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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 8, 2000

Parents seek to void order taking TG girl away

Agency failed to show child was ‘dependent,’ attorneys say

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--Attorneys for a six-year-old transgender girl taken from her parents by Franklin County Children Services have filed a motion to vacate the magistrate’s order the agency acted on.

If successful, the motion would return custody of the girl to her parents and award attorney fees.

The motion, filed August 30, alleges that Children Services failed to demonstrate that the child is "dependent" according to the Ohio Revised Code, which was the reason she was taken from her biological parents on August 23.

Under Ohio law, children can be removed from the home for three reasons, abuse, neglect and dependency, which the law defines several ways. In this case, the claim of dependency was based on Children Services’ belief that her needs were not being met.

The child, born with male genitalia, has identified as a girl since age two and was diagnosed with gender identity disorder by doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. GID is recognized by the medical community as a diagnosis for adult transsexuals requesting hormones and sex reassignment surgery. It can show up in children as young as toddler age.

The child has also been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and Asperger syndrome, which is related to autism and obsessive, sometimes violent behavior.

The family’s attorneys believe that the event that triggered Children Services to seek custody of the child were an application to legally change the child’s name to the female name she chose for herself, and their attempt to register her as a girl at McVay Elementary School in suburban Westerville. The child attended that school last year as a boy.

The family says that Children Services did not take the child’s GID diagnosis into account when it filed for custody, even though the agency knew of the diagnosis in early July. Court documents support that claim.

Children Services community relations director Kay Marshall would not comment on those allegations under the advice of agency attorneys. She did say that, "If we did it, it would be very serious."

Marshall said that Children Services based its dependency claim on a need to evaluate the child, which she said the parents have not cooperated with.

She added state law prevents her from discussing the content of the referral that led to their investigation.

But, Marshall said, the investigation is not complete. She re-stated the agency’s earlier position that the parents would not sign releases or provide the agency with the information it requested.

The family had entered into a voluntary supervision arrangement with Children Services in February as a result of mental health concerns with the child’s mother. That arrangement ended July 25 at the family’s request. Children Services agreed that no further services were needed, and terminated the case.

Children Services will not say why they believe the family’s situation changed to the point where they opened a new case and sought protective custody 17 days later on August 11. This is the same day the parents filed for the name change.

Randi Barnabee, an attorney for the family, said the family did not sign releases or give the investigator what he wanted because it was unreasonable.

"What they call an interview is really an interrogation," said Barnabee. "They want information that no court would require [the family] to turn over, including the parents’ medical records to age two."

"[Caseworker Art Dennis] demanded the information to intimidate the family and so they could comb through it to see if there was anything there they could use to turn the truth the way he saw it, regardless," Barnabee added.

One of the reasons the family terminated its arrangement with Children Services was concern about the "tone" of the agency and its desire to make the child live as a boy.

"This is institutional arrogance on the part of Children Services," said Barnabee, "and I can tell you as a former public servant and federal investigator that Children Services acted abysmally."

"The bulk of what was requested is related to the child’s physical, psychological and behavior treatments," said Marshall, defending the agency requests.

The child is currently in foster care and has not been allowed to see her parents. Concerns have already been raised by the family about the Children Services allowing her to go a day and a half without her lithium medication and their attitude about her diet.

The family is Jewish and follows most of the kosher dietary laws, including not eating pork. The family claims the agency’s social workers have been insensitive about that.

They are also concerned that the child will not be with them for the Jewish high holy days, which start at the end of September.

Three guardians ad litem have been appointed to this case. Attorneys Ozzy Zimmer and Becky Steele of Columbus were appointed by the court and a lay guardian, Rich Bowlen of Columbus, was appointed by the public defender.

"It is not unusual for two guardians to be appointed, one attorney and one lay," said Marshall. "Three may be unusual."

Guardians ad litem have the responsibility of seeing to it that the needs of the child are met by the foster family and Children Services. It is unclear what any of the three knows about GID or transgender issues.

