to go far enough to include this group of Americans who are not included in any federal hate crime law. One needn�t agree with all the goals of the gay community to help it achieve fair treatment within our society."|


28 arrested as Southern Baptists ban women pastors

By Eric Resnick

Orlando--The Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly to revise its 37-year-old Faith and Message statement when it met in Orlando June 14. The new policy moves the largest Protestant denomination in the United States farther into fundamentalism by prohibiting women pastors and rejecting homosexuality.

The new Baptist Faith and Message, governing the 15.8 million member denomination, puts into religious doctrine many of the non-doctrinal policies that have been practiced for more than ten years. It is a clear victory for conservative fundamentalists wanting to make biblical interpretation more literal, with no tolerance for other interpretations or societal changes.

It also deletes a declaration of the "soul�s competency before God, freedom in religion, and the priesthood of the believer" from the preamble, which the 1963 convention felt was most important because it clarified that the statement is not intended as a creed.

"Our Baptist ancestors of a mere generation ago could not have imagined the need to address the issues of abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia and all manner of deviant and pagan sexuality," said Adrian Rogers of Cordova, Tenn., who chairs the Faith and Message study committee, as he presented the revision. "We answer with a clear word of biblical correction."

Former Gay People�s Chronicle staff writer Dawn Leach was chosen by Crescent Hill Baptist Church of Louisville, Ky., where she has been a member since birth, to be a messenger (a delegate) to the convention.

"It was one of the most un-Christian gatherings of people who call themselves Christians that I have ever seen," she said.

Leach observed that the denomination is no longer run democratically.

"It used to be that the election of a president was the biggest thing they did," said Leach, "but after the fundamentalists took over, there stopped being multiple candidates on the ballot. This year, there was a single candidate who gave a speech, then the secretary cast a unanimous vote for the convention."

Leach pointed out that the denomination has been taken over by fundamentalists. "It was called their ten year plan and it began in 1979," she said. "This year it was executed beautifully."

Leach said that the Faith and Message Committee was appointed by the past president who tightly controlled its activity and silenced opposition. She also noted that, unlike the Methodists that met in Cleveland last month who voted in secret, the Southern Baptists voted by holding up cards that everyone could see.

"Raising a card in the minority," said Leach, "felt like raising a flag in the middle of enemy territory."

The convention scheduled 15 minutes for the debate and vote on the resolution on homosexuality, which Leach said was brokered entirely beforehand.

"I never heard the word homosexuality mentioned on the floor," said Leach. But she said the few opponents were denigrated and sneered at by others.

"Ninety to ninety-five percent of the messengers voted for whatever the executive committee wanted," said Leach. All amendments offered to soften the language were defeated by similar margins.

Leach said she decided to go to the convention in order to give one last good-faith effort toward negotiation.

"I went out of respect for people I disagree with in order to represent that voice, even if it wasn�t heard," she said.

But Leach also points out that her church, which has dual affiliation with the more liberal American Baptist Conference, is likely to leave the Southern Baptists altogether as a result of this convention.

"It has already been discussed," she said. She added that the Southern Baptists could also throw her church out because she spoke to a reporter. Her former pastor was fired in 1998 after he was quoted in a story she wrote.

In 1992, for the first time in its history, the Southern Baptist Convention cast an entire Raleigh, North Carolina congregation out as a reaction to a celebration of holy union between two gay men. They then changed their bylaws to exclude any church that accepted openly gay and lesbian members.

Currently there are 35 Southern Baptist churches with women as pastors. No one is sure whether or not they will continue as pastors following this vote.

28 Soulforce members arrested

Twenty eight members of Soulforce, which works for GLBT acceptance in religious groups, were arrested June 14 while staging a peaceful protest outside the convention. Three members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were also arrested.

Soulforce founder Rev. Mel White said he knew his group would not affect the voting inside, but the statement they were making was for others who were listening.

"It is important that gay people in the closets of these churches see other people of faith standing up for their rights," said White. "We have been getting e-mails of thanks from hundreds of closeted Southern Baptist clergy and laity."

"Religion is behind the political attacks on sexual minorities," said White, "They are the ones behind the initiatives against us. The time for negotiating with them is over."

