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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 6 , 2001

The world�s first four legally married gay and lesbian couples stand in the Amsterdam City Council chamber as Mayor Job Cohen conducts the ceremony on April 1. The world�s first four legally married gay and lesbian couples stand in the Amsterdam City Council chamber as Mayor Job Cohen conducts the ceremony on April 1. Wockner News Service photo by John Hein/ScotsGay

 

Another Ohio marriage ban is proposed

Latest bill would also outlaw partner benefits

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--A Cincinnati legislator is preparing to introduce another so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" in Ohio, perhaps as early as April 9. The proposed measure is broader than previous attempts to pass such a bill, voiding local and state domestic partner benefits as well as same-sex marriages and civil unions made in other states.

State Rep. Bill Seitz, a first-term Republican from Cincinnati, has circulated a memo in the Statehouse requesting co-sponsorship of a bill to declare same-sex marriages "against the strong public policy of the state" and making it "against the public policy of the state" to extend benefits of legal marriage to same-sex couples.

The "public policy" language is an attempt to maneuver around a constitutional requirement.

Bills to void same-sex marriages made in other states have been before the Ohio legislature in the past. In 1997, then-state representative (now state senator) Jay Hottinger of Newark introduced a bill in the Ohio House. The bill died in the Civil and Commercial Law Committee due to lack of support. Currently, Seitz co-chairs that committee.

In 1999, Hottinger and then-state representative (now state senator) Jim Jordan of Urbana re-introduced that bill. It also died in committee in both chambers.

The current proposal goes farther than the previous two by declaring that extension of marital benefits to nonmarital relationships, which would include same-sex and different-sex couples, is against the public policy of the state.

In a memo seeking co-sponsorship which Seitz circulated March 21, he states that Ohio law "fails to contain an explicit statement that same-sex couple marriages or civil unions that are entered into in other states will not be recognized in Ohio."

Section 3101.01 of the Ohio Revised Code, which is Ohio�s current law governing marriage, already defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Openly gay Cleveland attorney Tim Downing says the proposed bill is redundant and unnecessary to prohibit marriages between same-sex couples.

"This is unnecessary and a waste of time and taxpayer�s money," said Downing, "and just another way for them to stir up anti-gay sentiment in the state and trumpet homophobia."

Seitz concludes his request for co-sponsors by saying, "I have been working with Citizens for Community Values for the last three months on this legislation."

Citizens for Community Values is the Cincinnati group that spearheaded the 1993 petition drive to put the Issue 3 anti-gay city charter amendment on the ballot. The measure is now in force, making Cincinnati the only city in the nation with a ban on civil rights protection for lesbians, gays and bisexuals in its charter.

The president of CCV is Phil Burress, who is also chair of the anti-gay American Family Association�s Ohio chapter.

Seitz also says in his memorandum that "persons from Ohio constitute the largest number of out-of-state persons who have gone to Vermont to conclude their civil union ceremony."

"That figure probably came from Citizens for Community Values," said Seitz�s legislative assistant Andie Snider. Seitz was not available for comment.

A check of the Vermont records shows that Ohioans are not the largest number to travel there for civil unions. Of the nearly 1,200 civil unions for out-of-state couples in 2000, Ohio ranks 10th with 35. New York had the most with 171, according to Vermont Vital Records Department supervisor Linda Davis.

Snider indicated that the bill had 26 co-sponsors to date, but did not release the names.

By contrast, the 1997 bill had 13 co-sponsors and the 1999 bill had 11.

"Since 1996, 32 states have enacted a Defense of Marriage Act to clarify their public policy against recognition of such same sex marriages or civil unions," Seitz wrote in his memo. "This legislation would simply bring Ohio into that mainstream."

Seitz�s memorandum goes on to contradict the actual legislation. The memo reads, "This bill does not pre-empt cities, counties, and townships from extending marital type benefits to same-sex couples if they so choose."

The bill itself voids domestic partner measures.

"The recognition or extension of the benefits of a legal marriage to nonmarital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes is against the strong public policy of this state," the bill reads. "Any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of this state that extends the benefits of legal marriage to nonmarital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes is void ab initio [from the beginning]."

Downing called the claim in the memo a "big lie," adding that the language certainly would prohibit smaller entities within the state from enacting such laws.

"That would mean, for example," said Downing, "that the city of Cleveland could not offer domestic partner benefits because domestic partner benefits would be considered marital benefits."

