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February 23, 2001


Courts refuse couple the same last name

Magistrate cited God’s law in his ruling

Hamilton, Ohio—An appeals court has upheld a decision to deny a name change to a lesbian couple, based on the original magistrate’s religious beliefs.

A three-judge panel of the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 on February 12 to uphold the earlier decision. The case is likely to be decided by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Belinda Lou Priddy, 30, and Jennifer Lane Bicknell, 32, of Hamilton, north of Cincinnati, first had their cases heard by probate court magistrate Charles L. Pater on February 28, 2000. The women wanted to legally change both of their last names to Rylen, a name made from letters of their present last names.

Pater cited "natural law" and "divine edict" in refusing the name change. "Natural law" is a philosophy that all law is derived from an innate moral sense and traditional moral principles, such as the Ten Commandments and the "self-evident truths" of the Declaration of Independence.

"Divine edict" has no legal definition, it means God’s law.

"Courts don’t cite that as the basis of decisions," said the women’s attorney, Scott Knox of Cincinnati. "Judges use statutes and case law. He used neither."

According to their applications, Priddy and Bicknell wanted to add to the level of commitment they have for each other, and to share a common last name with the child that Bicknell was pregnant with at the time.

The pregnancy, by artificial insemination done at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, was later miscarried.

Priddy intends to become pregnant at a future time.

The couple testified that they had been together nine years, had exchanged rings and vows, and considered their relationship to be the same as marital partners.

Ohio law requires that applicants for name change prove three things: residency in the county for one year prior to the filing; notices of the hearing published 30 days prior to it; and reasonable and proper cause for the change of name.

Common law allows a person to change their name at will by using the new name over a period of time. However, such changes may or may not be recognized by a court.

Magistrate Pater, in his findings, conceded that "case law on name changes for adults is scant nationally, and virtually non-existent in Ohio."

Pater acknowledged that the women met the residency and the notification requirements, then he relied on an article written by Jane M. Draper titled, "Circumstances Justifying Grant or Denial of Petition to Change Adult’s Name."

In that article, Draper cites cases where name changes have been denied because "granting the name change would damage the public good."

‘Contrary to natural law’

Pater compared this case to a 1975 case where a divorced woman living with a man married to another woman was denied a change of her last name to his because doing so would "foster a misrepresentation, or where the granting of it would connote judicial condonation of adultery."

Pater concluded that when granting an adult name change, the court "puts its stamp of approval on the reason for the change of name."

He added that when considering what a proper reason for a name change could be, one needs to go back to common law, which he holds must be "consistent with natural law."

He wrote in his decision, "Our reason [for name change], however, being imperfect, in order to be dependable, must be checked by its consistency with divine edict, whenever such exists."

"It is contrary to natural law for two homosexuals to live as marital partners or sexual mates and to bring children into the world as their children," Pater continued.

"The applicants are asking this court to grant implicit recognition and acceptance of the quasi-marital relationship between them while the Ohio legislature has declared public policy proscribing such recognition," Pater wrote. "The court cannot find that the desired result constitutes reasonable and proper cause for the name changes."

"This court cannot prevent [the applicants] from using the same last name. It cannot prevent them from viewing each other as marital partners. It cannot prevent them from holding themselves out to the public as marital partners. It cannot prevent them from bringing children into the world through artificial insemination and teaching those children that they have co-mothers and no father. But neither is this court constrained to put its stamp of approval on such actions."

Probate court hears case

Following this decision, the women, who had no attorney at that point, went to Stonewall Cincinnati executive director Doreen Cudnik for guidance.

Cudnik referred them to attorney Knox, who is openly gay, and wrote a letter to the court on their behalf.

"[Stonewall Cincinnati] felt obligated to respond to what we believe is an unjust denial based solely on Mr. Pater’s distaste for gay and lesbian people and our families," Cudnik wrote.

Cudnik called Pater’s ruling "homophobic" and added, "Magistrate Pater’s contempt for gay and lesbain families is clearly evident . . ." and that his "comments that ‘such associations are violative of the law of nature’ added insult to injury."

Knox’s involvement and Cudnik’s letter led to a hearing on the findings of the magistrate by Butler County Probate Judge Randy Rogers.

At that May 16, 2000 hearing, the transcript of the magistrate’s proceedings was read and the applicants submitted additional evidence in the form of testimony given by clinical social worker Patricia Williams, who testified that a common surname helps with the family identity and can make social situations less difficult for children.

No sanction for cohabitation

But Rogers agreed with Pater and took his decision farther.