At the United Methodist conference in Cleveland in May, the 191 Soulforce demonstrators who were arrested paid $150 each in fines and costs, and were released within hours. Those arrested in Orlando were charged with unlawful assembly, with bail upwards of $500. Each still faces the possibility of 60 days in jail.

Five of the 28 Soulforce members arrested were released on bail bonds. The rest, in keeping with their principles of civil disobedience taught by Gandhi, spent the next 38 hours in the Orange County jail waiting to see a judge the next day. All were then released on bond, and are waiting to see if they must appear for trial July 18 or 19, when they may be sentenced to additional jail time and more fines.

Soulforce participant Michael Gray, 44, of Dayton, Virginia, who is a pre-operative female to male was treated differently from the other Soulforce demonstrators.

"I did hard time because of my gender," said Gray.

Gray said that somehow the other jail inmates learned that he was transgendered. "About 6:00 that night, while I was being moved out of the men�s area to the office, inmates were yelling at me, calling me �sissy boy� and �fucking faggot� and were announcing �that�s a woman.� "

Orange County Jail spokesperson Allen Moore said that jail personnel did not compromise Gray�s confidentiality. "No inappropriate remarks were made by personnel, but there are inmate workers that may have heard something while he was being escorted or processed," he said. "You cannot believe how fast news spreads among inmates."

Gray, who was moved to the female special observation area isolated from the other inmates, was glad to be away from the men. "I could be raped in here," he said.

Gray, who has a full beard and female genitalia, was forced to undergo a genital inspection by a nurse practitioner.

White said those who were arrested are on bond without qualifications, so there is nothing prohibiting participation in the next Soulforce demonstration, which is set for June 25 at the Presbyterian Church USA�s general assembly in Long Beach, Calif. Soulforce will also protest at the Episcopal Church USA conference in Denver, July 4.|


African-American authors have Pride Day panel discussion

by Lincoln Pettaway

Cleveland--African-American lesbian and gay authors from around the country will meet in Cleveland for a panel discussion on Saturday, June 24 at the downtown branch of the Cleveland Public Library.

Starting at 1 pm, the discussion will focus on the cultural development and identity politics in black gay and lesbian communities, and the presence or absence of AIDS-related topics in literature. The cultural differences experienced by African-Americans can often leave them feeling as if their experience as an LGBT person of color places them outside of both the queer community as well as outside of the African-American community. The writers will also cover the development of this marginalized community.

The featured speakers will include Ricc Rollins, Lorenzo C. Robertson, Lisa C. Moore, and Sharon Bridgforth. This group of authors was selected for this program, sponsored by the Brother2Brother program of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, because of the literary contributions they have made.

"These authors put words to the experience of a group of people who have been under-represented for years," said Taskforce education director Tracy Jones. "They have also been silenced by both the African-American and gay community, which is why Lisa and Ricc�s work is needed and so very important."

These authors� works have given voice to the black queer experience, and reinforced the significance of that experience.

"I began to grasp the largeness of the work before us, the fact that we are not only creating essays or poems or stories, but the fact that we are creating culture," wrote Daniel Garrett in his essay, "Creating Ourselves: an Open Letter," from the black gay anthology In the Life. "We are expressing ourselves as a people, and shaping the consciousness of ourselves as a people. We are creating ourselves."

Moore and Robertson have also founded publishing houses. Moore is founder of RedBone Press, and Rollins and Robertson are co-founders of Ishai Books.

"I think that Lisa is creating history," said Sharon Bridgforth, author of the bull-jean stories, of Moore. "I�m not sure if people in Austin [Moore�s hometown] understand the national effect she�s having. She�s creating a space for people who have been marginalized."

Bridgforth and Rollins will be reading from their works at the Cleveland Pride Festival, Saturday June 24, at 4 pm. There will also be a book signing at Brentano�s Bookstore in the Galleria at Erieview on Friday, June 23, at 11 am.|


First lesbian Episcopal dean installed at Trinity

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland�The Episcopal Church forged new ground as the Very Reverend Tracey Lind was installed as the eleventh dean of Trinity Cathedral on June 18.

