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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 16, 2001

The Vox Alterna ensemble of the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus performed at a World AIDS Day vigil in Columbus, one of dozens of events statewide. Photo by Kaizaad Kotwal

 

Robert Burns, Louis Farmer and Merle Powell of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland (from left) were among the group at the World AIDS Day rally in Public Square. Photo by Anthony Glassman

 

Vigils in the park honor
those lost to AIDS

by Kaizaad Kotwal
and Anthony Glassman

Columbus--Approximately 300 people came to the gazebo in Goodale Park on World AIDS Day to remember those who have passed on and to celebrate those who are living.

The Columbus AIDS Task Force and several other AIDS and HIV organizations held a vigil on the evening of December 1 at the park, in the Short North district.

The Vox Alterna ensemble of the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus started the vigil off with a powerful and celebratory rendition of "What aWonderful World."

About 60 people read about 1,000 names of those who had been taken by the disease. Columbus City Attorney Janet Jackson spoke about the need to continue to fight the disease and those ignorant enough to discriminate against the sick and those who are against future funding for the fight against AIDS. She also thanked all those who had come to the vigil, marking the beginning of the third decade of HIV and AIDS.

In Cleveland, a World AIDS Day demonstration on Public Square brought together a varied group of speakers, including Bob Bucklew of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and Louis Farmer of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland. With the Terminal Tower in the background, they addressed about 50 people.

The demonstration and the vigil in Columbus were two of dozens of events marking the occasion across the state, including events in Cincinnati, Oberlin, Warren, Granville and Toledo.

Finan says budget pushes
DOMA aside, for now

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--The anti-gay "Defense of Marriage Act," passed on Halloween by the Ohio House, may be stopped in the state senate next year. But new leadership may clear the way for it in 2003.

Ohio Senate President Richard Finan, a Republican from Evendale, called the bill "small potatoes on [the Senate’s] plate," in comparison to the state’s budget.

Finan, interviewed on November 27, is currently engaged in a heated disagreement with the House and Gov. Robert Taft on how to fix the state’s $1.5 billion revenue deficit.

"Right now," said Finan, "the budget is all- consuming. Nothing is going to happen with this bill until at least late 2002."

When a similar "DOMA" bill was introduced in the Senate in 1999, Finan told opponents he was not anxious to support it and would not attempt to move it to the Senate floor. He believes the current law defining marriage in Ohio is clear enough.

"When I explained [to bill sponsors Senators Hottinger and Jordan] that I thought the bill was unnecessary because of three court rulings, the issue went away," said Finan. The 1999 bill died without hearings in committee.

While Finan said he believes that the newest bill is not necessary to prevent same-sex marriages in Ohio, he noted that Rep. Bill Seitz, the bill’s sponsor in the House, has told him that "things have changed" since Vermont began to recognize same-sex civil unions.

"[Seitz] has contacted me several times about this, and I have his memorandum on my desk, but we haven’t had time to even look at it," said Finan. "I have not spent two minutes thinking about this."

Finan said he still needs to listen to what Senate Republicans say about the bill, but added, "so far, there is no long line of senators saying we need to pass this bill."

"We are getting pressures to pass it, especially from groups around southwestern Ohio," said Finan.

The Citizens for Community Values in Cincinnati was a significant force behind the bill’s passage in the House.

State Sen. Jay Hottinger of Newark, who sponsored a failed 1997 marriage ban in the House and the 1999 attempt to pass it in the Senate, told Capitolgate.com that he will not be out front leading the charge to pass this bill, but suggested that State Sen. Jim Jordan of Urbana might.

Since the bill passed the House, it doesn’t need a Senate sponsor to be assigned to a committee.

Hottinger said of Finan, "There are some people in significant leadership positions that think the bill’s not necessary."

Bill has other provisions

Finan also was not aware that the House version of the bill has provisions that deny "specific statutory legal benefits of legal marriage" such as rights of survivorship and hospital visitation to all unmarried couples, same-sex and different-sex.

"I’m glad you’re telling me about this," said Finan during the interview.

Finan said he would probably assign the bill to the Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Justice, the same committee the 1999 version died in. The chair of the committee is Republican Jeff Jacobson of Montgomery County. He is joined by fellow Republicans Louis Blessing of Cincinnati, Ron Amstutz of Wooster, Steve Austria of Xenia, David Goodman of Bexley, and Hottinger.

