by Anthony Glassman
San Antonio, Texas—Jessica and Robin Wicks will go where no lesbian couple has gone before: to the altar, legally, in Texas.
Texas law forbids same-sex marriages, but a decision last year by the state’s Fourth Court of Appeals gives them the legal precedent they need to get hitched.
Bexar County, Texas (San Antonio) will issue the two women a marriage license, said county clerk Gerry Rickhoff.
Jessica Wicks was born a man, and according to the Court of Appeals ruling in a separate case, as long as her chromosomes label her a man, she will be a man in the state’s eyes.
The October, 1999 ruling came in the case of a transsexual woman who sued her late husband’s doctor for malpractice. Christie Littleton had undergone gender reassignment surgery in 1979, married Mark Littleton in Kentucky almost ten years later, and moved with him to Texas. When Mark Littleton died from complications stemming from his medical treatment, his widow filed a wrongful-death suit.
In the opinion of the court, the suit was without merit, since Littleton still had male chromosomes, and thus could not have been legally married to Mark Littleton. She was not his widow and had no right to sue over his death, the court ruled.
One of the judges dissented, noting that the state had already accepted Littleton’s status as female when they changed her birth certificate.
Using the Littleton case, the Wicks are going to a clerk’s office in the Fourth District, right next to the courthouse where the Littleton ruling was handed down.
The two women tried in July to get a marriage certificate, but were turned down by the Harris County clerk in Houston, despite showing birth certificates proving that they were born the opposite sex.
The Wicks retained attorney Phyllis Randolph Frye, who worked on the Littleton case. She suggested filing for a license in the location of the Littleton ruling, where officials would be more familiar with it.
The Wicks and Frye will go to the Bexar County Clerk’s office on September 6 to file their request for a marriage certificate.
"We do not expect a problem from the Bexar County Clerk’s office," Frye wrote in a release on the case. "We assume that they are familiar with the Littleton decision since it came from the . . . building just next door. And we assume that they will follow the law as interpreted by that Fourth Texas Court of Appeals and as was completely ignored by the Texas Supreme Court."
The Texas Supreme Court has twice refused to hear Frye’s appeal of the Littleton verdict.
Rickhoff said he would issue the license.
"I don't decide moral issues," Rickhoff told the San Antonio Express-News. "It's not up to me to deny them their marriage license. In this instance, I'll be presented certified copies of their birth certificates and will present them with their license."
Rickhoff added that he consulted with the Bexar County district attorney's office and was instructed to issue the license in accordance with the Fourth Court ruling.
Frye is preparing to appeal the Littleton ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ohio courts have made similar rulings on the legal determination of sex.|
by Eric Resnick
Canton--The eighth annual fundraising walk held by the Tri-County AIDS Coalition drew a record number of participants and topped the previous record for dollars raised.
The coalition raises money that it grants to HIV and AIDS service organizations in Stark, Carroll, Tuscarawas, and Wayne Counties.
The August 27 event held at Stadium Park in Canton also featured a display of 80 panels of the Names Project quilt, nearly all of them of people who lived in the area. The Iron Eagles leather group raised the funds to pay for the quilt display.
According to coalition president Charlie Mayle, the event raised about $6,000 through the efforts of nearly 200 volunteers and 80 walkers.
Mayle credits the increased participation to publicity gained through the mainstream media, including a well- publicized interview on WHBC radio, giving the event visibility beyond the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Peggy Bishop of Bishop’s Plea, an AIDS organization in the Wooster area, plans to submit a grant to recieve some of the money raised this year. According to Bishop, money from last year’s grant paid for things like groceries for a single dad with AIDS and his two children and a refrigerator for a client, as well as healing weekends.
Other organizations expected to receive grants this year include St. Hope for housing and prevention programs, Positive Living, and 5-Chaps, which provides household supplies not covered by food stamps.
The AIDS Walk has become a major LGBT social event in the area, giving a safe place for the largely invisible Canton community to come out. A softball game and picnic followed the walk.|
by Anthony Glassman
Cincinnati--The battle to keep Laura Schlessinger off television sets across the state is heating up, with the Cincinnati chapter of the Stop Dr. Laura Coalition set to protest outside WCPO Channel 9, which will be airing her controversial TV talk show.
