by Doreen Cudnik
Cincinnati -- The August 13 meeting of the Cincinnati school board had the look and feel of a meeting of one of the city�s high school gay-straight alliances.
Over 30 people wearing stickers that said "I Support Safe Schools for Everyone" attended the meeting at Mayerson Academy to voice their support for adding sexual orientation to the Cincinnati Public Schools code of conduct.
If approved, the revised code would allow teachers and administrators to issue suspensions or expulsions to students who harass or intimidate other students based on real or perceived sexual orientation.
While the school board heard testimony on the proposed change, they delayed a vote on it until August 27.
Andy Ruffner, co-chair of the city�s chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, told the board about the threats and harassment that gay and lesbian students, and often their supportive allies, face daily in classrooms and hallways.
In their Student Pride Yearbook 2000, GLSEN reported that 90% of LGBT students reported hearing anti-gay epithets "sometimes or regularly" at school. Sixty-nine percent of LGBT students reported experiences with some form of anti-gay harassment at school.
Teachers and administrators often don�t deal with problems of anti-gay harassment and violence, Ruffner said, because they simply don�t know how. There are currently no written guidelines, he added. But the changes proposed by a Cincinnati Public Schools committee would change that, and give teachers and administrators the tools they need to keep schools safe for all students.
"This change will give teachers the authority to address these matters when they come up," Ruffner said.
Paulette Meier, who has worked as a trainer in conflict resolution in Cincinnati Public Schools called anti-gay harassment "the most tolerated and most toxic" form of harassment in schools because it "goes well beyond the harassment of gay and lesbian students."
Meier told board members that incidents of anti-gay harassment, if left unchecked, prevent boys from expressing gentleness and sensitivity, and prevent girls from expressing toughness and independence, for fear of being labeled "gay."
The proposed changes to the schools code of conduct would affect students in grades kindergarten through 12. The draft policy states: "Students must not use words, statements (written or verbal) or actions that intimidate or express inflicting harm or loss toward students, district staff, visitors, district vehicles or property. This includes any negative comments or statements about a person�s race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation."
The language was worked out by a committee of teachers, parents, administrators and one student, which met in July to update the district�s code of conduct.
Two people at the meeting expressed concern that the language, as drafted, would infringe on the rights of students who oppose homosexuality based on their religious beliefs.
David Langdon, an attorney for the American Family Association of Ohio, was at the meeting taking notes, but he did not address the board. AFA has said that they will challenge the language in court if the policy is approved as written.
A vote on the change in the discipline policy was not taken August 13 because of concerns that the new language could not withstand a court challenge.
Cincinnati attorney Jennifer Branch, who supports the changes, told school board members not to "be afraid of the First Amendment."
"I�m sure your attorney is smart enough to draft a document that will be constitutional," Branch said.
School board president Rick Williams said the "final language is being created as we sit" and added that the final draft will most likely be voted on at the next school board meeting August 27.
Ruffner added that the ACLU and National Center for Lesbian Rights have provided GLSEN with "model drafts" that have passed the constitutional test in other communities.
School board member Catherine Ingram raised questions about how the district might deal with an offender after his or her suspension was over. Ingram also asked how the policy would deal with a teacher who condones anti-gay language or actions.
"The policy should somehow address that we�ll try to change the behavior, not just punish people," Ingram said.
Outside the building following the meeting, Ruffner told a gathering that he had spoken to four board members, "all of whom support us and support this initiative and will vote for it when it comes to vote, if we fix the language."
The board has seven members total.
Ruffner encouraged everyone who attended to "bring three people to the next board meeting."
"It�a historic moment for Cincinnati," he said.
Kathy Laufmann, the other GLSEN Cincinnati co-chair, added, "I am so excited about the fact that almost everyone seems to be in agreement that it�s time for this. I have not heard one negative comment from any board member opposing the idea of adding this language."
Three other Ohio school systems include sexual orientation in their policies. Columbus and North Olmsted have language in their student handbooks prohibiting anti-gay harassment, while Shaker Heights has a broad anti-discrimination rule covering staff as well as students.
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus -- Prosecutors added two more charges against street preacher Charles Spingola on August 9, both stemming from an incident during the Columbus Pride Holiday on June 23.
Spingola has already been charged with open burning, a first degree misdemeanor, for igniting a rainbow flag on the Broad Street sidewalk as the Pride parade was passing by.
New charges of assault and aggravated menacing have been added for allegedly splashing gasoline on Andrea Critchet, Columbus Pride�s head of security.
Critchet had stepped between Spingola and the crowd as Spingola was preparing to light the flag, trying to keep the Newark man away from the marchers and avoid hostile interaction between the protesters and the parade.