He cited a 1991 law ending common law marriages as evidence that Ohio public policy "promotes legal marriages and withholds official sanction from non-marital cohabitation."

Rogers agreed that name changes receive an "aura of propriety and official sanction."

 "It is not ‘reasonable and proper’ for a court to change the last name of a woman living with a woman to whom she cannot legally marry, to the same last name as the other woman," Rogers wrote. "Cohabitation is cohabitation, whether it involves a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man."

Upheld by appeals court

The case was appealed to the 12th District Court of Appeals and heard by a three-judge panel. They ruled, in a two to one decision February 12, to uphold the decision of the probate court.

The 12th District court, in its February 12 decision, said the women’s civil rights were not violated, and ruled that granting the name change would contravene Ohio’s statutes favoring marriage and discouraging cohabitation.

The anti-gay American Family Association, which has existed in Ohio since 1996 but has been fairly quiet until now, submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of Rogers’ decision. They see this case as an organizing point.

"Though recently courts may be less inclined to speak of the sanctity of marriage," said AFA executive director Barry Sheets, "it remains a basic social institution of the highest type and importance, in which society at large has a vital interest."

Attorney Knox says this case will be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

He says the lower courts are wrong in their interpretation of Ohio law to be officially against cohabitation.

Knox contends that the trial judge erred in prejudice against the women instead of applying the proper legal standard to the name changes and argues that there is no state law prohibiting unmarried people who live together from sharing the same last name. |


Activist severely beaten in anti-gay attack

by Eric Resnick
and Anthony Glassman

Toledo—Allen Patrick Shepherd, a Cleveland area activist, is recuperating from injuries suffered in an anti-gay attack in Toledo on February 10.

According to Shepherd, who is known in the Cleveland gay and lesbian community as Patrick, he was at the Distillery bar with friends from college on Friday, February 9. During the evening, he spoke with a young woman at the bar who expressed a romantic interest in him. Shepherd declined, explaining that he is gay.

At some point later that evening, Shepard said,  she went back to a group of her friends and revealed to them what she had learned.

At about 1:30 am, Shepherd went out to the patio for some air. Two men, possibly friends of the woman, came out to the patio.

"You’re a fucking faggot, you wanna suck my dick?" one of the men yelled, Shepard recalls. Then one of the men began punching Shepard in the head, knocking him down.

Shepherd started walking away.

"I wanted to get in my car and go back to Cleveland," Shepard said.

The car was parked at a friend’s house several miles away.

Shepard cannot recall what happened afterward.

At 2:51 am, Maumee and Toledo police and paramedics picked up Shepherd in front of the Maumee Recreation Center, a mile and a half from the bar.

Shepherd is suffering from a concussion, broken nose, lacerations above the eyes and ears, and has double vision. Police have filed the attack as a simple assault, since there is no Ohio state hate crime law currently on the books.

Patrick Shepherd is an active member of Cleveland’s gay community. He is employed as the director of development for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, is a member of the board of trustees of the National Stonewall Democrats and chairs the Cleveland chapter of the organization. Shepherd is also on the board of trustees of the Lesbian and Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland. |

Dinner and show raise

by Eric Resnick

Canton--Two events raised nearly $3,000 for agencies serving people with AIDS in Stark, Carroll, Tuscarawas, and Wayne counties on Friday, February 16.

Four hundred people raised $2,000 for the Tri-County AIDS Coalition at a spaghetti dinner held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Following the dinner, 250 attended a benefit organized by Wayne Schroth of Carrollton and Ray Hunt of Canton, at the 540 Club that raised $800 for Bishop’s Plea of Wayne County.

The Tri-County AIDS Coalition raises money and distributes it to other organizations that serve people with AIDS in the form of mini-grants. Since it was formed in 1993, over $40,000 has been distributed.

According to board president Ken Herdt of Canton, the money raised at the dinner will help increase the contributions to case management and 5-CHAPS, Five-County Hygiene and Pantry Services, which distributes items like soap that are not covered by food stamps.

"We are very thankful to the local restaurants that donated to this," said Herdt. "This money is going to help quite a few people in this area."

Bishop’s Plea provides direct assistance to people with HIV and AIDS in the Wayne County area. According to director Peggy Bishop, approximately 70 percent of those served are gay.

"Bishop’s Plea greatly appreciates the support from the gay community," said Bishop.

