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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 20, 2001

 

‘Faith-based’ discrimination

House bill would exempt religious charities
from local gay equal rights laws

by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--President Bush’s "faith based" initiative considered this week by the House of Representatives contains the same sidestep around state and local civil rights laws that caused last week’s scandal with the Salvation Army.

A bill to expand federal funding of religious charities considered by the House on July 18 exempts those groups from state and local civil rights laws, especially those covering sexual orientation.

Twelve states have laws barring anti-gay discrimination, as do most of the nation’s large cities. In Ohio, those include Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Youngstown and seven smaller towns. But federal civil rights laws say nothing about it.

Last week, a deal worked out between the Salvation Army and White House senior strategist Karl Rove became controversial when the Washington Post reported that the administration had committed itself to a quid pro quo with the nation’s largest religious charity.

The White House agreed to change federal funding rules to allow religious groups to ignore state and local civil rights laws in exchange for the Salvation Army’s help passing the "faith based" bill through Congress.

The White House backpedaled and distanced itself from its commitment after the maneuver was revealed.

But Bush’s about-face was meaningless because the bill, coauthored by his administration and Wisconsin Republican F. James Sensenbrenner, makes it legal to use federal funds to dodge state and local civil rights laws.

"It is encouraging that the administration felt the need to back away from its effort to make a deal with the Salvation Army to propose a regulation to authorize this sort of anti-gay discrimination," said openly gay Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. "But the administration was able to drop that proposal at no cost to its anti-gay agenda because the legislation that the Judiciary Committee voted out does exactly the same thing."

Frank and openly lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, both Democrats, attempted unsuccessfully to amend the bill while it was in the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sensenbrenner. Frank and Baldwin are members of the committee.

Ther amendment attempted to require that recipients of federal funds adhere to state and federal non-discrimination laws in hiring and service delivery for their non-religious activities.

The Judiciary Committee defeated the Frank-Baldwin amendment July 13 along party lines, majority Republicans opposed, minority Democrats in favor.

Frank said that the amendment did not affect the exemption from civil rights laws that religious organizations already have for religious functions, as provided by the 1996 "charitable choice" law. That measure already frees government-funded charities from state and local employment non-discrimination laws for functions that pertain to "definition, development, practice, and expression of religious beliefs."

But the 1996 law specifically says that recipients of federal money cannot pre-empt state laws, as the Bush plan attempts to do.

The Bush plan also attempts to set up a voucher system to allow religious charities to get their money directly from the federal government, instead of contracting through state and local government entities, as is now done in all but rare cases. This would further shield the charities from local laws.

In committee debate with Frank, Sensenbrenner revealed that his bill would exempt religious groups from state and local laws if only a small amount of federal money was added to their state or local funding.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, made up of civil rights groups including the gay and lesbian Human Rights Campaign, held a press conference July 17 to denounce the "faith-based" initiative.

HRC’s Winnie Stachelberg was joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and representatives from the NAACP, ACLU, American United for Separation of Church and State, and others in denouncing the bill.

LCCR director Wade Henderson said the Bush plan "threatens a cornerstone principle of our nation’s civil rights laws; the principle that federal funds generally will not go to persons who discriminate against others."

Dayton-area Rep. Tony Hall, a Democrat with a mixed record on civil rights, and slightly worse on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights, is a sponsor of the bill. He and fellow Rules Committee member Deborah Pryce, R-Columbus, were appointed to manage the floor debate on it.

Pryce was endorsed by HRC during the 2000 campaign. Her office did not respond to requests for comment, but Hall’s press secretary Deborah DeYoung objected to the portrayal of Hall as counter to civil rights.

DeYoung says Hall does not see this bill as an appropriate topic for debate of civil rights. "All he wants to do is see to it that the poor people who will benefit from being served by religious groups are served."

"His goal is not to please the civil rights establishment," said DeYoung, "and he doesn’t see this as the next frontier for civil rights debate."

DeYoung defends the "faith-based" bill saying, "It continues the tradition of having federal rules follow federal dollars."

There is no federal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

DeYoung said that if a floor amendment offered by Republican Mark Foley of Florida passed, "It would break with that tradition." The amendment, backed by moderate Republicans and Democrats, would open the bill to a requirement that charities taking federal money follow state and local civil rights laws.

Frank said that the "faith-based" initiative has a stealth purpose of getting around civil rights laws.

"There’s no question that is a main attraction for those people," said Frank referring to the conservatives pushing hard for its passage. "You need to understand that they just don’t like gay people."

Frank said this was not the first time the Bush administration has used federal laws to cut back on states’ ability to have meaningful anti-discrimination laws.

"Remember what they did attaching the Boy Scouts to the education funding bill?" asked Frank. "This is just another right-wing strategy to use the federal government to cut back on what states can do."

