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March 3, 2000

What march?

Two months out, there is little Ohio organizing for the Millennium March on Washington

by Eric Resnick

With the Millenium March on Washington eight weeks away, there is little attempt in Ohio to rally groups of people to participate.

"No one has stepped up to get groups together to go," said Dan Hlad, public relations director for the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center.

This is the typical response of community leaders and student groups in every major Ohio city, and stands in contrast to the organization efforts of previous marches.

In preparation for the March on Washington in April, 1993, organizers in Cleveland, Lorain, Columbus, Akron, and Cincinnati, student groups and gay-affirming churches were taking reservations for buses as early as December, 1992. Similar preparations were made for Washington marches in 1987 and 1979.

This year, the Gay People’s Chronicle could not find a single bus that has been reserved in Ohio.

Hlad added, "We thought a Millenium March person would be here to get things going, and that never happened."

An organizing committee for the 1993 march began meeting at the Cleveland center in January of that year.

Stonewall Cincinnati executive director Doreen Cudnik attended the 1993 event and plans to attend this one. But her organization has no plans to organize a group to go, either.

Cudnik said if community members wanted to organize trips, the leaders would do it, but there has been no interest. "The lack of excitement reflects the apathy within the community," she said.

By February of 1993, three buses had been booked in Cincinnati.

"This one just feels different," said Cudnik.

Cudnik pointed out that in 1993, the event felt like a "big tent."

"It had a purpose. It was multi-issue and the platform gave us the opportunity to ask for what we wanted," Cudnik said. "And elements of the event gave us an opportunity to talk about progressive issues that GLBT people have an interest in."

"This march has a more specific focus," Cudnik continued. "It seems that it is more about selling our movement to the mainstream. There is a faith and family message that seems to promote the idea to non-gays that we’re more like you than unlike you."

The 1993 march had seven specific demands, including the passage of a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights bill, increases in funding for AIDS and womens health research, and an end to violence based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.

In 1993, there were hundreds of activist workshops by groups like the Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition and the International Conference on Transgender Law.

For the coming event, Millenium March on Washington executive director Dianne Hardy-Garcia says there are no demands.

"We have a vision statement for the event which was voted on by 35,000 people," she said.

The vision statement is a result of people voting on the march’s web site for priority issues of the LGBT movement.

Hardy-Garcia says the group is still in the process of nominating speakers and will announce the full list in a couple of weeks.

"Rep. Tammy Baldwin [D-Wis.] was just added, and when we introduce our speakers, it will be an unprecedented bunch of star power on the stage."

Stonewall Columbus executive director Jeff Redfield said his organization, which formed a march committee and chartered two separate bus trips in 1993, is not chartering buses this year because there was no consensus as to when people wanted to leave and return.

"There is too much financial risk for us to put thousands down on buses," he said.

Hardy-Garcia said, "People are more accustomed to traveling individually." She believes people are coming, but said, "I wish we had the resources to go to every state to organize."

"There is a whole generation out there without the chance to march in previous marches and I think they will be here," said Hardy-Garcia. "We’re trying to get the word out as well as we can."

Cudnik pointed out that in 1993, the "don’t ask don’t tell" policy had just been enacted.

"It was an incredible visual to see slain servicemember Alan Schindler’s mother on stage speaking with dozens of gay and lesbian servicemembers in uniform behind her and knowing it was being broadcast by CNN."

"But that was pre-Ellen and pre-Will and Grace," Cudnik added, "and I think there is now a feeling that we have arrived, although we know that is not so."

Cudnik hopes the movement doesn’t feel it is beyond marching. "It does change you," she said.

Cudnik cites a "lack of mission" of this event as a contributor to the lack of excitement.

"This one does not seem to be a call to action as others have been. When people ask me about it I have a hard time explaining it--and I am the director of a GLBT organization."

Hardy-Garcia asserts that one mission of the march is to get people to vote. "It’s an election year and we cannot underestimate our power at the ballot box," she said.

"Any time our community gets together for a march, it is a good day," added Hardy-Garcia.

The Millenium March on Washington event idea was developed in February 1998 by the Human Rights Campaign and the Universal Federation of Metropolitain Community Churches.

Since then, it has been plagued by controversy.

It was not supported by organizers of previous marches, who cited lack of purpose, lack of input from diverse representatives of the movement including people of color, lack of an open decision-making process, and financial concerns as the basis for the formation of the Ad Hoc Committee for an Open Process.