"It is incumbent on them to learn and to seek out experts," said Marshall. "People have been sending booklets and pamphlets for them to read."

But the family points to a remark made in court by Zimmer that indicates he was "remarkably ignorant." The statement occurred during a discussion about what the child would wear. The family says the child will only wear dresses and the court was uncomfortable with that.

"Zimmer said, ‘We can put the child in pants and a shirt. That would be androgynous and not be harmful’," said Barnabee, who is herself transgendered.

"This child is expressing who she is," said Barnabee, "And it is unfortunate that others cannot accept it."

Children Services has 14 days to respond to the family’s appeal, which postpones the hearing originally scheduled for September 12 to September 26.

Barnabee indicated that there is a "good possibility" that the family will file a federal civil rights suit against Children Services, certain employees, and other institutions.

The child’s mother said they will leave conservative Westerville even before the child comes home.

"They have already taken two years of school from her," she said. "Last year when they made her live as a boy, and now this," she said.

 

 

For the first time, Pride at Work carries a banner in city’s Labor Day parade

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland Heights—The Northeast Ohio chapter of Pride at Work, the AFL-CIO’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender constituency group, marched as a separate unit in the Labor Day parade for the first time in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Area Council of Labor’s parade, the largest organized labor celebration in the state of Ohio, passed down the streets of Cleveland Heights September 2. The annual event, once held downtown, is moved to a different suburb each year.

National AFL-CIO executive vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson led the parade, which also featured nearly every Democrat public official and candidate, in addition to unions and other constituency groups.

The AFL-CIO has recognized that LGBT concerns in the workplace are appropriate to be addressed by labor unions through education and contract negotiation.

Martha Grevatt of Cleveland is the national Pride at Work secretary. She attended her first Pride at Work organizational meeting during the Stonewall 25 march in New York in 1994.

Grevatt, a tool and die maker at DaimlerChrysler, was active in the United Auto Workers, representing the Midwest region and her union local. She had been the target of workplace discrimination because of her sexual orientation during her 13 years at the Twinsburg plant.

"I was the target of lesbian-baiting and sexism," said Grevatt, adding that she was out to some people at work. She filed charges with the company’s equal employment opportunity office on the basis of sex, but the company dismissed them, ruling that the harassment was due to her "preferences" and her "political views."

Years later, Grevatt was instrumental in getting the United Auto Workers to negotiate with domestic auto makers, first for "sexual orientation" to be added to the non- discrimination policies, then for the domestic partners of same-gender couples to be covered by the company’s health insurance earlier this year.

Pride at Work was officially recognized and funded by the AFL-CIO in July 1999.

The Northeast Ohio chapter marched in the 1998 and 1999 Labor Day parades, but not officially.

"In 1998, they told us we couldn’t march ourselves until we were an official chapter," said Grevatt "In 1999, we were an official chapter, but they told us we couldn’t march until we were affiliated with the Cleveland Federation of Labor."

The chapter was present both years as part of the Living Wage contingent.

This year, by unanimous vote, the Cleveland Federation of Labor recognized Pride at Work as an affiliate, and gave the chapter an independent parade slot.

Sharon Danann, acting president of the chapter, pointed out that organized labor benefits from LGBT visibility.

"We are a happening thing," she said. "The other thing we bring is huge organizing expertise."

Danann points out that non-union workers are more vulnerable to discrimination because they do not have process and procedures governed by contract.

"We are not all professionals," said Danann. "We are not all going to assimilate and become the professional next door."

The five Pride at Work participants marched through the streets chanting, "We’re here, we’re queer and we’re in the union!" and passing out informational leaflets to the crowd.

Hearing the chant, one woman on the street stood and yelled back, "So is my son!"

Chavez-Thompson, who always speaks highly of Pride at Work, expressed her pleasure with having the local chapter in the parade for the first time.