Spingola flicked the gasoline-soaked flag at her, splashing her with the flammable fluid. He then lit the flag.
"He said, 'You're all gonna burn in hell,' and he flipped it up on me,'' Critchet told the Columbus Dispatch shortly after the incident.
Critchet was treated for a burning sensation in her throat and tingling in her arms and legs, but was otherwise uninjured.
Prosecutors delayed in filing the additional charges until they could get eyewitnesses to corroborate Critchet�s account of the events.
"We wanted to make sure we talked to Ms. Critchet and other witnesses," said Scott Varner, spokesman for City Attorney Janet E. Jackson.
The new charges, which could together add another year to a prison sentence as well as another $1,000 fine per offense, are both first-degree misdemeanors.
The city attorney�s action was hailed by Stonewall Columbus� executive director, Jeff Redfield.
"We are pleased that they�re aggressively pursuing the situation," he said. "Hopefully their actions will lead to a legislative decision to keep [Spingola] away and keep our people safe."
Spingola set the flag on fire within feet of children brought to the parade by protesters, and a couple of yards from hundreds of parade marchers. When the police told him to put out the fire, he allegedly ordered the children to grab its still-burning tatters to keep them away from police, an act noted as evidence of his lack of regard for others� safety.
"Part of our concerns are, his behavior is getting more and more violent every year," Redfield continued, "but he doesn�t get violent until the camera crews turn their attention on him. What is it going to take every year to get media attention on him?"
"We can�t control the media," Varner noted, "but we can follow the letter of the law as it�s intended here."
Spingola, 45, of Newark, often appears on Ohio college campuses decrying homosexuality through a bullhorn. He was arrested on Pride Day 1999 for climbing a flagpole in front of the Statehouse and tearing down a rainbow flag, which he then handed to accomplices who burned it. Spingola was found guilty of criminal damaging in February 2000, appealed the conviction, and it was upheld by an appeals court in June.
This year, Spingola brought his own flag, but violated the city�s fire code on public burning.
Spingola�s attorney said that his client will plead not guilty to the new charges.
"Throwing gasoline on a lady?" Thomas Condit, his attorney, said. "He absolutely denies that."
"These charges represent, where in the past he�s claimed it�s his First Amendment right, when he does this he crosses the line into public burning," Varner noted, "and these additional charges show that he�s crossing the line even more."
by Rex Wockner
Amsterdam, The Netherlands--Two American women from Provincetown, Mass., have gotten married in Amsterdam.
It is full marriage identical in every respect to heterosexual marriage. The Netherlands is the only nation where that is possible. Foreigners, gay or straight, can marry in the Netherlands after they have lived there for four months.
Heather Wishik and Susan Donegan, both attorneys, tied the knot on July 31.
"Susan has been practicing law there for a year and a half . . . and is a resident of Amsterdam," Wishik said in an August 10 phone call from Provincetown, where the couple has a home. "We were the first foreigners to marry at the Zuider Amstel town hall in the southern part of Amsterdam. It seemed important to us that the Dutch law is exactly the same [for gays and straights].
"It felt to us like there was a way to be ordinary and a lesbian couple in a new way," Wishik said. "It was a real extension of Dutch fairness and choice. We found it a delightful process. The town hall clerks never raised an eyebrow. They were cordial, gracious, welcoming, wonderful."
Wishik is in the process of establishing residency in the Netherlands, to join Donegan full-time, "and she gets to come in on my visa," Donegan said.
But are Wishik and Donegan now legally married at home in Massachusetts, where other Dutch marriages have been recognized?
"I have no idea," said Massachusetts attorney general Tom Reilly�s press secretary, Ann Donlan. "It�s a legal question that would require some thought and research. I�m not prepared to answer it at this point."
Donlan called back a short time later and stated, "This is a matter for the courts."
Asked if opposite-sex married couples from the Netherlands who move to Massachusetts are legally married in Massachusetts or have to get married again, Donlan seemed annoyed and said, "I have nothing else to say to you."
Massachusetts generally recognizes marriages from elsewhere even if those marriages could not have taken place in Massachusetts.
"Massachusetts has--or at least had--a law that forbids uncles from marrying nieces and aunts from marry nephews," said Jon Davidson, senior counsel for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "There was a case where an aunt married her nephew in England and later moved to Massachusetts and the question was, what was Massachusetts going to do about that, since that marriage could not have been entered into in Massachusetts."