Downing said that the bill�s language could affect unmarried and divorced different-sex couples in addition to same-sex couples.

"This bill ensnares the unknowing," said Downing. "It applies to all couples who don�t go to the courthouse to get a marriage license."

Downing said that common marital benefits recognized by courts include custody and visitation orders, pensions and health benefits, and rights of grandparents.

"This proposed bill goes way beyond just affecting us," said Downing, "which is another reason why it is so dangerous."

Downing said that if this bill becomes law, the "bundle of rights" given to couples by domestic relations courts in other states would be void in Ohio.

Although Downing worries that an amended version of the bill could pass, he says of this one, "They haven�t thought it through."

"They are so focused on the likes of bashing us, that they don�t realize any of this, or don�t care," he added.

Downing indicated that the other problem with this bill is that it violates the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. constitution, which requires states to recognize the "public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings" of other states.

Downing said that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the only exception to the full faith and credit clause occurs when a law of one state violates the public policy of another state.

Ohio courts have not decided the issue of whether or not the current laws comprise a public policy against same-sex unions. In cases currently on appeal in Ohio courts, the American Family Association and Citizens for Community Values contend that a 1991 Ohio law doing away with common-law marriage sets such policy.

Downing said they also need that "public policy" language in order to get around the U.S. Supreme Court�s 1997 Romer v. Evans decision, which struck down Colorado�s Amendment 2 ban on gay and lesbian civil rights laws.

"They are deathly afraid of Romer," said Downing. "Romer says states cannot single out groups of people and fence them out of rights of other citizens. They see this as a way to get around that fence."

Downing stressed that Ohio law currently does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions performed in Ohio, any other state, or any other country.

"The current language in the Ohio Revised Code is clear and simple and it has been on the books the entire 20th century," he said.

Downing is concerned that with all the attention on the Ohio budget and education funding, this bill could pass the legislature without much notice.

Once introduced, the bill will go to the Civil and Commercial Law committee, which Seitz co-chairs.

The Republicans on that committee are Chairman John Willamowski of Lima, who co-sponsored the 1997 and 1999 DOMA bills, Anthony Core of Rushsylvania, Timothy Grendell of Chesterland, former senator and now Rep. Bob Latta of Bowling Green, who co-sponsored the 1999 DOMA, Jeff Manning of North Ridgeville, and Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora.

Democrats on that committee are Joseph Sulzer of Chillicothe, Dean DePiero of Parma, who accidentally co- sponsored the 1999 DOMA and later withdrew, Ed Jerse of Euclid, and Peter Lawson Jones of Shaker Heights.

 


 

World first: Dutch lesbians
and gay men legally marry

Foreigners can marry there too

by Rex Wockner

Amsterdam--It was probably the most important moment in the history of the worldwide struggle for gay equality.

Four gay couples were legally married here April 1 under the exact same laws heterosexuals use. It was a world first.

Several nations have registered-partnership laws under which gay couples can obtain up to 99 percent of the rights and obligations of marriage. But only the Netherlands now lets gays simply marry.

"All the other countries have marriages specially made for gay people," said Henk Krol, publisher of De Gay Krant magazine and the driving force behind the 16-year process that led to legalized marriage for same-sex couples. "What we have in the Netherlands is civil marriage open to everyone. That�s the big difference. That is the news."

Amid an international media frenzy, the weddings took place at City Hall as the law became effective at the stroke of midnight. Mayor Job Cohen officiated.

As Cohen finished his opening remarks at 11:58 p.m., the audience in the City Council chambers began syncopated clapping as they waited for the room�s clock to click over to midnight. When it clicked, cheers erupted.

The ceremonies themselves took about half an hour.

Cohen stood where individuals stand to address the City Council. The four couples sat in the front row of the seats where the councilors sit.

Cohen read the marriage vows once for each couple and they individually responded, "Yes." Each couple shook hands, kissed and signed documents, which were then signed by the mayor.

A reception followed in the council chamber foyer, and the couples departed in four brightly colored Volkswagen Beetles for a party at a gay club.

"The most important thing is that we love each other like everyone loves each other and gets married. There�s no difference," said groom Peter Wittebrood-Lemke. "The whole world has to learn that love is between people and not only between a man and a woman."

Asked how marriage fits together with gay men�s reputation for non-monogamy, Wittebrood-Lemke said: "Real fidelity has nothing to do with monogamy. Real fidelity is something else, something in your soul, something that attaches you to each other. Monogamy can be a sort of contract if you choose it. But if you marry you don�t have to choose monogamy. You have to choose for fidelity."