"By using the doctor in front of her name, her views are perceived to have clinical value," coordinator Joshua Gaunt wrote in a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer. "They do not. Though she is entitled to use the title because she has a doctorate in physiology, there is serious misrepresentation when the public is encouraged to believe--if by no other means than lack of clarification--that she has ‘clinical’ credentials."
Physiology, a branch of biology, is not a health care field.
Schlessinger’s show is scheduled to debut on Monday, September 11. Schlessinger, who claims that her views are informed by her orthodox Judaism, a faith to which she converted several years ago, has come under fire for her references to gay people and homosexual behavior as "biological errors" and "deviant."
A national movement arose to challenge the views she espouses on her radio call-in show, where she is well-known for haranguing callers who disagree with her, cutting people off in mid-sentence, and advocating her view of "traditional" family.
The Cincinnati protest, set to begin at 3 pm on Sunday, September 10 in front of the WCPO studios at Fifth and Central Ave., is part of a last-ditch effort to keep her television show from being aired. The station has refused to pull the show from its schedule, citing the contract it has with Paramount, the show’s producers, to run the program.
If the show does air, it will be closely watched.
"Stonewall Cincinnati is working with WCPO to monitor the show’s content," Gaunt said. "If it is going to air, then at least someone will be keeping an eye on [Schlessinger]"
Stonewall Cincinnati has also been working with WCPO to produce public service announcements to counter possible negative effects of Schlessinger’s homophobic advice.
There is also the possibility of cancellation for the show. Sources inside the production have repeatedly leaked information to the press that Schlessinger has no rapport with her guests or her studio audience, rarely letting others speak or finish sentences.
If this is the case, viewers who enjoy her radio show may be less willing to watch the show. Studio executives also pulled a press screening and interview session with reporters from events scheduled at a conference for new syndicated television series, a move many viewed as an ill omen for the future of the show.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in mid-August launched two attacks on the embattled talk show host: a nationwide ad campaign against Schlessinger, and an on-line tool kit for local activists, which can be accessed at http://www.glaad.org.
Schlessinger has also been hemorrhaging advertisers, with dozens of major companies pulling ads from her radio program. No company has yet stepped forward to say that they will advertise on the TV show.
In addition to Channel 9 in Cincinnati, WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland and WWHO Channel 53 in Columbus plan to air the Schlessinger television show.|
by Vicki Smith
Fairmont, W.V.--Two 17-year-olds charged with the murder of a gay black man in Grant Town pleaded innocent August 28, their faces exposed to the public for the first time since their arrests nearly eight weeks ago.
Jared Wilson of Fairview kept his head down for most of his ten-minute arraignment, making eye contact only with his lawyers and Circuit Judge Rodney Merrifield.
David Parker of Grant Town looked around but spoke only to the judge.
Both boys wore orange jumpsuits from the juvenile detention centers where they continue to be held without bond on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy.
Both have been transferred from juvenile court to adult court, where conviction could mean life in prison with no chance of parole.
Wilson, about 5-foot-5 with a slight build and long, sandy hair pulled into a ponytail, is about the same size as Arthur "J.R." Warren, the 26-year-old acquaintance he and Parker are accused of beating to death July 4.
Parker, with dark, close-cropped hair and a more muscular build, stands about 5-foot-10.
The teens are accused of pummeling Warren with their fists and feet during an argument at a vacant house in Grant Town, about 15 miles southwest of Morgantown in the northern part of the state.
Authorities say the boys then dumped Warren along a local road and ran over him four times with a Camaro in a failed attempt to disguise his injuries as a hit-and-run.
Reports indicate that the beating occurred because Warren told the pair that he would tell others that he had sex with one of them. It is not known if he actually had.
Parker and Wilson were identified with the help of a 15-year-old witness, Jason Shoemaker of Grant Town, who told his mother what he’d seen.
Shoemaker has been charged as a juvenile with the misdemeanor offense of being an accomplice after the fact.
Investigators say he helped the older boys dispose of evidence.
Prosecutor Richard Bunner said after the arraignments that he will file a motion to obtain blood samples from both suspects for DNA testing.
A hearing on that and any other motions filed by Sept. 13 will be heard on Sept. 18. No trial date has been set.
The West Virginia Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Wilson on August 23. Wilson had asked it to reverse Merrifield’s August 11 order that he be tried as an adult. The judge ruled earlier that Parker will also be tried as an adult.