There were 12 performers at the benefit, including "Sassy" from West Virginia, "Miss Beverly" of Canton, Terry Bates of Canton and Melissa Franjesh-Foor of Canal Fulton.          |

Court strikes down school anti-harassment policy

Rule limited Christian students’ right to ‘witness’ to gays and lesbians

by Anthony Glassman

State College, Pa.—A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling February 14 in Pennsylvania could result in the demise of hundreds of school districts’ anti-harassment policies.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State College Area School District’s policy against harassment violated students’ freedom of speech. The ruling hinged on the policy’s gay and lesbian provisions.

David Warren Saxe, a member of the State Board of Education and an assistant professor at Penn State, brought the suit against the district’s board in 1999.

Saxe, represented by the legal arm of the anti-gay American Family Association, sued on behalf of two children of whom he is the legal guardian. The children have been raised in a Christian sect that believes homosexuality is wrong and that they have a responsibility to share their beliefs with gays and lesbians.

The children’s "witnessing" was considered harassment by the school board.

Saxe recommended that the school board rethink the policy, claiming that it violated constitutional freedoms. The school board, however, stood behind its policy.

"I’m saddened that the very people we trust with the education of our children, including my own four, failed to serve this community," Saxe told the Centre Daily Times.

"Two years ago, this was brought up by the school board, and they voted with unanimity to do this."

The district’s solicitor, David B. Consiglio, said that he needed to closely examine the court’s ruling before recommending a course of action.

"I need to look at the decision a little more closely and make a determination as to whether or not there are any litigation options," he said. "Frankly, I’m just not sure at this point what all of our options are."

The ruling is expected to have wide-ranging effects on other districts’ policies, although part of the ruling specifies that one of the problems with the policy was its vagueness.

"The policy . . . is much broader, reaching, at the extreme, a catch-all category of ‘other personal characteristics’ which, the policy states, includes things like ‘clothing,’ ‘appearance,’ ‘hobbies and values,’ and ‘social skills’," the ruling reads.

The ruling goes on to state, "That speech about ‘values’ may offend is not cause for its prohibition, but rather the reason for its protection . . . No court or legislature has ever suggested that unwelcome speech directed at another’s ‘values’ may be prohibited under the rubric of anti-discrimination."

"Freedom to speak does not equal the freedom to harass, which is why anti-harassment policies remain a necessary and appropriate tool to ensure equal educational access for all," the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network said in a release after the ruling. "It appears that nothing in this case undermines or contradicts that assertion."

"As the court said in its ruling, ‘preventing discrimination in the workplace and in the schools is not only a legitimate, but a compelling, government interest.’"

The court’s ruling also made note that a number of the categories in the anti-harassment policy were not protected by federal law, including sexual orientation.

"Assuming for present purposes that the federal anti-discrimination laws are constitutional in all of their applications to pure speech, we note that the policy’s reach is considerably broader," the ruling said.                |

Dog-maul victim’s partner may test spouse rights law

California statute says only married spouses can sue for wrongful death

by Justine Pritchard
Associated Press

San Francisco, Calif.—The partner of Diane Whipple, the woman killed last month in a fatal dog mauling, wants to sue the dog’s owners for wrongful death but can’t collect damages under California law.

Still, Sharon Smith plans to file suit to challenge state law that gives domestic partners different protections than married couples.

"We will file a civil lawsuit hoping to change the laws," said Smith’s lawyer, Michael Cardoza. He said Smith will file suit within two weeks but wouldn’t discuss how much money in damages she would seek.

State law says only legal heirs, such as spouses, children and parents, can pursue wrongful death lawsuits.

"As gay and lesbian couples, we can’t get married. We can’t file suit," Smith, 35, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We’re really caught in a Catch-22."

Smith said she was effectively married to Whipple for several years, though the two had not registered as domestic partners with San Francisco or the state.

Smith and Whipple lived together in the San Francisco apartment to which Whipple was returning on Jan. 26 when two mastiff-Canary Island dogs bolted from a nearby apartment and attacked her. Bane, a 120-pound dog, killed Whipple and was destroyed that evening.

Smith plans to sue the dogs’ owners, attorneys Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, Cardoza said. San Francisco authorities are pondering criminal charges against the couple.

Noel said he was not worried about a potential suit from Smith and declined to discuss the possibility of a civil settlement.

"My understanding is that Ms. Smith wouldn’t have standing under the wrongful death statute because she doesn’t qualify," Noel said in a telephone interview February 12.

Cardoza said he knows courts have struck down prior suits by domestic partners, but believes this case is compelling enough that a judge might strike a new precedent.

Gay and lesbian groups say such a change is overdue.