His partner, Frank Wittebrood, added: "Maybe you�ve been told that homosexuals are not monogamous. I think we are more honest. A lot of heterosexuals are like homosexuals, but they do it in hiding. Homosexuals are more honest."

Groom Ton Jansen, 63, married his partner of 36 years, Louis Rogmans, 72.

"Marriage gives you all the rights that other married people have," he said. "Marriage is the most intimate bond two people can enter into."

Former Labor Member of Parliament Mieke van der Burg, who fought hard for the marriage legislation, said the political process was arduous.

"In the beginning, I did not believe it would pass," she said. "It was very difficult in my own political party and in the other parties. I had so many discussions with members of my own party and other parties. It was very difficult to give the arguments in favor of this."

Krol echoed: "In the beginning I never thought it would be possible to open up marriage. I thought it would be possible to have an excellent registered partnership in the Netherlands--the best in the world--and that�s what we�ve had since 1998. But to open up that institution that for a lot of people is so special, well, we always thought it was reasonable, but to convince everybody that this was indeed necessary was a hard job. Especially because in the beginning it was hard to convince the gay community. They said, �That�s something for heterosexuals�."

Asked to advise activists working for gay marriage in other nations, Krol said: "You have to discuss it over and over again with the politicians and let them think. Discuss it over and over again until they understand there�s no reason not to allow it. People are against it not because they think negative about it, but because they feel negative in their lower body. That�s the only reason they are against it. Once they start to think, they find no reason to be against it."

"The thing that finally got us over the hump was when we did a survey of the Dutch population proving that a large majority was in favor of gay marriage," Krol said. "Everyone in Parliament wants to do what the majority of the people want. That made the difference."

University of Utrecht Prof. Rob Tielman said it also helped that "Dutch society is the most secular one in the Western world."

"This explains Dutch attitudes towards voluntary euthanasia, recreational drugs, sexual self-determination, the legal right to be nude in certain public places, mandatory sex education in all schools, the lowest percentage worldwide of abortions and unwanted pregnancies, the constitutional equal treatment of gays and lesbians, the recognition of gay and lesbian parenthood," he said. "The fact that same-sex couples can marry now in the Netherlands is not a miracle but the consequence of a long history of respect for human rights based upon the principle of the right of every human being to give meaning and shape to his or her own life as long as the rights of others to human self-determination are respected."

One law change remains--which is expected to pass shortly--before same-sex marriages are identical to opposite-sex couplings. It will grant lesbian couples who give birth to babies automatic joint parental authority. At present, they will have to petition a court for that authority.

It may take some time before gay spouses will be able to adopt children from other nations. Not because The Netherlands has a problem with it, but because the Third World nations from which Dutch couples adopt children are presumably hostile to the idea.

Foreigners can marry

Gay couples from other countries can get married in the Netherlands provided they have lived in the country for four months. The city of Amsterdam has said it believes that gay couples from the other 14 nations that are members of the European Union can come to Amsterdam and marry without establishing residency.

Readers of De Gay Krant magazine are offering to assist gay couples from non-European Union nations in establishing a legal address in the Netherlands so they can get married here.

"If an American couple has a permanent address in Amsterdam, they can get married," Krol said. "De Gay Krant, in cooperation with some of our readers, is willing to provide American couples with addresses in Amsterdam.

"These foreigners have to prove that they are using the Amsterdam address for at least four months," Krol said. "During these months it is possible that the City Hall will ask them to come by. If this is asked, they have to show up within three weeks. American citizens need a permit to stay that long in The Netherlands, but it is rather easy for Americans to get that permit."

Anyone interested in this should e-mail h.krol@gaykrant.nl.

Evan Wolfson, director of the U.S. Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund�s Marriage Project, says that what the Netherlands has done will reverberate across the planet.

"Non-gay people throughout the world, including in the U.S., will see that the sky does not fall when same-sex couples are included in the protections--and the public celebration--of civil marriage," he said.

The nations that have special partnership laws that give registered gay couples many or nearly all rights of matrimony are Denmark (and Greenland), France, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and, in the U.S., the state of Vermont. A few other nations, including Canada and Hungary, grant gays many rights of marriage under common-law marriage statutes. Portugal�s gay partnership law is expected to take effect later this year.