"I want to see them out there as activists," said Chavez-Thompson. "When we talk about ending workplace discrimination, we are not just talking. We are fighting for all. Today marks another step toward our embracing of all cultures."


Boy Scouts can use federal parks and bases, Reno says

by Anthony Glassman

Washington, D.C.-- Attorney General Janet Reno approved the Boy Scouts of America’s continued use of parks and military bases for its annual Jamborees and other events September 1, a day after the Interior Department said it had asked the Justice Department for clarification of the rules governing their use of federal land.

The probe, which drew sharp criticism from Republicans, was spurred by a Supreme Court decision in June upholding the Scouts’ right to bar gay men from their organization.

The court ruling came shortly after President Clinton’s June 23 executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in federally funded training programs.

"I’m troubled by this memo appearing to suggest that the Clinton-Gore administration might sever the federal government’s long-standing relationship with the Boy Scouts of America," presidential candidate George W. Bush said in a statement.

The Interior Department defended its actions in requesting Justice’s help, noting that it was unclear in light of the executive order whether the Scouts’ ban on gays violated the order, since many of their conservation training exercises and their quadrennial Jamboree are held on federal land.

"Boy Scout Jamborees are not federally conducted education or training programs," Reno’s ruling on the matter stated. She continued that the executive order "does not apply to private organizations that may use federal lands for their own training programs."

Other types of federal assistance, such as help with conservation merit badges or awards, also would be permitted as long as the Scouts, rather than the federal government, conducted the activity, according to a senior Justice official.

The preferential treatment of the Scouts, due to their long-standing ties with government on levels ranging from local to national, has come under intense scrutiny since the Supreme Court ruling.

In San Diego, for instance, the Scouts lease prime park land from the city for one dollar a year. Local gay civil rights activists and the American Civil Liberties Union are calling for an end to the terms of that lease, which they say violates the city’s ban on anti-gay discrimination.

In Framingham, Massachusetts, the school superintendent has banned the Scouts from distributing materials or recruiting inside school buildings, although they will still be able to use the facilities for meetings.

"I believe since the Boy Scouts have chosen to exclude some of our students, parents, and staff members that their program can’t be considered an extension of our curriculum," said Framingham superintendent Mark Smith in a news conference reported in the Boston Globe.

In addition, several United Way organizations have removed the Scouts from their lists of charities, citing their own anti-discrimination policies as motivation to block funding for the Scouts. Also,

Knight-Ridder news agency has asked the United Way in San Jose, California, near their corporate offices, to stop channeling donations from Knight-Ridder’s offices to the Boy Scouts, again saying that it violates their anti-discrimination policy.

Boy Scout spokesman Gregg Shields claims that, despite the loss of some funding, membership in the Scouts is way up, noting that they now have 5 million Scouts. The last time their membership came close to this number was in the early 1970s. However, this represents a significantly smaller percentage of the overall U.S. population of Scout-aged boys, which is higher now than it was then.

Despite urging from gay leaders, neither Clinton nor any of the presidential candidates have said they will vacate the role of honorary chairman of the Boy Scouts, given automatically to the president when taking office.

 


Hate crime bill gets a boost from House committee head

 

by Bob Roehr

Washington, D.C.--The prospect of passing federal hate crime legislation got a boost when Rep. Bill McCollum announced his support for the legislation on August 29. The Florida Republican is known as "Mr. Criminal Justice" for his work and chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee subcommittee on crime.

McCollum made the announcement in series of high profile news conferences on August 29 in Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Miami. He is running for a Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Connie Mack, who voted for the hate crime bill in the Senate and joined McCollum at the Tampa event.

"Hate crimes are not just crimes of violence but crimes against a class of people. They are statement crimes," said McCollum. "It is time for us to stand together and send a strong message that we will not tolerate any more attacks on any individual for who they are."

The hate crime measure, passed earlier by the Senate, is now awaiting House action. It includes crimes committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

McCollum was joined at the Miami news conference by Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, members of the Broward Log Cabin Republican Club, and local gay and lesbian non-political groups.