"[This case] provides an example of how vulnerable lesbian and gay relationships are, irrespective of how long-term or committed they are," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

If a wrongful death suit fails, Smith also could seek damages if she proves she was the executor of Whipple’s estate. Cardoza said Smith is looking for a will Whipple wrote two years ago that bequeathed most of her estate to Smith.

As an executor, Smith could sue for Whipple’s lost earnings, the value of their companionship, and pain and suffering Whipple sustained, Cardoza said. The families of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman successfully won punitive damages from O.J. Simpson using this "survival statute."

Smith has said she would give any damages awarded in court to a foundation she and Whipple’s family are setting up in Whipple’s name.   |

Vermont considers ‘no promo homo’ and DOMA

Montpelier, Vt.—An election-season debate about whether a "homosexual agenda" is being promoted in Vermont schools ended up in the legislature February 13.

A group of legislators led by State Rep. Nancy Sheltra said they wanted discussion of gay issues kept out of the schools and the lawmakers proposed a bill that would make it illegal to "encourage, promote or sanction homosexual or bisexual conduct" in schools.

Rep. George Schiavone, R-Shelburne, led a list of more than 80 colleagues, who proposed to further define marriage and to prohibit Vermont from recognizing same-sex marriages that might be legalized in another state.

Schiavone’s bill would add a provision to marriage statutes prohibiting a man from marrying another man or a woman from marrying another woman.

Sheltra’s bill would deal with homosexuality much more broadly by putting it off limits in nearly all circumstances in schools.

The notion that schools were helping to promote an agenda on behalf of gay and lesbian Vermonters became a prominent issue in the gubernatorial campaign last year.

 "No employee or agent of a school district shall instruct, counsel or advise a student that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is innate or unchangeable," the bill reads.

Sheltra believes that homosexuality is a choice and that it is immoral.

It’s unclear whether the proposal will get a hearing. It was referred to the Education Committee, whose chairman said he was personally reluctant to put the state in the business of saying what should or should not be in a local school’s curriculum.

The state presently has policies seeking to recognize the diversity of the state’s student population.   |

Texas panel passes hate crime bill that Bush opposed

by Natalie Gott

Associated Press

Austin, Texas--One day, Stella Byrd hopes to sit her great-grandchild on her lap and tell the child that her grandfather’s death was not in vain.

If Texas lawmakers pass the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Act, named in remembrance of Stella Byrd’s son, she says she will be able to do that. The House Judicial Affairs Committee approved the bill on a 7-2 vote February 19 after hearing from Stella Byrd and others.

"I’ll have something good to explain with what happened with this bill and maybe that will help her grow stronger," Stella Byrd told the panel.

The bill is similar to one that died last year after then-Gov. George W. Bush made it clear that he wouldn’t sign a hate crime bill that included sexual orientation. Bush then claimed during presidential debates that the new law was unnecessary, since Texas already has a hate-crime law.

The existing law, passed in 1993, is considered too vague because it does not name any protected groups.

The new bill is meant to toughen penalties for crimes directed against minorities, gays, women and other groups. A similar bill has passed through a Senate committee. Reps. Will Hartnett of Irving and Robert Talton of Pasadena, the only Republicans on the committee, voted against the bill.

"I oppose anything that does not treat everybody equally," Talton said.

James Byrd Jr. was a black man from Jasper who was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in 1998. Three white supremacists were convicted of capital murder. Two are awaiting execution and the third is serving life in prison.

The full House approved a James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act during the 1999 legislative session, but the bill died in a Senate committee when critics said it created unnecessary distinctions for gays and lesbians.



Paris may elect world’s first gay big-city mayor

Paris—Infighting among the right-wing candidates for mayor of France’s capital and largest city might turn it over to the hands of the first socialist mayor in a century. Further, it might give the mayoralty to a gay man for the first time in history.

Bertrand Delanoë’s chances of occupying the Hotel de Ville, the Parisian mayor’s mansion, are better than ever, thanks to the conservative Rally for the Republic, the Gaullist party.

A string of corruption scandals has rocked the party, including an ongoing investigation into the handling of the city’s budget by Mayor Jean Tiberi.

Tiberi, despite the scandal, is running for re-election without the approval of his party. He’s running against the Gaullist candidate, Philippe Seguin. The two are expected to draw large numbers of votes from each other, leaving Delanoë poised to emerge as the victor.

If Delanoë wins the election, he will become the world’s first openly gay big-city mayor. The first round of voting is March 11.

New York House passes anti-bias bill

Albany, N.Y.—The New York State Assembly passed a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation on February 12.