Court dismisses GE gay bias case

With �sexual orientation� missing from law,
judge says suit has no basis

by Eric Resnick

Niles, Ohio--A judge has dismissed the employment discrimination case of a General Electric employee because Ohio law does not give protection on the basis of sexual orientation.

Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge John M. Stuard ruled March 3 that Barry Tenney of Warren, an employee of GE�s Niles Mahoning Glass Facility since 1973, had no legal grounds to sue GE or the employees named in the suit.

Tenney appealed the ruling March 28 to the 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals.

General Electric added sexual orientation to its corporate non-discrimination policy in October 2000, but being only a corporate policy, not law, it has no bearing on this case.

"Absent from the statute is any reference to protection being provided on the basis of sexual orientation," Stuard wrote.

Tenney�s attorney, Thomas Sobecki of Toledo, confirmed that the judge only looked at this single matter of law and did not consider the merit of any of Tenney�s evidence, which includes tape recordings, grievances filed over six years, and photographs.

The matter before the court was GE�s motion to dismiss the suit, which the judge heard February 1.

In his 11th Distict appeal, Sobecki will argue that two Ohio Supreme Court justices, Resnick and Pfeifer, are on record as saying that Ohio is not clear on whether employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is permissible.

In the recent Retterer v. Whirlpool Corp. case, the justices hinted that "the time is ripe for the Court to consider the issue."

"I think that is the basis for an appeal," said Sobecki, "and we are willing to take this case to the Ohio Supreme Court."

If the court sides with Tenney, Ohio will have to protect workers from discrimination and harassment at the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation, as it currently protects classes of race, religion, age, and national origin.

Sobecki also disagrees with another point the judge ruled on, which he believes is a good case for appeal.

"Although this Court cannot and will not condone the behavior that is alleged herein, the Defendants behavior does not, as a matter of law, rise to the level of extreme and outrageous behavior . . ." wrote Stuard addressing Tenney�s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"The judge just got this wrong," Sobecki said.

He points to death threats, photos of anti-gay graffiti, and Tenney�s filing of grievances to show that GE management knew of the harassment, and an incident where Tenney was grabbed and hugged against his will by the plant nurse, who is also named as a defendant.

Sobecki feels that given the weight of the evidence, even if the Supreme Court rejects the case due to the current state of non-discrimination law, there could be a tort brought against GE and the others for reckless or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"Recent Supreme Court decisions in the employment context make [Tenney�s] an even stronger case.

Sobecki said it could be three months until the appeals court decides to hear this case, then it could be until January 2002 until it renders a decision.

To cover legal expenses, Tenney and his partner Larry Carr are attempting to sell CDs of the band they started.

Tenney continues to work at GE, and says the harassment has not stopped since Stuard�s decision.

"The day it came, someone posted a sign saying, �Stop your whining. You chose your life�," said Tenney. "Naturally, I took a picture of it."

 


King Ave. Church receives $600,000 for LGBT programs

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus�An area church has been given $600,000 by one of its gay members to ensure that it continues an outreach to the LGBT community.

King Avenue United Methodist Church received the grant from one of its congregation, who wishes to remain anonymous. One quarter of the donation is, by the donor�s request, earmarked for the music program, in which he has been involved for many years.

The donation was announced during services on March 18.

The church, like its denomination, has struggled with debate over the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church. Six years ago, an announcement during services of the formation of an LGBT Bible study group sparked the departure of about 40 people, and led to the administrative council forming a committee to construct an official policy on the subject for the congregation.

Many of the people on the 20-person committee had been with the church for decades. Some had been there in the 1950s when the donor was asked to leave. The committee recommended that the church�s policies specifically state that people of different sexual orientations or gender identities are welcome at King Avenue.

"Gay and lesbian people used to come in to see if we were accepting," said senior minister Rev. Grayson Atha. "They can�t get that by osmosis. If �gay� and �lesbian� isn�t spoken, people don�t know we�re open to all."

According to a letter from the donor that accompanied the donation, the funds are to be used to establish a foundation for ministry to the LGBT community, help the church remain open to the gay community, and to reach out to other churches in an attempt to open more of them to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. According to a church release, "gay and lesbian were named because the donor had found that churches sometimes claimed to be �open to all,� but had structures in place, including silence, that excluded gay and lesbian persons."

The United Methodist Church has had its own struggles over including gay people in church life. Soulforce, an organization devoted to the inclusion of LGBT people in religion, staged a demonstration outside the denomination�s convention in Cleveland last year, resulting in the arrests of over a hundred demonstrators.