Both sides accused each other of character assassination and lies about other events. People came and went from the Millennium March board. Among the resignations were Kerry Lobel, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Controversy continues with the February 18 resignation of the March’s co-director Malcolm Lazin. He reportedly resigned over a dispute on which companies should be hired to provide sound, lights and staging, and produce the event. It remains unclear as to whether he quit voluntarily or was asked to leave.

Remaining director Hardy-Garcia said Lazin is a hard-working man who is credited with many accomplishments. "But I cannot comment on his departure. It was a personnel matter," she said.

As to the appearance his departure creates so close to the event date, Hardy-Garcia said, "The march is larger than any one person."

"We have a lot of lessons to learn from the way the Millenium Mach was organized," said Hardy-Garcia. "But I’ll be proud of whatever happens that day and of the people who have worked hard to put it together. It will be a great day."

 

Grid Radio goes silent

Unlicensed station is excluded from new FCC low-power rules

by Denny Sampson

Cleveland--Grid Radio went off the air at midnight February 29, just over a month after the Federal Communications Commissions announced it would license similar low-power stations.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. O’Malley granted the FCC a permanent injunction against Jerry Szoka, operator of the radio station, ordering him to "cease and desist from making unauthorized radio transmissions . . . by March 1, 2000."

"We did our last Beat Boys show yesterday (February 27)," said Szoka. "It was very sad."

Grid Radio, 96.9 FM, has served Cleveland’s LGBT community since 1995. The station played interruption-free dance music nightly from Szoka’s downtown gay nightclub, the Grid, 1281 West 9th St. The station also featured the Beat Boys, a three-hour talk show on Sundays.

Szoka admits that he had been operating the radio station illegally because he did not have a license to broadcast. The FCC would not give him a license because Grid Radio is a low-power station, operating on only 50 watts. FCC regulations presently require a minimum power of 1,000 watts for an FM broadcast station.

The FCC adopted new rules for licensing low-power broadcasters on January 20. The agency hopes to begin awarding non-commercial, educational licenses for 10-watt and 100-watt stations in May.

But one of the new rules prohibits Szoka from obtaining a license for Grid Radio. It states that "unauthorized broadcasters will be disqualified unless they certify that they ceased operations when notified of their violation of FCC rules or by February 26, 1999." Szoka is clearly disqualified.

In the past few years, the FCC shut down hundreds of unlicensed low-power "micro" radio stations and confiscated their equipment, including four in Cleveland.

The agency has been trying to shut down Grid Radio since February 1997, when they sent Szoka a letter warning him of the penalties for unlicensed broadcasts.

In response, Szoka asked them to allow him to remain on the air until federal regulations to license micro broadcasters could be developed and enacted.

The agency denied Szoka’s request in June, 1998. Szoka sued the agency and it countersued, seeking an injunction to take Grid Radio off the air. That case was heard in December by O’Malley, who made her ruling on February 23.

In her decision, O’Malley wrote: "While the court is aware of the strong listener support Szoka’s radio broadcasts have aroused, strong audience support alone cannot provide grounds for Szoka to violate FCC regulations and to ignore duly authorized orders from that governmental agency."

However, O’Malley agreed with Szoka on one point: "Based on the limited record before it, the court is inclined to agree that the FCC’s non-commercial low-power broadcasting ban smacks of favoritism towards wealthier interest groups who do not wish to share the airwaves with non-commercial stations . . . such a ban would run contrary to the FCC’s obligation to distribute the airwaves in a manner that furthers the "public interest" and, thus, would be inconsistent with the First Amendment."

In her opinion, O’Malley added that her court was not the appropriate forum to bring a challenge to the FCC’s ban on low-power radio, making her views on the ban "irrelevant."

The new low-power rules were adopted after O’Malley heard the case.

"Actually we thought the judge’s ruling was pretty favorable," said Mark Wallach, Szoka’s lawyer in Cleveland. "We thought she correctly observed the problems with the FCC position. The point where we disagreed was her conclusion that she didn’t have the authority to not grant the injunction. We think she did."

Wallach filed an appeal on February 29 with the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He asked the court to suspend the injunction until the appeal is heard, but his request was denied.

Jim Mooty, Szoka’s FCC specialist lawyer in Washington D.C., said that they would apply for one of the new low-power licenses, regardless of the rule denying them to previous unlicensed broadcasters.

"I hope we get one, but with this rule, it could be difficult," said Mooty.


New ‘Dr. Laura’ TV show ignites protests

by Michelle Tomko

Los Angeles—An agreement to give radio host Laura Schlessinger a TV show next fall has ignited a campaign to get Paramount to back out of the deal.

Schlessinger, on her popular "Dr. Laura" advice show, has denigrated gays and lesbians, calling them "biological mistakes" and "deviants." She promotes therapy to "cure" homosexuality, which has been discredited by the major mental health professional groups.