Culminating a 2�-hour ceremony at the cathedral in downtown Cleveland, Lind looked jubilant as she gave and received gifts from her congregation, bedecked in her newly-made vestments and stole.

The installation makes Lind the first open lesbian to serve as a dean in the Protestant denomination. A dean is the Episcopal equivalent of a Catholic bishop. Since there are no cardinals in the Episcopal church, the ranks in common are one step higher. Thus, an Episcopal archbishop equates to a Catholic cardinal.

The move also follows closely behind a number of other gay-friendly moves by the church. An Episcopal church in Massachusetts ejected a conservative group of parishioners who were opposed to gay marriage and ordination, winning legal custody of their church building in a May 30 ruling.

In North Carolina, a church excommunicated a member of the congregation for his outspoken criticism of the church for welcoming the LGBT community. The man has been banned from the congregation until he apologizes.

Following the installation ceremony, parishioners and area residents gathered to eat food provided by the church for their summer street fair, with hot dogs, sausages, chicken, and side dishes being served to the public.


White House liason to speak at Cleveland Pride

by Denny Sampson

Cleveland--One the most influential lesbians in Washington D.C., the White House liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, is scheduled to speak at Cleveland Pride on Saturday, June 24.

Julian Potter became director of lesbian and gay outreach for the White House office of public liaison in November 1999, at the recommendation of Vice-President Gore. Replacing Richard Socarides, Potter is the third person and the first lesbian to hold this position.

Potter�s job is to elicit input from the LGBT community concerning policies, programs and issues, and to communicate that feedback to the president and his advisors.

Elizabeth Julian Potter was born and raised in Carson City, Nevada. Although she once considered a career as a nun, Potter decided to move to New York City to pursue a master�s degree in public policy.

Potter is a veteran of several presidential campaigns. In 1988 she worked on Richard Gephardt�s short-lived presidential bid, and then on Michael Dukakis�s campaign. In 1993 she served as field organizer for the Campaign for Military Service, a coalition of groups that led the effort to repeal the ban on gay and lesbian service members.

In an interview with the Advocate, Potter reflected on the loss of that battle. "What dawned on all of us was that there essentially was no visible grass roots from which to build support for a national initiative," she said. "There were lots of gay bars but few statewide gay organizations or local community centers to draw upon. We had little experience in playing partisan politics. We were thrown into the limelight in not a very flattering way."

In April 1993, in the heat of the battle over the ban, Potter was named special assistant to Andrew Cuomo, then assistant secretary (now secretary) of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She was later promoted to deputy assistant for community empowerment at HUD, where she reported to the vice president.

It was at HUD that Potter met Mirian Saez, who has been her partner for the past five years. Saez is from Lorain, Ohio, and today, she runs her own company as a consultant to public housing agencies. By last summer Potter, 38, and Saez had decided to have a child. But when the liaison job became available, they decided to delay their plans.

"I decided that articulating what this administration was doing was so important that I couldn�t turn the job down," Potter said. "There will be time for Mirian and me to start our family."

Although family is important to her, Potter sees same-sex marriage as an unproductive issue. "[Marriage] is a religious institution with 2,000 years of tradition behind it," she told the Advocate. "I think Americans really see marriage as between a man and a woman, and they are not likely to change any time soon. I�m much more interested in pursuing equal legal rights and protections for same-sex couples."

Lesbians and gays added to federal health report

Cleveland--Marty Rouse, scheduling director for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, spoke to a capacity crowd at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center on June 13.

Rouse brought preliminary findings from the federal "Healthy People 2010" report, a resource used by government and non-profit health organizations to decide strategies for dealing with health problems affecting communities.

For the first time in its 30-year history, the report specifically deals with health issues concerning the gay and lesbian community.

Some of the issues he discussed were HIV, hepatitis C, chemical dependency, obesity, and the risk of teen suicide.

"There is a significant risk for people based on sexual orientation," Rouse said, calling for partnerships between federal health organizations, and local gay and lesbian community centers.

Earlier in the evening, Center Health Outreach Coordinator Bob Bucklew released a preview of a Mt. Sinai-funded study, showing where efforts to improve LGBT health in Northeast Ohio should be focused. That report is due at the end of the month.

--Anthony Glassman



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