"I was one of the jailbirds," Rev. Atha said. "The UMC has a stance that we receive all people, and that all people are persons of great dignity. Although there is this philosophy, there is a perception that gay people are in a different category."

Atha, whose church hosted a Pride service before last summer�s Columbus Pride parade, also expressed his concern over fundamentalists who seek to exclude gays.

"We had some protesters outside the church for the parade," he commented. "My wife was disgusted [at their signs], especially the children carrying signs."

A meeting was held April 3 to start drawing up guidelines for the disbursement of the money, and Atha welcomed suggestions for spending the funds to achieve the goals of queer inclusion in the church.


 

Maryland is set to become 12th state with rights law

by Anthony Glassman

Annapolis, Md.--The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a gay civil rights bill March 30, eight years after the first version of it was introduced.

The 88-50 vote has Gov. Parris Glendening poised to celebrate a major victory, as the Antidiscrimination Act of 2001 was one of his legislative goals for the session.

With both the House and the Senate�s approval, Maryland is almost certain to become the 12th state with such a measure.

The bill�s road this far, however, was not easy. An almost identical bill was killed two years ago in Senate committee, where it was allowed to die without a vote. That year, the House had already passed a version of the measure.

This time around, the bill got off to a good start when the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same man who let the similar measure die two years ago, sent aides out to find a way around the unusual committee filibuster being staged by Sen. Alex Mooney. After cutting off debate, the committee passed the bill to the full Senate.

Once in the Senate, Mooney again tried to filibuster, this time tag-teaming with another state senator to tie up the chamber for over four hours before the filibuster was broken at 2:30 am. The senators returned nine hours later and overwhelmingly approved the bill.

The very next day, the House Judiciary Committee voted 13-8 to send the House version of the bill to the full House of Delegates. The committee had amended the bill to match word for word the Senate version, eliminating the need for a conference committee to iron out the differences, a stage where the bill could be derailed.

The full House then fought off attempts to add amendments which would have required a conference committee hearing, passing the bill 88-50.

Six surprise supporters of the bill emerged with the final vote; six delegates who had voted against the 1999 bill now voted for passage of the newer bill.

Del. James E. Rzepkowski (R-Anne Arundel) voted for the bill because of the idea that an ideal tenant could be evicted simply for being gay.

"They could do everything right�pay their rent on time, not throw wild parties�and it doesn�t make sense that a renter could still be thrown out of their home," he said.

The last two steps in the bill�s journey for the bill are a House or Senate vote on the other chamber�s bill, considered a formality since the two versions are the same, and Glendening�s signature, which is guaranteed, since it was he who pushed for the measure.

According to the Maryland General Assembly�s information office, as of April 4 the House version was in the Senate Rules Committee, with passage expected soon.

The other states with gay and lesbian equal rights laws are Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and, for employment only, Hawaii and Nevada. The District of Columbia also has a measure on the books.


 

Equal rights bills advance in two state houses

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Two state houses have passed gay and lesbian equal rights bills, sending them to the state senates for consideration.

A Delaware measure to make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal has a fair chance on becoming law. A similar Illinois bill has a more difficult road ahead.

The Delaware House of Representatives on March 27 narrowly passed HB 99 by a 21-20 vote. It is currently before the Delaware Senate. Of that body, 13 out of 21 members are Democrats; the remainder are Republicans.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner supports the bill, and has said she will sign it into law if it passes the senate.

Three members of the public were allowed to testify before the legislators on the bill; two were in favor.

Two other groups who are opposed to the bill complained that they were not allowed to testify before the vote.

According to the Wilmington News Journal, House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith said that there were over 30 people who wanted to testify, but that representatives had already made up their minds. He also limited the number of speakers to cut down on redundancy.

The bill would protect against discrimination in employment, housing, public works contracting, public accommodations and insurance based on sexual orientation. It also describes sexual orientation as homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual.

On March 27, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a similar bill whose outlook is not as rosy.

The bill would add sexual orientation to existing Illinois law banning discrimination in employment, credit, housing or public accommodations. It currently protects against bias based on race, religion, and similar traits.

The bill has exemptions for landlords living in their own building with five or fewer apartments, and for religious groups that are opposed to homosexuality.

The bill, like its counterpart in Delaware, passed by a narrow margin, 60-55. It is now in committee in the far more conservative Senate, which makes its future uncertain.