Before the August 28 proceedings, Merrifield met with reporters for about 15 minutes to discuss the rules for covering the hearings and trial, including the number and placement of cameras, and a ban on all audio taping.
"I cannot talk to you about specifics on the case. I can talk to you about procedure," he said.
Merrifield said he wants to prevent the spread of "misinformation" and ensure the boys a fair trial.
He also said it was not his action that has kept lawyers and others from commenting on the case.
"I have not issued and will not issue a gag order," Merrifield said.
Rather, it is state law protecting the identities of juveniles that has kept the parties involved silent, he said.
That law no longer applies to Parker and Wilson, but Wilson’s attorneys continued to decline comment.
Parker’s attorney, Stephen Fitz, said only that he expects the boys to be tried separately.|
by Bob Roehr
Washington, D.C.--Lesbian health advocates will gather here September 21-23 for Healing Works: The First National Conference on Lesbians and Cancer. The Mary-Helen Mautner Project for Lesbians with Cancer is sponsoring the conference. It is the only national organization dedicated to that effort.
"It’s the tenth anniversary of the Mautner Project and we definitely wanted to do more than have a party," said Kathleen DeBold, its executive director. In anticipation of that milestone they sent out a needs assessment survey to leaders in lesbian health issues. One of the consistent themes they heard back was the need for a face-to-face meeting to exchange information on lesbians and cancer.
Healing Works is "throwing a very wide net" to attract medical professionals, advocates, and cancer survivors themselves, said DeBold. "A lot of times researchers, activists, and health care providers don’t talk to each other. Everyone is in their own little groups."
"The main purpose of the meeting is to set an agenda for lesbian cancer activists," she said, "to start a dialogue, to learn and share with each other." A long-term goal is to better integrate patients as partners in the research and health care processes.
"Often patients are the ones who are left out of these kinds of meetings and discussions," said DeBold. "But they are the reason why all of these organizations exist. Their inclusion is going to make a huge difference in the outcome."
The conference is drawing "unprecedented" support from agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health. The Human Rights Campaign and the Gill Foundation are among other financial backers.
"The level of support has been pretty overwhelming," said DeBold. "That has helped us to give scholarships to underserved populations--lesbian youth, seniors, women of color."
The registration fee can be partially or fully waived and there is limited support for travel and housing. Call the Mautner Project at 202-332-5536 or visit their web site, www.mautnerproject.org, for more information.
"The Mautner Project has been doing incredible work and very important work for the past ten years," said Maureen S. O’Leary, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. "This next step--bringing everyone together for the conference--is also profoundly important. GLMA is certainly going to be there."
The Mautner Project also announced a new book, Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic. It is edited by Victoria A. Brownworth an award-winning author who is a cancer survivor. The anthology of life stories about dealing with cancer includes contributions from Rachel Carson, Joan Nestle, Audre Lourde and others. The book will be released at the conference, and will be available from the Mautner Project and at bookstores.|
Baseball team apologizes to women ejected for kissing
Los Angeles—The Dodgers baseball organization apologized on August 23 to two lesbians who were escorted out of Dodger Stadium August 8 after the couple kissed during a game against the Chicago Cubs.
Danielle Goldey and Meredith Kott went to the game with two friends, a heterosexual couple. At first, Goldey and Kott were not told why they were being ejected from the stadium, but were later told that someone objected to their children being exposed to "those people."
According to Goldey and Kott, their friends kissed and weren’t kicked out.
"I was troubled . . . because of what it implied about the Dodger organization," team president Bob Graziano said.
In addition to the public apology, the couple was offered home plate seats to another Dodgers game, and the team has promised to have all employees undergo sensitivity training. The Dodgers are also donating 5,000 tickets to three gay and lesbian organizations.
"I think they stepped up to the plate more than they had to," Goldey said. "All we wanted was an apology . . . I’m very proud to be a Dodger fan."
Five more drop out of ‘Laura’ show
Los Angeles—Laura Schlessinger, the physiologist radio host who claims to cure all family ills, won’t be able to name her own price for airline tickets on Priceline.com, see the softer side of Sears, or visit Gateway Country for a computer. Motel 6 won’t leave the light on for her, and neither will Radio Shack.