Democrats on that committee are minority leader Ben Espy of Columbus, Eric Fingerhut of Cleveland, and minority whip Dan Brady of western Cleveland.

DOMA was part of a tax deal

Finan agreed that the House Republican leadership "twisted arms pretty hard" to get DOMA passed.

"No question about it," he said, "it got caught up with the ultra-conservatives around the issue of raising taxes, and it became a quid pro quo--I’ll give you the tax increase if you give me this kind of thing."

Asked if being identified with divisive bills like DOMA were how the Ohio Republican Party wanted to portray itself, Finan replied, "Absolutely not."

But Finan’s position on DOMA is not stopping opponents’ efforts from organizing around defeating it.

Shift to the right coming

Due to term limits, Finan is prohibited from running again, and will finish his tenure in December 2002.

His likely successor as Senate president is current president pro-tempore Doug White of southwestern Ohio. He is considered the second-most powerful Republican in the Senate, behind Finan. White is considerably more socially conservative than Finan, and co-sponsored the 1999 bill.

Hottinger now serves as assistant president pro-tempore. He will likely succeed White next session.

Hottinger said he still concurs with the House that such a measure is necessary to prevent Ohio from recognizing same-sex unions.

Governor Taft has again declined to comment on the bill.


Maryland lesbian-gay civil rights
law takes effect

Petition drive concedes defeat to avoid exposing illegal practices

by Anthony Glassman

Annapolis, Md.—The state’s embattled lesbian-gay anti-discrimination law took effect Nov. 21, after a right-wing organization behind the drive to repeal it admitted that they did not have enough valid signatures to force a referendum.

Maryland now joins 11 other states and the District of Columbia with gay and lesbian civil rights laws.

The measure, passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Parris Glendening last spring, was to take effect October 1. But a group calling itself Take Back Maryland turned in 56,557 signatures in July to stop the law. State elections boards certified 47,730 of them, 1,411 more than required to block it until an election next year.

The law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations, employment and housing.

The ACLU filed a suit charging that many of the signatures that were certified were invalid and that signature gatherers had violated state law during the petition drive. The ACLU represented Free State Justice, an LGBT civil rights organization in Maryland, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore and 23 individuals.

Annapolis attorney Walter S. B. Childs was appointed to individually verify the signatures. He also examined issues such as signatures with dates different from the witness’s, and whether the complete text of the proposed referendum was printed on the back of each petition sheet as required by state law.

Childs reported in October that he had found problems with about 7,500 signatures.

Depositions from signature gatherers revealed that many had signed their sheets, indicating that they had witnessed each signature, and then left them unattended at churches and other public locations. According to Maryland law, for a petition to be valid, the gatherer must be present to witness each signature.

One signature gatherer invoked her Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination during her deposition on the case, according to ACLU attorney Charles Butler. People who had signed the petition also indicated to him that they had been told to sign by their clergymen, but had not been told what the petition was about.

A number of petition sheets had the text of the referendum stapled to the back. The law requires the text to be printed directly on the signature sheet, to prove that it wasn’t added or changed after the petition was signed.

The legal challenge came to an end when Take Back Maryland agreed to a stipulation that they had not collected enough valid signatures to force a referendum.

Butler told American Family Association attorney Brian Fahling that if the case continued in court, damaging evidence of illegal practices in petition-gathering would be revealed publicly.

Fahling later called Maryland’s referendum laws "extremely onerous." He pointed to the requirement that signatures be filed within 60 days of the law’s passage as the cause of his clients’ illegal actions.

Baltimore and three counties, with about half the state’s population, already had gay civil rights protections in place. This backed claims by Free State Justice and Gov. Glendening that the majority of people in the state are in favor of the law.

Glendening, whose brother was gay, had made passage of the law one of the top priorities of his term.

"With this law now in effect, Maryland begins the 21st century as a beacon of fairness, justice and inclusion," Glendening wrote in a press release following the end of the suit. "We move forward in the new economy knowing that every Marylander will be able to reach his or her full potential, without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, or whom they happen to love."


Lesbian-Gay civil rights laws
now cover a third of the nation

Almost a sixth of Ohio’s people are included

by Brian DeWitt

As the dust clears from an unsuccessful challenge to Maryland’s gay and lesbian civil rights law, a surprising fact emerges: Forty percent of the U.S. population is now covered by one of these measures.