Gay civil rights advocates, however, were optimistic, especially after Senate president James "Pate" Philip said he plans to give the bill a committee hearing instead of stalling it, which is what activists feared might happen.

A similar bill passed the House in 1993, but failed in 1997 and 1999.

The day after the bill passed, a rally was called to show support for the bill. Demonstrators tried to counteract the idea that the bill would be granting "special rights" to a group.

"There�s a climate of tolerance and openness and a �can�t-we-all-just-get-along?� climate that is happening more and more," said State Sen. Carol Ronen. "Once you start debating it, the objections that most people have to it are going to disappear. It�s not a real far-reaching or complicated bill."

New York state also has a gay and lesbian equal rights bill awaiting a vote in its state senate. The New York House passed the bill February 16, and a Senate committee approved it March 20. But the Senate's GOP leaders may not allow the full body to vote on the bill. Similar bills have been stalled this way for nine years.

Seven other states are considering equal rights bills, most with poor chances of passage. They include Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska and Arizona. A Hawaii measure would add housing and public accommodations to their existing job bias law.

 


News Briefs

Harassment law doesn�t cover gays

San Francisco�Anti-gay harassment in the workplace is not against federal harassment laws, according to a March 29 ruling of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel.

According to the judges on the panel, Medina Rene�s claim that he was harassed because of his sexual orientation does not fall under the coverage of the federal law preventing harassment based on sex.

Both the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit appellate court have, in the past, ruled that certain types of anti-gay behavior may be deemed as sexual harassment. These include harassment motivated by sexual desire or hostility, where the harasser shows differential treatment between men and women, or if it is based on a person failing to conform to sexual stereotypes. The court said that Rene�s case did not fall under these circumstances.

Rene claimed that when he was working as a butler in the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, his co-workers and supervisors harassed him on a daily basis from 1994 to 1996. According to Rene, they showed him pictures of gay sex, grabbed his genitals, blew kisses at him, made wolf-whistles, and called him "sweetheart." Rene said that he had complained to his superiors, but they did nothing to stop the harassment.

Rene sued in 1997 under part of the Civil Rights Act allowing damages up to $300,000 for sexual discrimination in employment.

Richard Segerblom, Rene�s attorney, will ask for a hearing before the entire appeals court. The panel ruled 2-1 against his client.

 

AIDS Quilt moves HQ to Atlanta

San Francisco--The AIDS Memorial Quilt is leaving San Francisco, nearly 15 years after the first of its 40,000 panels were stitched together.

The Names Project, keeper of the quilt, is relocating the 54-ton memorial for 80,000 AIDS victims to Atlanta, where it will be housed in a climate-controlled warehouse. The last section of quilt was folded up March 29, the eve of the quilt�s last day in town.

Cleve Jones, the San Francisco native who came up with the idea for the quilt, says the impact of the disease has shifted.

"The epidemic has really changed and grown to African American and Hispanic communities,'' Jones said. The power of the quilt should follow that shift despite the memorial's long history in San Francisco, he added.

 

GAIN founder dies

Wayland, Mass--The transgender community lost a crusading educator with the March 12 death of Penni Ashe Matz, managing editor and founder of GAIN, the Gender Advocacy Internet News.

She succumbed at the age of 52 to cancer.

Matz was honored posthumously at the International Foundation for Gender Education�s 2001 conference with a Trinity Award, presented to people who, according to IFGE, "performed extraordinary acts of courage and love." Accepting on her behalf was Kim Carver, assistant editor of GAIN.

She was also a founder of It�s Time, Massachusetts, a transgender lobbying and education group. In addition, Matz was on the board of Verizon�s LGBT staff organization, a Vietnam veteran, and a member of Men of Color Against AIDS.

 

Belgium looks at same-sex marriage

Brussels, Belgium�The Belgian government is looking into joining their Netherlander neighbors in legalizing gay marriages.

It is not clear yet whether the measure being looked into by the country�s ruling center-left coalition would grant full marriage to gay and lesbian couples or create a lesser "domestic partner" status.

Magda Alvoet, the health minister and a member of the small Green Agalev party, the smallest in the coalition, said that the move was imperative to eliminate discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

The office of the prime minister said that the proposal could be introduced to cabinet as early as this month, and believed that agreement on the matter among the cabinet was probable.

If Belgium�s government passes the measure, it could take effect in early 2002.