The five companies have all pulled the plugs on advertising during Schlessinger’s controversial "Dr. Laura" radio show.
They have joined a growing list of corporations who do not want to be associated with the talk-show host’s contentious views, including calling gay people "biological errors."
United Airlines has already pulled all ads for Schlessinger’s show from their in-flight magazines.
The Ohio Lottery, Procter & Gamble, Red Lobster, EchoStar, the Dish satellite television network, Skytel, Geico, Toys R Us, Xerox, Natrol, More.com, and BoxLot have all pulled their ads from Laura’s radio show, citing concerns over corporate image.
No advertisers have, as yet, come forward to sponsor Schlessinger’s television show, set for a September debut. It still has not been shown to television critics, which has led to speculation that production of the show is not going well.
A protest of the TV show is set for Sunday, Sept. 10 at WCPO Channel 9 in Cincinnati (see story, page 2).
Student wins $72K in harassment suit
Pleasant Hill, Mo.—A student who was harassed by his peers because he was perceived as gay won $72,500 August 9 from the school district he alleged did nothing to stop the harassment.
The school district, which agreed to the settlement, also agreed with Justice Department recommendations that they institute a two-year program to stop harassment based on sex or sexual orientation.
The schools’ settlement acknowledges no wrongdoing; the administration of the district has changed since the events of the lawsuit.
The student, who is heterosexual, testified that the harassment occurred from 1994 to 1998. He was taunted, beaten, and nearly hit with a car driven by his classmates.
The Justice Department joined the case on the young man’s behalf in July.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan, Jr. signed an order requiring the district to pay the settlement and follow the Justice Department recommendations July 31.
The district opted against appealing the verdict. The plan will require regular reports to the Justice department, and the district will remain under federal scrutiny until September 2002, unless the Justice Department files for an extension.
Gore names Spencer as gay liaison
Nashville Tenn.—Presidential candidate Al Gore named Campbell Spencer, a former Human Rights Campaign field organizer, as his director for gay and lesbian outreach on August 28.
Spencer, who held two posts with HRC, was a campus organizer in college and worked as a policy advocate for Virginians for Justice, lobbying the state’s legislature for the addition of gender and sexual orientation to the state’s hate crimes statutes.
"I am very pleased to have Campbell Spencer on our team," the vice president said in a statement. "Her leadership in the community and strong relationships with activists throughout the country will be important assets to this campaign."
"I look forward to working with her as we continue to fight to widen the circle of fairness and dignity to include our brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors in the gay and lesbian community."
Jeep drivers bash, then crash
Des Moines, Iowa—Shortly after joining in a crowd physically and verbally assaulting two men in drag, the occupants of a Jeep being chased by police crashed into a van August 22.
Casey Forrester and Joshua Farrell were being harassed by a crowd of people when they called the police. Soon after police arrived, the two pointed to the Jeep, and officers started pursuing it. They lost it in downtown traffic, but ten minutes later, it crashed into a van.
The occupants of the Jeep, Jeremy Hughes and Luke Floyd, were taken to area hospitals, along with the occupants of the van.
Traffic charges are pending relating to the crash, as well as a reckless driving charge stemming from an officer witnessing one of the men in the Jeep hitting the windshield of the car Forrester and Farrell were driving.
Mexican man granted asylum
San Francisco—A federal appeals panel ruled August 24 that a Mexican man who contends he is persecuted in Mexico because of his sexual orientation and gender identity is entitled to asylum in the United States.
The ruling expands the circumstances of persecution that immigration officials must consider in asylum hearings. Those circumstances already include a woman’s fear of genital mutilation, as was the case with an African woman, and ultimatums of political conversion or exile, as in the case of an Armenian man who was ordered to either become a Communist or leave the country.
The Mexican man, Geovanni Hernandez-Montiel, is gay, and acts and dresses as a woman. In 1995, after being sexually assaulted by police officers and stabbed by a mob of men, he fled to the U.S., where he was originally denied asylum.
An authority on Latin American history who testified before the court told the judges that gay men with female sexual identities in Mexico are often harassed by officials, and used as scapegoats for the country’s economic and political problems.
Suspect convicted in stomping death
Baton Rouge, La.—A jury convicted Quincy Powell on August 25 of stomping and beating a gay man to death who prosecutors say was killed because of his sexual orientation.