"We applaud Congressman McCollum for taking a leadership role on combating anti-gay violence," said Tafel. "His strong support and his powerful position in Congress make this a major breakthrough and we will continue working closely with him as this important legislation moves forward."

McCollum "has said that he would like to serve the kind of role that Gordon Smith [R-Oregon] served in the Senate," said Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign. "We applaud that."

She noted that McCollum had been a cosponsor of hate crime legislation in the last session of Congress two years ago, but had hesitated to sign up again during this session. But Stachelberg received a call from his staff in July.

Through a series of conversations and a meeting with McCollum in Philadelphia during the Republican convention, they "came to a good understanding" on issues and tactics.

Among those was acceptance of the fact that the Judiciary Committee and the subcommittee on crime are among the most ideologically polarized in the House. Prospects of quickly moving hate crime legislation through that process was not good.

"We decided to explore other avenues," said Stachelberg.

Tafel said that McCollum intends to speak with Speaker Dennis Hastert, urging that the House accept the Senate version of hate crime legislation, passed this summer as an amendment to a Department of Defense appropriations bill.

"McCollum needs to be the one taking the lead, but he has to be joined by a number of his [Republican] colleagues. And that is where we have been working," said Stachelberg.

While 21 Republican have signed on as cosponsors of hate crime legislation, more than enough to pass the measure in the House, Republican leaders Dick Armey and Tom DeLay are on record as saying the measure will not come up for a vote.

But the House may not need to vote on hate crime legislation. It could accept the Senate amendment, either as a body or later in conference.

The clock is ticking as Congress is set to adjourn on October 6.

"I think that we need to pursue as many strategies as possible," Stachelberg said, "to leverage our political muscle and our legislative muscle, to make this not just a legislative issue but a campaign issue."

 


Beer, liquor stolen in two break-ins at the Interbelt

by Eric Resnick

Akron--Police were called to the gay and lesbian Interbelt night club investigating robberies two nights in a row. Beer and liquor were stolen in both incidents.

Between 1:20 am and 1:00 pm August 30, suspects broke the lock off the west side fence gate and entered the patio, where they broke the padlocks from two coolers and stole beer and liquor. A white male, age 23, is suspected, but has not been charged with the crime. The value of the stolen beer and liquor is $1,200.

Some time after 2:30 am August 31, suspects broke a hole in a stockade fence surrounding the patio, again broke the locks from the coolers, and stole a trash can full of beer. This time, the bar’s security cameras recorded the incident.

According to owner Vernon Baker, there was a third incident the night of August 29 where the patio locks were broken with a crow bar, but nothing was stolen, so the incident was not reported to the police.

Baker acknowledged that the patio is vulnerable and has some changes planned for next summer.

"It’s too late to do anything about it this year," said Baker.

The parking lot of Interbelt was the site of the murder of Brian Keith Fitzpatrick on May 26. The Akron police are quick to point out that the robberies are in no way related to the still unsolved murder.

Baker is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of Fitzpatrick’s killer.

Police and EMS responded to a call at Interbelt August 20 when staff discovered Gary Busch, 29, of Akron, unconscious.

Busch was transported to Akron City Hospital and treated for consuming too much alcohol after taking pain-killing medication.

Baker is taking a close look at security at the club.

"I don’t want people to think this is the place to come for drugs or to be murdered," said Baker.

Baker said that Akron city law prohibits the hiring of off-duty uniformed police for security, so they are left to provide their own.

"We want people to come and have a good time, so we don’t want to create the police state, which would make people uncomfortable."

Baker re-affirmed his commitment to the safety of his patrons and the facility.

 


Man retracts police abuse claim, pleads guilty

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland—Konrad Rotter, a gay man charged with assault for spitting on and flinging blood at police officers after claiming he was HIV-positive, has retracted his claims of police brutality during his arrest last October.