 

Namibian police told to purge gays

Windhoek, Namibia�President Sam Nujoma indicated March 21 that police were ordered to purge gay men and lesbians from the country.

Speaking before students at the University of Namibia, Nujoma said that he had told police to arrest, deport and imprison gays.

The outburst seemed to have been incited by data indicating a sharp increase in the HIV infection rate in the country.

Gay activists, led by members of the Rainbow Project Coalition, challenged the president to show which laws would allow him to enact his pronouncement, indicating that nothing in the country�s laws or constitution outlaws homosexuality. According to Ian Swartz of the RPC, the constitution guarantees protection from discrimination based on individual differences, with no exclusion of homosexuality.

Other African leaders have made similar anti-gay declarations, most famously Zimbabwe�s Robert Mugabe, who has repeatedly called gays "lower than pigs and dogs." He is joined by Kenya�s Daniel arap Moi, calling gays a "scourge," and Uganda�s Yoweri Museveni, who said last year that "I have told the [police] to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them."

 

Evan Wolfson leaves Lambda Legal

New York City�Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced March 22 that Evan Wolfson, one of their foremost lawyers and activists, will be leaving the organization after 12 years.

Wolfson, perhaps best known for representing James Dale in his suit against the Boy Scouts of America, will spend some time planning his next steps in promoting the freedom to marry movement in America. Wolfson now heads Lambda�s Marriage Project.

Wolfson also provided support to the team working on Baker v. Vermont, the case before the state�s Supreme Court that resulting in Vermont�s historic civil union legislation.

Wolfson joined Lambda�s staff in 1989, having worked for a number of years as a cooperating attorney, giving support to Lambda in cases.

Wolfson�s last day with Lambda will be April 30.

 

Civil union effort waits till next year

Hartford, Conn.�After raising the issue and sparking legislative debate, gay activists in the state are delaying efforts to enact a civil union law until next year.

According to sources within the pro-marriage lobbying group Love Makes a Family, there is not enough support in the legislature this year to make the effort worthwhile.

The state senate�s judiciary committee held public hearings on the issue last month, but no bill was introduced.

By initiating the debate on the subject, legislators have been educated on the need for a civil union law, Love Makes a Family�s president Ann Stanback told the Connecticut Post.

News Briefs are compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.


Our future together

Ralph DiLudovico and Robert Burian sing of a journey in their new 1906 Ford in "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime. The song was part of the North Coast Men�s Chorus� spring concert of show tunes, which also featured a chorus line of men in white tuxes and top hats and the "Time Warp" from Rocky Horror. The March 31 show sold out Cleveland State University�s 900-seat Waetjen Auditorium. Photo by Brian DeWitt


Evenings Out

Cinematheque offers an
Easter basket of LGBT films

by Anthony Glassman

April has always been a month of rebirth. Look at Easter, with its holdovers from earlier pagan fertility festivals: rabbits, eggs, grass. In the spirit of the season, the Cleveland Cinematheque has four films showing this month illustrating the renaissance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters in film.

Taboo (Gohatto)

From Japanese director Nagisa Oshima comes this mesmerizing tale of love among samurai in feudal Japan.

In the nineteenth century, Japan was still in the Middle Ages, with warring shogun battling for control of ever-greater sections of the archipelago, while pondering the question of whether or not they should open their borders to visitors from the West.

Set against this backdrop comes Taboo, a story of the trials that an elite force of samurai must face when a brilliant, beautiful warrior comes into their midst.

Ryuhei Matsuda plays the almost androgynous Sozaburo Kano, who attracts the desire of his compatriots like starving dogs to sirloin steaks. His fellow samurai Hyozo Tashiro (Tadanobu Asano) wins his affections, but jealousies between the two and among the other members of their militia begin to unravel the fabric of their unit.

Watching it all, and unsure of his own feelings in the matter, is Captain Toshizo Hijikata (action film legend Beat Takeshi, Takeshi Kitano). His paternal instincts are constantly battling with his own feelings of jealousy, spurred by the realization that his commander is in love with Kano.

Beautifully filmed and intriguingly written, the story is based on actual events. By the time these things happened in 1865, Western morality had infiltrated Japan, and Christianity's proscriptions against homosexuality had taken hold. The film examines the views of the Japanese of the era on the subject, ranging from grudging acceptance to complete scorn.

Oshima, who directed the classic In the Realm of the Senses, does justice to his legend with this film, and it is a wonderful way to spend an evening.