This includes almost a sixth of Ohio’s population, although the state has no law protecting its gay and lesbian citizens.

With Maryland’s law now in effect, a dozen states and the District of Columbia now have gay and lesbian civil rights laws. Most of these are broad measures covering housing, public accommodations, loans, education and other areas. Two, in Hawaii and Nevada, are limited to employment only.

The other states with laws are California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Jersey.

The U.S. has 281.4 million people, according to the 2000 census. About one in eight lives in California (34 million), one of the states with a law. Adding in the other 11 states and D.C. brings this number to 74 million people, over a quarter of the nation's population.

In states without a law, a growing number of people are covered by local gay and lesbian civil rights ordinances. Over the past 30 years, a steady stream of cities and counties have enacted these measures, and there are now 128 of them, including 11 in Ohio. New ones have been passed this fall in Normal, Illinois; Bangor, Maine; and three weeks ago in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Most of the nation’s largest cities have these laws. They range from fair housing ordinances to measures that also include employment, public accommodations, education and union practices.

An additional 59 localities have measures covering only their public employees, like those in Dayton and the Ohio counties of Summit and Cuyahoga. The Lambda Legal Defense Fund, the source of these figures, does not list what 19 more cover.

Forty of the 128 local laws that cover residents are in a state that also outlaws anti-gay discrimination. Of the remaining ones, a few are in cities located in counties that also have anti-discrimination ordinances, such as Chicago’s Cook County or Seattle’s King County.

Taking care not to count city residents twice in these cases produces a figure of 38 million people covered by local ordinances in states without a law.

Adding that figure to the 74 million covered by state laws gives us 112 million Americans--40 percent--that are covered by a gay and lesbian equal rights measure of some kind.

Ohio ordinances cover 1.7 million

Only two other states have more local rights ordinances covering residents than Ohio's 11: California with 17, and New York with 12. It's worth noting that California has a state law, and New York has been working to pass one for 30 years.

Florida is next after Ohio with nine local gay and lesbian civil rights measures, Illinois with eight, then Michigan and Colorado with seven. Pennsylvania has six.

Ohio’s local protections range from a unique 1996 Cleveland ordinance making job discrimination a criminal--not civil--offense, to a 1997 opinion by the Westlake law director that their existing fair housing code covers gays and lesbians.

The combined population of the eleven Ohio cities with ordinances is 1,791,352. That’s 15.7 percent, just shy of a sixth of the state’s 2000 population of 11,353,140.

The first Ohio city to include gays and lesbians in its civil rights ordinance was Yellow Springs in 1979. This was followed by Oberlin, Columbus, Cleveland, Youngstown, Cleveland Heights, North Olmsted, Lakewood and Westlake.

The most recent ordinances are in Athens, which passed a measure in 1998 to replace one repealed by voters in 1989, and Toledo, whose ordinance is one of the few in the nation to include gender identity.

Two other Ohio cities have passed, then repealed human rights ordinances. Wooster passed a measure in 1990 that was repealed by voters the same year. A 1992 Cincinnati measure was voided when voters passed Issue 3 the following year. This amendment, now Article 12 of the city charter, prohibits the city from enacting any measure protecting gays and lesbians.

The Cincinnati human rights ordinance was repealed by the city council in 1995. In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand a Sixth Circuit appeals court opinion upholding Issue 3.


Jury acquits Spingola of assault in
Pride Day incident

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus—A Newark, Ohio street preacher has been cleared of charges in a rainbow flag burning incident at the Columbus Pride parade last June. But he is serving a sentence for another Pride Day incident two years earlier.

A jury acquitted Charles Spingola of assault and aggravated menacing on November 30. He was accused of shaking a fuel-soaked flag at Andrea Critchet, head of parade security, splashing her with flammable liquid.

Critchet said that Spingola had told her she was going to "burn in hell" as he held the flag and a lighter.

Prosecutors produced no witnesses to verify Critchet’s version of events, leaving the case a matter of her word versus that of Spingola and his followers. The jury deliberated for thirty minutes before returning their not guilty verdict.

"I think it’s unfortunate," Stonewall Columbus executive director Jeff Redfield said of the acquittal. "I don’t know a lot of people who knew the trial was going on." His organization sponsors the annual Pride Holiday parade and festival.