"The court ruled that since that marriage was not void by the laws of England, it did not feel warranted in saying the parties were not husband and wife," Davidson continued. "The general rule that Massachusetts follows is that if a marriage was legal in the place where it was entered into, Massachusetts will recognize it and treat it as a valid marriage, even if the couple couldn�t have gotten married in Massachusetts."
The particular question of whether Massachusetts--or any other U.S. state--will recognize same-sex marriages from other nations has never been answered by a court, Davidson said, "because until the Netherlands, no country allowed equal marriage rights for same-sex couples."
Gay couples gained access to ordinary marriage in the Netherlands on April 1 of this year.
Several other nations have partnership laws for gay and lesbian couples that grant up to 99 percent of the rights and obligations of marriage. Except within Scandinavia, those partnerships are not necessarily recognized across international lines.
Nations that grant many or nearly all marriage rights to same-sex couples (but do not let them get married under the same laws as heterosexuals) include Canada, Denmark (and Greenland), France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and, in the United States, the state of Vermont.
by Kaizaad Kotwal
Columbus�Over 50 people gathered in Goodale Park on August 9 for a candlelight vigil to honor slain Colorado Native American teen Fred Martinez, Jr.
The vigil, organized by Stonewall Columbus and BRAVO, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, coincided with similar events across the country that weekend.
Fred Martinez Jr. was a 16-year-old Navajo youth in Cortez, Colorado, variously described as gay, transgendered and two-spirit. He was killed after attending a party on the night of June 16, but his body was not found until June 21, lying in a rocky canyon near his home.
Shaun Murphy, 18, was arrested July 3 and charged with second-degree murder. Murphy, who had attended the same party and was in a car Martinez rode in later, allegedly told a friend that he "beat up a fag." Prosecutors announced August 10 that they have added a first-degree murder charge.
Reverend David Meredith of the Broad Street United Methodist Church began the vigil by speaking about his "hope to never have to attend another candlelight vigil ever again." Meredith attended his first two vigils "for women who had been raped in Kansas City at a �Take Back the Night� event and another one for victims of the HIV-AIDS pandemic."
"Now I find myself here today," he added, "at a vigil for a young boy created by a loving God, born into a beautiful world who was killed for no other reason than the fact that he was gay and he was transgendered."
"I lift a candle to Fred because he is our neighbor, our brother, our sister, growing up in our families right here in Columbus," Meredith concluded. "And the power of this light from our candles is stronger than any darkness."
Rebecca Gurney, representing BRAVO, spoke about the many levels at which Martinez was "vulnerable in that he was a teen, he was Navajo and he was transgendered." Gurney told the crowd that everyone is needed to work towards the safety of and justice for all in the LGBT community, particularly those as vulnerable as Martinez. "We can honor him by making this community safe and supportive for all of us by looking out for every member in our community."
Jeff Redfield of Stonewall Columbus said that even though the gathering had been brought about by a very tragic set of circumstances, it was the Martinez family�s wish that such a vigil celebrate Fred�s life and his willingness to live openly and honestly.
Redfield said, "We need more education about respect and dignity and doing away with stereotypes."
Josette Bidoni of P-FLAG Columbus spoke about the need to protect LGBT youth.
The final speaker of the evening was Barry Thomas, coordinator of Native American student services at Ohio State University. He referred to Martinez as "my nephew, because in our traditions, all people are related, even all transgendered youth or two-spirits of all cultures are our relatives."
"Two-spirit" is a contemporary term that is used to describe a member of a Native American community who expresses both masculine and feminine characteristics.
Many two-spirits blend the two genders, instead of choosing one or the other. Different tribes had different terms--winkte in Lakota, nadleeh in Navajo, hee-man-eh in Cheyenne--and different traditions. Two-spirit people were honored in their communities.
The vigil concluded with songs of protest, hope and celebration led by Rev. Marj Creech, Chris Hoffman and Byron Yaple. The vigil attracted a very diverse crowd of people, especially many young children. Gwen, who asked that her last name not be used, said that she had come to this event "because Fred touched my heart and I wanted to try and do something for him and his family." Greg Kirby, another attendee at the vigil, said that he "was particularly moved by Fred�s courage."
"It�s very painful to be here," he added, "because I do think that it helps me be more aware of exactly how much more courage it takes to be transgendered when simply being openly gay is such a challenge."
A common thread was the idea that, though this hate crime had occurred in Colorado, it affected LGBT communities all over the world. It was reminiscent of the "I am Matthew Shepard" tags that were worn after his murder, implying that violent acts could be committed against any LGBT person.
by Douglas Braun
Cincinnati--"You saved my life. I was ready to commit suicide."