Jurors voted 12-0 to convict Powell of second-degree murder. He faces a sentence of life in prison.
Powell punched, stomped and kicked in the head of Michael Fleming in June, 1999, authorities said. Fleming died of his injuries.
Prosecutors said Powell referred to Fleming as "Faggot Mike" while being interviewed by police.
Prosecutor Barry Fontenot said during closing arguments that Powell was "plain mean" for beating a man who was HIV-positive.
"This guy beat someone who was smaller and didn’t have the energy and the strength to fight back," Fontenot said. "Michael Fleming didn’t have a shot."
Defense attorney Steve Martin said Fontenot failed to prove that Fleming’s sexual orientation was a factor in the killing.
"He promised you a gay bashing, and he didn’t deliver," Marting told the jury during closing arguments.
Compiled from wire reports by Anthony Glassman, Brian DeWitt and Patti Harris.
Columbus--The future of a six-year-old transgender child is in question as authorities prepare to decide whether the child, born with male genitalia, is allowed to live as a girl.
Franklin County Children Services social workers took custody of the child August 23 following a magistrate’s order.
The child was diagnosed in November with gender identity dysphoria, or GID, by doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. The condition can show up as early as toddler years.
GID, which is recognized by the medical community, has historically been used as a diagnosis for adult transsexuals requesting hormones or sex reassignment surgery.
According to her parents, the child has identified herself as a girl since age two. She also has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and Asperger syndrome, which is related to autism and obsessive, sometimes violent behavior.
The family entered into a voluntary supervision arrangement with Children Services in February due to mental health issues of the mother. This was terminated by Children Services on July 25 at the request of the family, due to “discomfort with the tone” of the agency.
“The family felt that Children Services was trying to make them conform to [the child] living as a boy,” said family attorney Randi Barnabee, who is herself transgendered.
“Children Services had no reason to take action here,” said Barnabee. “They had no grounds for forcible intervention.”
The law requires that there be credible reason to believe that the child is in danger before Children Services can remove a child from the home. Children Services issued a statement on August 24 that an investigation was pending, but would not comment on what incident occurred between July 25 and an August 11 phone call that triggered the removal.
The August 24 statement had originally been written without gender references, but the word his had later been handwritten between by and parents in an opening reference to a child “brought by parents to WCMH-TV . . .”
The parents turned the child over to Children Services at the studio of WCMH Channel 4, which aired video of it on their August 24 newscasts.
Barnabee pointed to two incidents that may have triggered the Children Services action.
The parents attempted to enroll the child at McVay Elementary School in Westerville as a girl. She had attended the school last year as a boy. Also, they applied to have her name legally changed to the girl’s name she chose.
Court documents obtained by the Columbus Dispatch seem to support Barnabee’s theory. They reported that school employees and Children Services officials questioned the child’s diagnosis and had concerns with the parents’ influence on her behavior.
The child is being forced to live as a boy while in foster care. She is not allowed to wear dresses or jewelry and is being called by her male birth name.
The family is Jewish and have accused Children Services of not observing the kosher dietary laws or allowing the child to spend the Sabbath at home.
Children Services assistant director of community relations Doris Calloway Moore defended the foster family’s following of the dietary laws.
“The meals are not totally kosher, but what the family requested is what they are following,” she said.
A guardian ad litem has been appointed to recommend to the court a course of action in the child’s best interest.
Moore did not know if the appointed guardian ad litem had any experience with trangender issues or not.
“It is incumbent on them to learn all they can,” said Moore.
Barnabee said that Children Services took the child to protect society, not the child.
“No one wants this child to be who she is--a girl. It’s too much of a political hot potato,” she said.
Mary Ann Horton, spokesperson for It’s Time, Ohio, a transgender advocacy group, was outraged.
“This poor little girl will be forced back into an ‘ex-gay’ model, being asked to be a boy, answer to a male name, and wear boy’s clothing,” she said.
Barnabee predicted a “protracted and bitter” fight. She filed motions August 30 to essentially appeal the magistrate’s decision. A hearing date of September 12 has been scheduled.
The family will also likely be filing a federal discrimination lawsuit against Children Services and the Westerville Schools.
A fund to help the family with legal costs has been set up with attorney Mark Narens, 50 West Broad Street, Suite 1332, Columbus, 43215. |
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