Two days earlier, a judge dismissed a fire code violation against Spingola for the same incident.

Franklin County Environmental Judge Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. ruled Nov. 28 that a Columbus fire code provision against open burning did not apply to this case, since courts have repeatedly found that flag-burning is a form of protected speech.

Spingola had been charged with open burning for pouring lamp oil on the flag and lighting it in the middle of a crowded sidewalk during the parade. Thomas R. Meyer, one of Spingola’s followers, was also charged.

Pfeiffer dismissed the fire code charge against both as violating their First Amendment rights.

City prosecutor Steve McIntosh said that Pfeiffer’s ruling will be appealed.

"It was frustrating," said Scott Varner, a spokesman for city attorney Janet E. Jackson. "We’ll definitely continue to pursue it. The appeal’s already in motion."

Redfield was upset by the ruling as well.

"It’s not the flag burning’s constitutionality that should be questioned," he said, "it’s the fact that he didn’t get the proper permits, that he’s saying that burning something in the middle of a crowd, putting people at risk, is okay."

With the dismissal of the open burning charge and subsequent verdict in the assault case, Spingola is now serving a sentence in Franklin County jail for his involvement in a 1999 Pride Holiday incident. That year, Spingola climbed a flagpole in front of the Statehouse and tore down a rainbow flag belonging to Stonewall Columbus, handing it to his supporters, who then burned it.

Spingola was convicted of criminal damaging, fined $100 and sentenced to five days in jail.

According to Varner, the sentence was scheduled to begin December 3, after the resolution of the other two cases.

"As far as I know, that did happen today," Varner said.

Spingola, who is often seen on college campuses speaking through a bullhorn against homosexuality and abortion, also faces charges for a September 6 incident at the University of Wisconsin. He and two of his associates were arrested after allegedly telling a gay man that his time had come to go to hell, and then choking him.

"This man is a menace to society, and he’s going to keep doing things until someone gets violently hurt," Redfield fumed. "They’ve got to do something about him."


 

Seventh annual auction raises
$10,000 for AVOC

by Doreen Cudnik

Cincinnati—Celebrities representing film, television, music, comedy, sports and politics lent their names to raise money for the AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati.

AVOC is the tri-state area’s largest AIDS service organization, providing direct services to thousands of people in the region.

Their seventh annual Celebrity T-shirt and Memorabilia Auction was held on Saturday, December 1. It was the first time the event has been held on World AIDS Day. Some of the money raised will go to the American Foundation for AIDS Research, but the bulk of the approximately $10,000 raised will go directly to AVOC’s clients via the organization’s programs and services.

AVOC executive director Victoria Brooks said she had hoped the organization might be able to "kick it up a notch" by bringing in a celebrity guest. But given the unsteady economy combined with the general tenor of the times, Brooks said they’ll "be pleased with the $10,000 if we reach that goal again."

The celebrity guest at the event was Jennifer Holliday, a two-time Grammy Award winner and a familiar face at LGBT Pride events around the country. She mingled with guests at the patron preview party, and performed later in the evening.

Local television personality Regina Carswell of WXIX-TV served as emcee at the party. Carswell said she was pleased to be asked to do the event, given that she has been a strong supporter of AVOC since moving to Cincinnati six years ago.

"What I like about the organization is that most of the funds raised go directly to people who are suffering with AIDS right here in the tri-state area," Carswell said. "They go for tangible needs, things like housing and rent, medical needs, transportation, food. That’s very important, you know that your money is going to impact your neighbors, maybe someone who lives across the street from you, someone who goes to your church, someone you work with."

Carswell added that she was impressed with AVOC’s ongoing efforts to educate the community about the need to be tested for HIV, and the abundance of available treatments that are helping people with AIDS live longer, healthier lives.

"Thanks to AVOC, more people are being educated that you have to get tested," she said. "It is still very taboo in the African-American community, but the fact is that more heterosexuals are getting diagnosed with HIV. More black women are living with HIV and sometimes they don’t even know it."

Roger Lambert and Tyrone King attended the event hoping to go home with a one-of-a-kind collectible.

Lambert said he had his eye on a painting by artist Frederic Bonin-Pissarro--who also designed this year’s T-shirt--and "a couple of minor items," like the $465 minimum-bid baseball bat autographed by Reds star Ken Griffey, Jr. and a football helmet signed by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana.