These words had a powerful effect over a crowd of 110 older gay men and their younger friends at the Tri-State Prime Timers meeting August 12. Founder Woody Baldwin was recounting the grateful words of a new member.
Baldwin has heard these same words two other times since starting Prime Timers, a social organization for gay and bi men over 50 and their admirers.
Prime Timers currently has 55 chapters throughout the world. The largest chapter is in Palm Springs, California, with 1,400 members. In addition to Tri-State (Cincinnati, Kentucky, Indiana), Ohio has chapters in Columbus and Cleveland.
The group got its start about 15 years ago. In the 1980s, Baldwin retired as a college professor, and was interested in volunteering for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
He met with someone from a local gay organization and explained his desire to serve the community. At the end of the meeting the man thanked Baldwin for his interest and said, "We�ll call you."
Baldwin waited, but heard nothing. He met with someone from another organization. He was told, "We�ll call you." After his third attempt with yet another organization it became apparent that ageism was the barrier. He put his volunteerism on hold.
While visiting in New York City, Baldwin and his partner Sean O�Neill went to a bar where the crowd was mostly older gay men. They had a great time dancing, talking and having fun.
When they returned to their home in Boston, Baldwin thought it would be nice to try to get a group of older gay men together there. He talked with friends and acquaintances and got enough interest that he planned a meeting.
As the day approached, a heat wave hit Boston. On August 15, 1987 they had record temperatures and the media was urging that "all elderly people stay indoors." Baldwin worried about how many men would show up.
"I�ll be happy if I have eight," he told himself.
He was delighted when 42 men came to this first meeting of Prime Timers. After the success in Boston a group formed in New York. Next was Austin, then Dallas, then chapters "began popping up all over," he said.
Since its beginning, Prime Timers has been a social organization, not intending to venture into politics. Baldwin�s philosophy focuses on gay men having opportunities to socialize.
"If older gay men can be as happy as when they were young, we will have reached our goal."
Baldwin and O�Neill visited the Columbus chapter of Prime Timers on August 15, and will also attend the Cleveland chapter�s meeting on Sunday, August 19. In addition, Baldwin will be the guest speaker at the August 20 meeting of Insight, a social and networking group for GLBT professionals in the Cleveland area.
Douglas Braun is a gay social worker in the field of aging.
by Milla Rosenberg
Columbus--The Federation of GLBT Advocacy Organizations wrapped up their conference on August 5 with the election of co-chairs, board members, and regional representatives. The group voted Stonewall Columbus executive director Jeff Redfield to serve on its board and as co-chair with Nadine Smith of Equality Arkansas.
Current Federation co-chair Ann Shelley of Equality Arkansas said that the Thursday and Friday sessions carefully covered the Defense of Marriage Act and hate crimes legislation. She said that delegates also discussed ways of broadening hate crimes legislation to make it more inclusive. "We also dealt with nuts and bolts issues, including voter identification," she added.
During the conference, the Federation ratified a partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Scott Fearing, Minnesota delegate and OutFront community organizer, said that the partnership outlined the relations between the two groups.
"As the Federation develops more of a structure of its own, we wanted to clarify those boundaries in a collaborative way," he said.
Fearing explained that because most statewide organizations partner with several groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign, It�s Time, America, and the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the conference also served as a way for those groups to be a part of the dialogue as well. On Saturday, the HRC gave a presentation to the members.
Redfield said that he was proud of the support of the Columbus community and local businesses.
"Many of the delegates work on a volunteer basis, and it was a kind gesture for restaurants to give discounts and clubs to waive cover charges," he said.
The Federation and the Task Force are also planning a needs-assessment for statewide organizations.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman, Patti Harris and Eric Resnick.
Appeals court upholds denial of TG name change
Middletown, OhioThe Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals upheld a Butler County probate judge�s decision to deny an otherwise uncontested name change to a transgender Hamilton resident, born male, who is transitioning to female.
The decision to deny the legal name change was handed down August 13, and becomes case law in the eight-county 12th district. Until this case, there was no case law in Ohio prohibiting a name change in conjunction with sex reassignment.
The court upheld a May 2000 ruling by Butler County Probate Judge Randy Rogers and magistrate Charles Pater, who called the name change "confusing and misleading to others." Pater cited "divine edict"�God�s law�as the basis for his ruling.
The applicant, born Richard Clark Maloney, 50, is being treated for gender identity disorder and is transitioning to female. Maloney is attempting to legally change her name to Susan Louise Maloney.
Maloney�s attorney, Scott Knox of Cincinnati, argued that the court is interfering with Maloney�s treatment, and by forcing her to maintain a man�s name while representing herself as a woman, is itself the cause of any public confusion.