Schlessinger’s radio show is heard on 500 stations in the U.S. and Canada, and she writes a column carried in 100 newspapers.

Paramount has already signed up stations in 85 percent of TV markets for the one-hour daytime show, but has not announced its format.

Representatives of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation met with Paramount officials February 14, but made little progress.

"The meeting created a positive exchange of differing perspectives, and the dialogue with Paramount executives is expected to continue," said a joint statement issued after the meeting. It also said the TV program will offer "many points of view, derived from a variety of sources, guests and a studio audience."

Schlessinger was not at the meeting.

"Dr. Laura is impervious to reason. She has managed to place herself above the medical community she claims to be part of," said GLAAD executive director Joan Garry.

Schlessinger’s doctorate is not in a health care field. It is in physiology, a branch of biology. She has a master’s degree in counseling.

The Horizons Foundation of San Francisco placed a full-page ad in three newspapers calling for Paramount to end the deal.

"The problem with Dr. Laura’s anti-gay rhetoric is it doesn’t stop even after you turn it off," reads the ad, which appeared in the February 24 San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and the Los Angeles Times.

"Dr. Laura’s rhetoric, heard by parents, educators, uncles, aunts and grandparents gets repeated and is absorbed by America’s children," said Peter Teague, the foundation’s executive director.

Schlessinger responded to the group's arguments on the air.

"I have never made anti-gay commentary. I've made anti-gay activist agenda commentaries, but I've never made anti-gay commentary," she said. "You better believe I always consider the impact of my commentaries, especially on children.''

Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Bradley added his opinion that the show should not air.

"I bet that there are enough gays and lesbians in Paramount, making it a good company today, that Paramount would not have its own interests served by continuing this sort of thing," Bradley said on Michelangelo Signorile’s online radio show on www.gaybc.com. "So, I think it should go off."

One of Paramount’s employees also spoke out.

"I am outraged," openly gay Frasier executive producer and co-creator David Lee told the Atlanta gay and lesbian weekly Southern Voice. "I have created, written or produced material for Paramount in excess of a billion dollars and I'm not the only gay person at Paramount who has contributed greatly. I think it's outrageous that Paramount chooses to air a woman who is, I think, literally dangerous to the gay community. She may not go out there with a club in her hand, but she is providing a petri dish where hatred can grow."

Some wondered if Paramount would have even considered the deal if Schlessinger denigrated another minority group.

"If you bash blacks, you're racist; if you bash gays, that's freedom of speech," Internet activist John Aravosis told Southern Voice. "There’s a double standard here."

In New York, a group of gay activists, public relations executives and media professionals have created a web site called StopDrLaura.com.

"We're not about to let her spew her defamatory pseudo-science on national television." said Alan Klein, a spokesman for the group.

Syndicated columnist Norman Solomon reported that Schlessinger received a letter last week signed by 100 prominent clergy members in addition to dozens of medical, child-welfare and civil rights organizations.

The letter noted that that the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association have discredited the idea that homosexuality is an illness.

"Your claim that homosexuality is a tragic pathology and that gays and lesbians can and should be ‘cured’ by ‘reparative therapy’ is not only inaccurate but also promotes the idea that there is something wrong with being gay," the letter said.

GLAAD intends to have further meetings with Paramount.


California marriage ban is likely to pass, poll says

by Denny Sampson
with wire reports

San Francisco--A major poll indicates that a California initiative to deny recognition of same-sex marriage is likely to pass next Tuesday.

Of 650 likely voters surveyed last week, 55 percent favor the initiative, 38 percent oppose it and 7 percent are undecided. According to the poll, published by the San Francisco Examiner, every demographic group in the state and every region except the San Francisco Bay Area favor Proposition 22. Republicans (66 percent) back it more than Democrats (51 percent).

Proposition 22, also called the Knight Initiative, would define marriage in California as "between a man and a woman only" and would prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. California already denies legal recognition to gay marriages performed in the state.

During a visit to California State University in Sacramento on February 24, Republican presidential candidate John McCain said he would support the initiative. McCain voted for a similar federal measure as a U.S. senator.

On February 29, civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., urged "voters who oppose bigotry and injustice" to oppose the measure.

The day before, a coalition of ministers and rabbis declared its opposition to Proposition 22 because they thought the initiative is "mean-spirited, discriminatory and could undercut the rights of homosexuals," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Several Jewish and Protestant denominations, including the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church, oppose the initiative.

However, Proposition 22 is strongly backed by California’s Roman Catholic bishops, independent Pentecostal and evangelical churches, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

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