One of the more unique items in the silent auction included a framed photograph of President George Bush and former Vice President Al Gore accompanied by two baseballs signed by each. Another was an autographed photograph of actor and National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston--proof that even conservative celebrities support the efforts of organizations like AVOC.

Some of the higher priced items, sold during the live auction portion of the evening by professional auctioneer Doug Sorrell, included T-shirts signed by Jay Leno, Meryl Streep, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks and many others.

AVOC organizers ran into a snag that could have threatened the event. Because of the anthrax scare, some celebrities’ staff members were not going to put anyone at risk by opening packages from an unknown source.

"Many of them were simply not opening anything that was a package," Brooks said. "When we would call and describe the label, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s in our do-not-open-possible-anthrax pile.’ It was quite a feat to try to get some of our T-shirts back."

But with the exception of past auction supporters Madonna and Elizabeth Taylor, T-shirts came in from the majority of the celebrities contacted, helping AVOC with their continuing work.


Transgender hate crime victims
remembered at vigil

by Kaizaad Kotwal

Columbus--Thirty people gathered at Columbus City Hall to commemorate the third annual National Day of Remembrance for Transgender People.

The November 30 event, held under a cold and rainy sky, included a candlelight vigil and a "Gender Speak Out," an opportunity for those present to share reflections on gender identity.

The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO), Stonewall Columbus, and GLBT Student Services at Ohio State University sponsored the event.

Brett Beemyn, coordinator of OSU GLBT student services, said that the crowd gathered "to invoke the names of those killed." He asked for the crowd, after he read the name of each victim, to respond with a loud "present." He spoke of the brutal ways in which each victim was killed or attacked including assault with beer bottles, being raped by a broom handle, being set on fire and being stabbed.

"We need to remember the dead and celebrate the living," Beemyn said.

Mary Ann Horton, a transgender activist in Columbus, was the keynote speaker at the event. She argued that violence against "transgender people has to be fought" with greater deliberation and more focused energies.

Horton argued that many transgender people who are killed are further dehumanized when their attackers try to get off using the "homosexual panic" defense. That defense argues that, since the perpetrator didn’t know that the transgender person was not a "real woman" or a "real man," their brutal and violent response was justified.

"We have a long way to go," Horton said, "and we have to do something because so many of us are dying, so many of us are scared to go out on the streets."

Horton also asked that the gay and lesbian community look within itself to identify its own trans-phobia.

"Violence against women, against gay people, against transgender people is all violence about gender," she noted, "so let’s try to do something about it so that next year we don’t lose so many people."

Several others present spoke out about their own experiences with gender including Rachel Andrews, who addressed the subtle ways in which trans-phobia exists. Andrews recounted the October case of a Coshocton judge who thought that suitable punishment for a group of men convicted of harassing women was to spend an hour walking through town in women’s clothing.

November 28 is set aside to memorialize transgender people who have been killed because of their identities. The word transgender includes people who are transsexual, cross-dressers, or otherwise gender-variant.

The date was chosen to remember these lives in honor of Rita Hester, who was stabbed to death in her apartment in 1999. Like many anti-transgender murders, hers remains unsolved. Her death led to the creation of the web site "Remembering Our Dead" (http://gender.org/remember) and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999.

Over the last decade, an average of one person a month has been reported in the press to be murdered because of her or his gender identity or expression. This year has been no exception, with nine deaths documented from January to September.


 

‘Ohio Cares’ is theme of
Health Department AIDS confab

by Kaizaad Kotwal

Columbus--Hundreds of people with AIDS, caregivers and professionals gathered here for a two-day conference on living with the disease, held shortly after World AIDS Day.

The Ohio Department of Health HIV and STD Prevention Program hosted the sixth annual World AIDS Day Conference in Columbus from December 2 and 3 at the Fawcett Center on the campus of Ohio State University.

This year’s presentations, workshops and sessions were centered around the theme "AIDS: Ohio Cares--Do You?"

The conference opened with a plenary session on "New Challenges and New Hopes of HIV Treatment" presented by Dr. Michael Para of the OSU AIDS Clinical Trials Unit.

A series of eight workshops were offered on both days, each workshop being conducted at least twice. The smaller sessions allowed participants to attend workshops more directly related to their area of expertise and specialty. The subjects of these sessions varied from HIV Prevention and IDUs (intravenous drug users) to Men’s Journeys as Caregivers. Using hip-hop music as a teaching method, Torman Jahi led participants through a workshop on HIV/STD prevention amongst youth.