The vote was 113 to 33 in the Democrat-controlled assembly.

The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act has been introduced every year since 1971. It has passed the House each year since 1993, when five of 51 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for it. This year, 20 out of 52 GOP members supported it, according to the gay and lesbian weekly New York Blade.

However, each year the bill has stalled in a Senate committee, which has prevented the full body from voting on it.

This time, the Senate appears a little friendlier. Thirty-two of 61 senators have said publicly that they will vote for the measure, and the committee that has the bill this year is chaired by a pro-gay Republican. The committee also has an openly gay Democrat, Tom Duane, on it. He is the bill’s prime sponsor.

First trial set in J.R. Warren killing

Fairmont, W. Va.—The first trial in the murder of a gay black man from Grant Town will be held in southern West Virginia on March 26.

David Allen Parker, 18, of Grant Town is set to stand trial in Beckley, more than 150 miles from his Marion County hometown, where the murder occurred.

His co-defendant, 18-year-old Jared Matthew Wilson of Fairview, will be tried in Wheeling on May 29, Circuit Judge David Janes ruled February 16.

The teenagers are charged with first-degree murder and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of beating Arthur "J.R." Warren to death in July.

Warren apparently angered Parker the day before the beating by telling others about a sexual relationship the two had. After drinking beer and snorting a crushed tranquilizer, investigators say Parker began to pummel Warren with his fists and stomp on him with steel-toed boots.

In his statement to investigators, Wilson claimed he participated briefly in the beating for fear Parker’s rage would turn on him.

The then-17-year-old boys later dumped Warren’s body in a gravel pullout and drove over him four times with a Camaro in a failed effort to stage a hit-and-run.

They were arrested the same day at Grant Town’s Independence Day celebration.

The trials were relocated after a judge ruled that media coverage of the killing had made it impossible to find an impartial jury in Marion County.

Oral Roberts alumni come out

Tulsa, Okla.—Oral Roberts University has never had a homecoming like this before.

Gay alumni who kept their sexuality hidden throughout their years at the small Christian college planned to stage a coming out at the school’s homecoming the weekend of February 16.

Gay alumnus Steve Wilkins of Los Angeles said the group, called ORU-out, has been extended a "cautiously cordial" invitation by the university and planned a quiet fellowship among heterosexual graduates.

"We are invited to the homecoming because they have not said ‘stay away’," Wilkins, 50, said.

It marked one of the first times an openly gay group has participated in an official function at Oral Roberts. Several of the gay alumni said beforehand that they would wear the group’s T-shirts.

The gay and lesbian alumni group was formed in November and has about 130 members.

It is not recognized by Oral Roberts University as an official school organization, university spokesman David Wagner said.

Students at the school vow off sex of any type while attending school, but the ORU-Out web site has testimonials from gay alumni describing their inner struggles while on the ORU campus

Montana keeps its voided sodomy law

Helena, Mont.—The House Judiciary Committee voted 17-3 on February 15 that a law banning gay sex should remain on the books, even though it was struck down by the state’s supreme court four years ago.

The panel voted to table a bill introduced by Rep. Tom Facey to erase the proscriptions against sexual acts between same-gender consenting adults.

In 1997, the Montana Supreme Court voted unanimously to overturn the law, which it said violated both the state and federal constitutions. According to the court, it violated Montanans’ rights to privacy and equal protection under the law.

The bill to strike the law was modified by Judiciary Chairman Jim Shockley. His amendments would have put language in the penal code saying that, while not punishable by law, homosexuality is still deviant. Those amendments led to supporters of the original bill voting against it.

According to Rep. Brad Newman, keeping part of the law on the books would discourage prison rapes, a statement that brought a strong outcry from his colleagues who supported the original bill.

It is highly unusual for a legislature to refuse to remove a law that has been ruled unconstitutional.

E-Trade founder splits with partner

San Jose, Calif.—The Levinsons were a loving couple, one the CEO and president of E-Trade, earning more than $15 million per year including bonuses and stock options, the other staying home and taking care of their two children. That was before the split.

Jennifer Levinson moved out of the couple’s home to live with Sarah Hainstock, whose child goes to day care with the Levinsons’ children. Now, Kathy Levinson is being sued by her former partner, who is asking that their three houses be sold and that she be given an equal share of the couple’s cumulative assets.

The Levinsons were at the forefront of the battle for same-sex marriage in California, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the fight against the Knight initiative, California’s defense of marriage act which passed last year.