Taboo will be shown from April 6 to 8. The showings will be at 9:30 on Friday, 7:30 on Saturday and 9:20 on Sunday.

The Specials

You liked the movie Mystery Men, didn't you?

Of course you did (if you saw it).

The Specials is another, more independent movie in that vein. The title refers to the superhero group the Specials, the sixth or seventh best team in the United States. Leading the team is the Strobe (Thomas Hayden Church), who believes God gave him his powers to fight crime, and his wife Ms. Indestructible (Paget Brewster). Backing them up are, among others, the Weevil (Rob Lowe), whose father, the original Weevil, was the first gay superhero. Also on the team is Power Chick (In Living Color's Kelly Coffield), a lesbian superhero who was on the cover of Out magazine, according to the film.

The entire film takes place in the course of a day or two. There is no action, few special effects, but a massive amount of humor. The entire team is falling apart; they're sick of each other, they're sick of their lowly status, and they worry that the world might not need the Specials.

As the team self-destructs, the narrative is interspersed with "interview" segments with various members of the group, mostly stabbing each other in the back or worrying about their costumes.

The film is far funnier than Mystery Men, which itself was hilarity personified. Where MM depended on special effects and all-star villains, this film relies on character and dialogue, both of which it has in spades.

Will the team come together? Will the Weevil join the corporate-sponsored Crusaders? Will Amok (Jamie Kennedy) get laid?

These questions and more will be answered at the two screenings of the movie, 7 pm on Thursday, April 19, and 10:05 on Friday, April 20.

Live Nude Girls Unite!

What happens when exotic dancers get tired of being exploited by their bosses and decide to show their brains and moxie as much as their bodies? They unionize, of course.

Julia Query, a good Jewish lesbian from New York, and Vicky Funari follow the women of the Lusty Lady in San Francisco in their battle to get a union shop, fair wages, sick days, and an end to race-based scheduling.

Query, a stripper and stand-up comedian, leads her fellow dancers as well as chronicling their fight, which takes months. The film also delves into the issue of coming out to her mother, not as a lesbian, which her feminist activist mom already knew, but as an exotic dancer. This is the most emotional part of this enthralling documentary.

This movie succeeds on so many levels, it's almost hard to keep track of specific reasons why it is a great flick.

On one hand, it gives us a look at the faces behind the G-strings, if that's not too much of a mixed metaphor. On the other, it also establishes a link between the feminist ideal of a woman's control over her body and her ability to use it as she pleases, without exploitation. Is a stripper being exploited by the men for whom she dances, or is she exploiting them, taking their money without giving of herself except that which is seen?

Last, the issue of parental expectations is explored. Query's mother has worked for decades to make the lives of prostitutes safer and healthier, creating outreach programs to get women off the street if they want, giving out condoms and safer sex instruction if they don't. However, she has trouble accepting the fact that her daughter is showing her body for money, and has difficulty in separating strippers from prostitutes, another topic examined in the movie.

Query and Funari delve into the unionization of the dancers with wit and warmth that is almost alarmingly endearing, and, were it a more commercial film, it could probably be described as the "feel-good film of the year."

The film will play Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21. Friday it shows at 7 pm, Saturday at 8:35.

All About My Mother

From Pedro Almodovar, the man who launched Antonio Banderas' career, comes the winner of the 1999 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, All About My Mother.

As usual for Almodovar, one of the few openly gay Spanish directors, the plot is thick, convoluted, and involves lots of queer people, in all senses of the word.

Among the players are transsexuals Lola (Toni Canto) and Agrado (Antonia San Juan), old friends of Manuela (Cecilia Roth), whose search for the father of her son drives the story. Esteban (Eloy Azorin) was hit by a car and died, and Manuela must tell her former husband.

Along the way, she meets Sister Rosa (Penelope Cruz), a pregnant nun, as well as Esteban's idol, Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes), a lesbian stage actress, and her lover Nina (Candela Pena).

As usual with an Almodovar film, if it were any gayer, it would be Showtime's Queer as Folk.

It's a dark, disturbing, funny film. It's really hard to say much about it, without giving away a slew of twists and turns. It is, however, a great film by a great director, dealing in so many ways with the relationships between people and their mothers, both biological and adopted.

The film is being presented by Lou Giannetta, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, the same man who brought Sunday, Bloody Sunday back to the big screen at the Cinematheque last month.

All About My Mother will be shown Monday, April 23 at 7 pm only.

 


 

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