While the main focus of the conference was on HIV issues in the general population, minority issues also played a very prevalent part in the programming and execution of all the sessions.

The closing plenary session of the conference, following the second day’s lunch, was titled "Dancing With Dashkaya: Preventing and Treating HIV/AIDS With Ceremony and Tradition." Delivered by Dr. Terry Tafoya, the presentation included slides and song and storytelling. Tafoya used Native American myths and stories to reveal multiple possibilities of dealing with disease prevention and with caring for those with health problems.

Tafoya ended his session and the conference by saying, "The linguistic roots of the word ‘heal’ lies in the word ‘whole’ which in turn comes from the word ‘holy.’ The act of healing is a sacred act."

In praising the efforts that all the conference participants make in their daily lives, Tafoya said, "You are doing sacred work."

The Seventh Annual World AIDS Day Conference has been set for December 2-3 next year, and will also be held at the Fawcett Center.


News Briefs

Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.

AIDS Taskforce officials named to mayor-elect’s team

Cleveland—Mayor-elect Jane Campbell put two prominent officials of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland on her transition team November 20.

Executive director Earl Pike is serving on Campbell’s health and aging committee, while board of trustees vice president David Posteraro is now a member of her legal committee.

Pike has been the executive director for two years. He previously served as the director of a crisis center in Minneapolis and has been in the AIDS service field for 16 years. Posteraro, an attorney, has been on the board for over five years. He also co-chairs the city’s chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, and has recently been named to the national board of that group.

"Jane Campbell is demonstrating even before taking office her openness to the gay community," Pike said. "I am so struck that, from the opening of the gate, she’s appointing out members of the GLBT community in leadership positions."

Campbell bested Raymond Pierce for the office; much of Pierce’s rhetoric to the gay community referred to the effects of AIDS in the gay and black communities.

"The majority of the population of Cleveland is African American, and AIDS is the leading cause of death in African American males between 25 and 44 years of age," Pike concluded. "It’s having a huge effect on Cleveland, and she is recognizing that."

 

Brothers sentenced in arsons

Sacramento, Calif.—Two white supremacist brothers, held in the murder of a gay couple, were sentenced to long federal prison terms November 30 and ordered to pay $1 million for setting fires at three synagogues and an abortion clinic in 1999.

Benjamin Matthew Williams received a mandatory sentence of 30 years in prison under the guilty plea he entered in September. His younger brother, James Tyler Williams, was sentenced to 21 years, 3 months--the maximum. The elder Williams received a longer sentence because he planned the arsons.

The brothers also face trial in April on state murder charges in the 1999 slaying of the Shasta County gay couple. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the hate crime shootings of Winfield Mowder and Gary Matson.

Since his arrest, Benjamin Matthew Williams has repeatedly professed anti-Semitic, anti-gay and white supremacist views, and has said his defense in the upcoming murder case will be based on his belief that the Bible condemns homosexuality.

 

Part of Baptist Homes case appealed

Louisville, Ky.—The American Civil Liberties Union on November 27 asked a federal appeals court to decide whether Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, through its policy against hiring gays and lesbians, promotes a religious purpose with the help of state money.

A trial judge in July dismissed that part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Alicia Pedreira, who was fired by the church-affiliated agency in 1998 because she is a lesbian.

Baptist Homes has a state contract to care for abused and neglected youth from across Kentucky. Pedreira was a therapist and supervisor at a suburban Louisville home for emotionally disturbed children.

The ACLU’s appeal to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was unusual because U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson III dismissed only part of the lawsuit. Simpson left intact a question of whether government money should go to religious institutions to provide social services. Now, the trial of that issue will be put on hold pending the outcome of the appeal, attorneys said.

Matt Coles, director of the ACLU Gay and Lesbian Rights Project in New York, said such an appeal is usually undertaken when a judge’s preliminary ruling has done away with a major part of a case.

 

Two girls are class sweethearts

Dover, N.H.—Two girls will have their photo featured as "class sweethearts" in their high school yearbook after a dispute over whether same-sex couples were eligible for the honor.

Nicole Salisbury and Ashley Lagasse, both 17, overwhelmingly led other couples when the Dover High School yearbook staff conducted its annual "senior superlatives" survey in November.