The two, in lieu of a marriage certificate, signed contract after contract to ensure that their relationship was as legal as it could be. Kathy bore the children, Jennifer adopted them and changed her name to match theirs. Kathy went off to her job, Jennifer watched the kids.

Last summer, after 19 years together, the couple called it quits, and Jennifer alleges that Kathy is using the fact that they were not legally married to get out of paying her fair share.

The couple had, among other contracts, signed one saying that, in the event of a separation, the estate would be split based on the length of time the women had been together.

Teen beaten in hate crime

Rifle, Colo.—The February 11 beating of a slight, feminine 16-year-old boy in this quiet Colorado town is being treated as a hate crime, and is throwing light on a suspected gang of high school toughs.

Kyle Skyock was found at the side of U.S. 6 east of town. Three of his ribs were broken, he had burn marks on one of his arms, and his skull was fractured. He was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in nearby Grand Junction, where he is improving but still groggy.

Townsfolk and students at Skyock’s former high school were eyeing a group known as the ’02 Crew, a band of students in the 2002 graduating class. Skyock’s parents, and a number of the students at Rifle High School, believe that members of the ’02 Crew beat Kyle and left him at the side of the road.

Skyock had gone to Rifle High, where some of the group of students had bullied him. At the time, he was frequently rescued by his much-taller older brother Jesse, who drowned last summer.

Skyock’s parents now send him to Garden School, a private school nearby.

Rifle police deny that there is currently a gang operating in town, and as of Valentine’s Day, hadn’t been in to interview Skyock or his family. Police Chief Daryl Meisner said, however, that he asked Dr. Rob Kurtzman to examine the boy. Meisner said that the police are examining all possibilities, including a hit-and-run, but that their efforts were focused on treating the crime as an assault.

Two arrested in marriage protest

Chicago, Illinois—Two gay men were arrested during a Valentine’s Day protest in favor of gay marriage at the Cook County Marriage License Bureau.

The two men, Andy Thayer and Michael Maltenfort, both of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, were trying to chain one of the two sets of doors to the bureau shut when they were arrested. They have been charged with criminal damage to government-supported property, a felony, and disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

The men were released late the next evening.

An unidentified lesbian succeeded in chaining the other set of doors and eluding capture by Cook County sheriffs’ deputies.

According to the men, chaining the doors was a symbolic act. For denying the proper use of the government office to gay men and lesbians, they said, its use should be denied to all citizens.

Both Cook County and the city of Chicago have ordinances banning sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodations, and a government office is the ultimate public accommodation according to the two men.

During the protest, police allowed one gay male couple and one lesbian couple to enter the office to attempt to get marriage licenses, where both couples’ efforts were rebuffed.

HRC honors Stockard Channing

Los Angeles, Calif.--Actress Stockard Channing is being honored by the Human Rights Campaign for what the group calls her ardent support of the gay and lesbian community.

Channing received the group’s Humanitarian Award February 17 at the Human Rights Campaign Gala 2001 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

Channing is an advocate for such groups as Bread and Roses, which supports people with AIDS. Last year, she chaired a fundraising dinner for P-FLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Channing plays first lady Abigail Bartlett on the NBC series The West Wing.

She also starred in the Lifetime Network movie The Truth About Jane, the story of a mother who discovers her teenage daughter is gay.

Pair gets 21 years for bashing murder

Sao Paulo, Brazil—After an 11-hour trial, a judge February 14 sentenced two members of a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads to 21 years in prison for beating a gay man to death in Sao Paulo.

In a 4-3 decision, the jury found Juliano Fillipini Sabino and Jose Nilson Pereira da Silva guilty of the murder of 35-year-old Edson Neris da Silva.

Their attorney, Neide da Silva Vieira said she would appeal.

On Feb.6, 2000, Neris da Silva and his friend Dario Pereira were walking near a downtown square when 30 skinheads, armed with brass knuckles and chains, started chasing them.

Pereira managed to get away, but the gang caught up with Neris da Silva and beat and kicked him for 20 minutes, witnesses told police. Da Silva was rushed to a hospital but was dead on arrival.

A police patrol later arrested 18 people --16 men and two women--whom witness said had taken part in the beating.

Another six have also been charged with murder and will be tried at a yet-to-be-scheduled date, a court official said. The remaining ten will be tried on charges of forming a criminal association.

Sao Paulo skinheads, who flaunt swastikas and greet each other with stiff-armed fascist salutes, frequently target gays, Jews, blacks and migrants from Brazil’s impoverished northeast.  |

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





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