The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoric Association standard of care requires that applicants live as the gender they are transitioning to at least one year before surgery is scheduled.
"You can�t live entirely as a woman when your first name is Richard," argued Knox.
But in upholding Rogers, the appellate court did not address his findings that the name change would cause confusion. Instead, it ruled that since Maloney has not yet scheduled surgery, there is the possibility that she could change her mind.
The appellate decision was 2-1. The dissenting judge, Hon. Anthony Valen, condemned his colleagues and Rogers, contending that it is improper for the trial court to make its moral judgment on transsexuals.
It is extremely rare for judges in Ohio or elsewhere to deny name changes for any reason other than fraud, such as when an applicant is attempting to hide from creditors.
48 arrested at Lutheran convention
Indianapolis�Police led away 48 gay civil rights advocates August 13 who were protesting a Lutheran denomination�s decision to retain its ban on gay clergy.
About 100 demonstrators marched outside the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The ELCA had earlier that day decided against lifting its ban on non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, choosing instead to launch the denomination�s first major study of the morality of same-sex relationships.
The study will focus on issues like ordination of gay men and lesbians and the blessing of same-sex unions. The vote in favor of the study was 899-115. The delegates attending the convention also voted 596-409 in favor of ordering the church to come up with a plan and time frame in which it will finally decide on the ordination of non-celibate gay men and lesbians.
The demonstrators said it was time to stop studying the issue and approve actively gay clergy and blessings for same-sex couples.
Soulforce, a non-denominational organization committed to ending "spiritual violence" against LGBT people, organized the demonstration.
The Reverend Kim Lengert, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor from Pennsylvania, said gays are only asking for "crumbs from the table."
Court allows students to stage play
Fort Wayne, Ind.�The production of a play portraying Jesus as a young gay man in Texas went smoothly after an appeals court ruled in favor of the University where it was being performed.
Led by former Republican gubernatorial candidate John Price, a group of Fort Wayne residents opposed to the production of Corpus Christi sued to stop the play, arguing that staging it on state university property violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
But U.S. District Judge William C. Lee disagreed, saying in his July ruling that stopping it would infringe on the students� free-speech rights.
In its decision released August 7, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld Lee�s decision 2-1.
Corpus Christi is about growing up gay in a Texas Gulf Coast town.
It features a gay Christ-like figure named Joshua and 12 other male characters, most of whom bear the names of Christ�s disciples.
The play opened on the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne campus August 10.
Opening night was met with shouting matches between opponents and supporters of the production. Opponents of the play carried signs with messages like "Repent: Turn or Burn" and "Jesus is Love but Hates Sin" along with "Got AIDS Yet?"
The play was scheduled for a run of six performances, all of which sold out the 120-seat theater.
Paper pulls �gay� crossword
Cleveland�The Plain Dealer, the largest daily paper in Ohio, refused to print the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle August 12, citing "gay" content that would offend its crossword puzzle fans.
The puzzle, which ran a week earlier in the Times, was titled "Homonames," and the answers were homonyms of famous people�s names. A homonym is a word that sounds like another word but has a different spelling and meaning, like wry and rye.
People who read advance copies of the crossword puzzle alleged that a number of clues seemed to have gay references (113 across: "People who live next to a Y," 87 across: "Add more lubricant"), and some of the answers were people who are gay or involved in gay culture, like Bette Midler and Rex Reed.
The Plain Dealer requested a replacement puzzle from the Times, but was told that the title had been changed to "Homonym Names" and that there was nothing offensive in the puzzle.
"I�m sure that the content of the puzzle would have offended many of our puzzle fans and it seemed silly to annoy them with something that they look forward to each week," Plain Dealer managing editor Tom O�Hara said in a brief note explaining the puzzle�s replacement.
"That�s just the most asinine thing in the world," Will Shortz, the writer of the puzzle, responded. "You will find so-called references to gay life in any puzzle."
The Des Moines Register in Iowa was the only other paper to pull the puzzle.
Sleeping lawyer warrants new trial
New Orleans�A gay Texas death row inmate, imprisoned since 1984, deserves a new trial because his lawyer slept during portions of his murder trial, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled August 13.
The full appeals court, in a 9-5 reversal of a ruling by a three-judge federal panel, said Calvin Burdine�s lawyer dozed off for long enough stretches to deprive the defendant of his right to legal representation.
Several witnesses testified that the attorney, Joe Cannon, who is now deceased, slept during parts of the 1984 trial.
Burdine was convicted of stabbing to death his lover, W.T. Wise, in the Houston area in 1983. Burdine confessed to police, but now denies killing Wise.
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