But when Principal Robert Pedersen heard the results, he declared the vote invalid because the ballot asked students to choose one male and one female.

The yearbook staff then decided to eliminate the category rather than award the title to the second-place finishers. But as students began collecting signatures for a petition protesting the decision, Superintendent Armand LaSelva stepped in.

On December 4, LaSelva said the original results will stand. He noted that the girls received more than 77 percent of the vote.

Salisbury and Lagasse have been a couple for just over two years. Both said their classmates have been very supportive, telling them to "just keep fighting."

 

High court to hear TG marriage case

Topeka, Kan.—An attorney for a transsexual woman has asked the Kansas Supreme Court to declare his client’s marriage legal December 4, a ruling that would give the woman a claim to the $2.5 million estate of her late husband.

J’Noel Gardiner’s attorney, Sanford Krigel, warned the court that holding his client’s marriage to Marshall Gardiner invalid would leave her the right to marry only women.

"You’re creating a situation where you would essentially be approving what would appear to be a homosexual marriage," Krigel said. "There’s all kind of potential pitfalls."

The court is reviewing a dispute over the estate of Gardiner, a stockbroker and former newspaper reporter who died in 1999 without a will. The outcome will determine whether his widow and his son, Joe Gardiner, will split the estate or whetherthe son will claim it all.

In May, the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled in J’Noel Gardiner’s favor, saying her gender at the time of marriage was the crucial issue. Transgender advocacy groups praised the decision as a landmark.

Joe Gardiner appealed the case to the Kansas Supreme Court, which could rule as early as January 25.

 

‘Drug holidays’ may work

Washington, D.C.—It may be possible for AIDS patients on combination drug therapy to take weeklong medication vacations and still control HIV, while cutting costs by half and reducing serious side effects, a study suggests.

Federal researchers, whose findings appeared December 4 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said a small group of patients in their study was able to successfully follow a drug regimen of one week on and one week off the antiretroviral medications.

"If further studies bear out what we’ve seen so far, it will mean that you can reduce the cost of therapy by 50 percent," said Dr. Mark Dybul, a clinical researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is one of the National Institutes of Health.

He said the study also suggests the on-again, off-again approach may lower the toxicity of the drugs enough to give "a dramatic improvement in a patient’s quality of life."

Dr. Jeffrey Laurence of the American Foundation for AIDS Research said the study is "good news" for the AIDS community, but cautioned that the cycling therapy has only been used experimentally in a small group of select patients. He said it should not be followed by the 1 million Americans infected with HIV except under the direction of a doctor in a controlled trial.

Dybul agreed, noting that it will take a much larger clinical trial to prove that the intermittent therapy is appropriate and safe for all HIV patients.

 

Fake money could become real

Flint, Mich.—Fake money put into Salvation Army kettles might translate into real money, according to the anti-gay American Family Association’s Michigan chapter.

After hearing that the Flint chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays was encouraging people to drop fake five-dollar bills protesting the Salvation Army’s homophobic policies into the group’s holiday donation buckets, AFA Michigan president Gary Glenn said that a number of churches and businesses would give the Salvation Army real money in exchange for the protest currency.

The Salvation Army has come under fire from the gay community twice this year. First, documents were leaked connecting the group’s support of Pres. Bush’s "faith-based" initiative with White House reassurance that they would still be immune from anti-discrimination laws inclusive of sexual orientation. Last month, the western conference of the group offered health benefits to domestic partners of its employees, until the national organization stepped in and reversed the decision.

The P-FLAG fake fives are online at www.pflag.org/advocacy/action.html, and can be printed directly off the web site. Several other groups, including Anti-Racism Action of Cleveland, are also promoting the campaign.

 

Detroit moves toward partner benefit

Detroit—City Council passed the first of four amendments to the city code necessary to establish a domestic partner registry on November 30.

The passed amendment extends benefits to the domestic partners of non-union city employees. Union employees will receive similar benefits if their contract negotiations call for them.

Detroit formed committees to examine the issue in 1996, which suggested the expansion of benefits. Council passed a resolution supporting the recommendations, but the November 30 vote was the first formal action taken to accomplishing that goal.

The amendments were part of a package put forth by the powerful president pro tem of council Maryann Mahaffey, and the first part passed 7-2.