Rotter, 30, pleaded guilty August 28 to two counts of attempted felonious assault. Judge Janet Burnside sentenced him to two years in prison, eligible in six months for judicial release.

Police were sent to Rotter’s West Park home shortly after 4 am on October 12, 1999 because Rotter was playing loud music, according to their report.

An altercation ensued between police and Rotter, who said in March that he had "had a few beers." Rotter was arrested, handcuffed, and put in the back of a patrol car.

Rotter said in March that the officer driving the patrol car back to the station repeatedly applied the brakes, forcing Rotter’s head to bang against a partition between the front and back seats. Rotter has retracted this statement.

The police alleged that Rotter claimed he had HIV and tuberculosis, and he hoped they would take it home to their families. They also said that he, after banging his head on the partition, smeared his blood on it and tried to blow over the top of the divider. Rotter, in turn, claimed that he told them simply that he had HIV and tuberculosis to get his own cell.

"I wanted my own cell. I told them I had AIDS and that I might have TB because I wanted them to give me a cell to myself," he said in March.

"It was not good case to try on first impressions. It leaves open the question whether blood is a dangerous weapon," said Rotter’s attorney, Edele Passalacqua. |


Orange County schools drop their ban on gay clubs

 

Santa Ana, Calif.--The Orange Unified School District plans to settle a federal lawsuit by reversing an earlier decision to ban a gay-straight alliance from meeting at an area high school.

The district’s board was expected to formally approve the agreement August 31, the first day of classes for the system’s high schools, spokeswoman Judy Frutig said.

As part of the settlement, the board said two days earlier that it will vote to change its policies on school clubs before approving the gay-straight alliance, Frutig said.

The new rules will prohibit student clubs from discussing sexual activity and create a system that will allow parents to object to a child’s participation in any school group, she said.

In December, the board unanimously rejected the Gay-Straight Alliance at El Modena High School, prompting a federal lawsuit by two students who wanted to create a forum for gay students to discuss discrimination.

They said the board violated the Equal Access Act, which prohibits public schools that take federal money from excluding particular noncircular clubs if they allows others.

The students involved in the club are happy their fight with the school board has ended, said their attorney, Myron Dean Quon.

"What it comes down to is, we’re happy to be able to dispense of costly litigation and we’re happy the kids can go back to being regular school kids and not under such great public scrutiny," he said.

There is no financial settlement included in the agreement, he added.

Salt Lake ends ban on all clubs

In Utah, meanwhile, the Salt Lake City School District voted August 29 to end its four-year ban on all nonacademic clubs that was imposed to keep a gay-straight alliance from meeting.

Board members--some who even voted for the ban in 1996--rejected the idea that allowing students to form extracurricular clubs would be promoting a gay and lesbian "lifestyle."

The new policy allows students to create academic clubs sponsored by the school, and nonacademic clubs that cannot participate in school fundraisers.

After the meeting, students from Highland High School were already making plans for what clubs they want to form, including ones for meat eaters, swimmers and skiers.

"I’m so excited. I can barely wait to have clubs," said senior Bridger Jensen. "Now we can have more leadership opportunities."

The club which triggered the 1996 ban has been meeting all along. The Gay Straight Alliance meets after hours in an East High School classroom, under a policy allowing community groups to rent school facilities.|

Associated Press


News Briefs

Germany removes limits from gay military service

Berlin--The German government said August 31 that being gay was no reason to reduce soldiers’ status or limit their responsibility.

The issue had arisen here in the case of an officer who was reassigned from platoon leader to an office job after a background check revealed he is gay. He filed suit in Germany’s Constitutional Court last year against the move, and in April the Defense Ministry said he would get his old job back.

In a response to a question by the parliament faction of the Party of Democratic Socialism, the government reaffirmed that sexual orientation was no "separate entry criterion" for military service.

The Defense Ministry will also make clear in army regulations the consequences of discrimination based on sexual orientation, and offer advice for leaders in a brochure on dealing with gay troops in the army.

 

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.

 

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