Council is expected to take up the remaining provisions when they return in January from winter break.

 

AIDS denialists arrested

San Francisco—Police arrested two men Nov. 28 for allegedly stalking and threatening newspaper reporters and Health Department workers.

Michael Petrelis, 42, and David Pasquarelli, 34, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, stalking, terrorist threats and annoying electronic communications, according to San Francisco police. Newspaper employees said the men made dozens of obscene and threatening phone calls earlier this month to their homes and at work. A bomb threat also was made to the San Francisco Chronicle’s offices.

Judge James Robertson II issued a temporary restraining order against Pasquarelli and Petrelis three weeks ago after they allegedly made threatening phone calls to editors and reporters at the Chronicle.

In addition to the other charges, police said Pasquarelli was charged with violating the restraining order.

Lawyers for the Chronicle said the activists apparently were angry about two October stories in the newspaper. One was about a university study showing an increase in unsafe sex among gay men in San Francisco. The other focused on city health department statistics showing syphilis increasing among the city’s gay and bisexual men.

Police say the men also threatened reporters at the Bay Area Reporter gay newspaper and workers at the health department.

Pasquarelli and Petrelis are members of the renegade ACT UP San Francisco, which repeatedly has clashed with mainstream AIDS organizations over its beliefs that HIV does not cause AIDS, safe sex campaigns stigmatize gay men, and prevention workers invent unsafe sex statistics to protect their jobs.

 


Come to my window

Etheridge’s primarily lesbian crowd responds to her
every move with screams, whistles and sighs

Melissa Etheridge
Allen Theater, Cleveland
November 29

Reviewed by Janet Macoska

Melissa Etheridge’s "Live and Alone" tour finally reached Cleveland, playing a not-quite-sold-out performance at the Allen Theater last Thursday. A black and white video leading up to her entrance onstage gave everyone a sneak peek of Melissa’s pre-show dressing room rituals, including closeup action of belts being buckled and zippers being zipped. This built the audience’s tension and anticipation, which erupted in a roar and standing ovation the moment the stage lights dramatically presented our Ms. Etheridge, standing alone on a platform, legs spread, arms and guitar raised, in charismatic rock star fashion.

The solo Etheridge performed very, very "live" but definitely not alone, as the enthusiastic and primarily lesbian crowd lustily sang every lyric along with her, and responded to her every move with screams, whistles, and sighs.

This interactive concept inspired Etheridge to acknowledge very early on that the set list was up for grabs, and she responded to audience requests as long as they brought their own lyric sheets (which they did, printed out by hand on poster board). In addition to singing the expected hits, such as "Come To My Window", "I Want To Come Over", "I’m the Only One", and "Bring Me Some Water", she delighted the long-term fans with some more obscure early tunes like "Cherry Avenue." The set ranged over her entire career, and surprisingly featured very little material from her current album, Skin.

Despite the absence of a full band, Etheridge had no problem filling the stage and commanding the audience’s attention with her passion, presence, and talent. Her songs became even more personal in this stripped-down setting. Among the most powerful moments in the show was her presentation of "Scarecrow," the song about the murder of Matthew Shepard.

As a B&W video ran behind her, Etheridge performed on her knees for most of the song, reaching deep within to tell the story, emotionally and emphatically connecting with every soul present as she proclaimed, "I will forgive, but I will not forget."

During the two-hour plus concert, Etheridge moved effortlessly from acoustic guitar to electric guitar to grand piano. A most memorable and lovely moment was her poignant version, with piano accompaniment, of Joan Armatrading’s "The Weakness in Me." During "Occasionally," Etheridge beat out a rhythm on the back of her Ovation guitar as her sole instrumental backing.

If she missed the sound and security of a full band, it didn’t show. Clearly enjoying the evening, her performance elevated by the energy and enthusiasm of her Cleveland fans, Melissa Etheridge held the spotlight, delivered the goods, and left everyone wanting more, encore after encore.

One troubling item: Melissa Etheridge joins an ever-growing list of lesbian and gay notables shunning the gay press. The Gay Peoples Chronicle asked Etheridge’s publicists for the opportunity to interview her for pre-show publicity, as well as review tickets and a photo credential to cover the Allen Theatre show. All requests were denied. An Island Records spokesperson told the Chronicle that only daily newspapers were being given access to photograph the concert and review the show.

 

 

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