Frank indicated that if the bill passes without amendment, it will increase the possibility that Senate Democrats will stop it from reaching Bush’s desk.

DeYoung was a bit more willing to speculate on the bill’s future, saying, with or without amendment, "It will squeak through the House and die in the Senate."

At press time late July 18, neither the bill nor its amendments had come to the House floor for debate as scheduled, bringing doubt to its likelihood of passing.


 

Two more gay men seek seats on Toledo council

by Eric Resnick

Toledo—Residents here will soon have an opportunity to elect two more openly gay members to the city council.

Scott Robinson, 35, hopes to join openly gay Louis Escobar on council, representing District 4 which includes the very gay Old West End neighborhood.

Robinson and Escobar will be joined on the Toledo ballot by a third openly gay council candidate, Republican Dennis Lang.

Robinson, like Escobar, is a Democrat, but points out that the election is non-partisan. His opponent, eight-year incumbent Edna Brown, is also a Democrat. The top vote-getter in the November 6 election will win the seat.

Political candidacy is familiar to Robinson, who works for Wyndham Hotels as a reservation agent. He has run for office twice before, both times for a seat on the city council in the Detroit suburb of Melvindale, Michigan.

During his 1999 Melvindale campaign, an announcement of his commitment ceremony with Ronnie Sherill, his partner of 12 years, appeared in the local newspaper.

"The mayor tried to use it against me," said Robinson, "but I only lost by six votes, and I had most of the endorsements, including that of the United Auto Workers."

That year, Robinson also had the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and will be seeking it again. The fund is a Washington, D.C. group that gives money to openly gay candidates.

Robinson said his opponent has irritated organized labor with her vote to rezone an area of the city to accommodate a Wal-Mart. The discount chain is viewed as anti-labor.

But Robinson said the issue most important to the people in his district is safety. "People want safe streets and enough police protection," said Robinson, "and they want a voice on city council."

Robinson believes his race will cost $3,000, of which he has already raised $500.

While he and Sherill lived in Michigan, Robinson served as his congressional district’s Human Rights Campaign coordinator, and was a vice president of the Detroit chapter of P-FLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. He was also involved with the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit gay anti-violence group.

Since his move to Ohio a year and a half ago, Robinson has become active in the Ohio Democratic Party and served on the board of Gays and Lesbians United, a Toledo political action group.

Robinson sees his role as a gay man, if he is elected, as a watchdog over Toledo’s existing human rights ordinance, which protects people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, and public accomodations.

"I will see that it is not repealed, and that it is enforced properly," said Robinson.

Robinson hopes that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Toledo will support him based on his record of community involvement.

Robinson added that so far, his being openly gay has not been an issue in Toledo, and credits the success of Escobar for that.

There are now seven openly gay candidates seeking office in Ohio’s municipal elections.

Joining the three Toledo candidates is James Moore-McDermott, seeking a council-at-large seat in Bucyrus, and three Clevelanders, Buck Harris in Ward 17, Joe Santiago in Ward 14, and Edward Hudson-Bey in Ward 8.

The state’s only other openly gay elected official, Dayton City Commissioner Mary Wiseman, said in January that she will not seek re-election.


A sunny day in the garden raises $50,000 for center

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland—A new location and a beautiful sunny day contrived to make the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center’s twelfth annual Garden Party fundraiser one of the most successful to date on July 15.

The Sunday brunch brought over 500 people to the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle for a day of gourmet food, exotic auction items and local talent, raising a gross of roughly $50,000, according to preliminary reports. This is slightly less than last year’s record gross of $52,000. The Garden Party is the center’s largest fundraising effort of the year.

"We are very pleased and grateful for the generosity of those in attendance, and of our donors," Tim Marshall, the center’s communications director, said.

The day started at 11:30 with a benefactor reception to thank the larger donors, also giving them an opportunity to get some early bids in on items for the silent auction. Hors d'oeuvres from Marigold Catering kept the crowd energetic through a performance by the North Coast Men’s Chorus’ Coastliners.

The auctions, both live and silent, had a fabulous selection of items, continuing the Garden Party’s tradition. Everything from travel to antique jewelry and crafts, European dinners to nights at the theater were up for grabs.

Throughout the day, volunteers also sold tickets for a raffle. The two prizes were two roundtrip tickets on Southwest Airlines valued at $500 or a package of gift certificates to a variety of Cleveland restaurants from Red Lobster to Pearl of the Orient and Fat Fish Blue.

The crowd’s outpouring of support was not limited to the general public, either. Cuyahoga County Commissioners Tim McCormack and Jane Campbell were there, as well as Cleveland city council candidates Joe Santiago and Buck Harris.

The popularity of the event is not, however, dependent on the dazzling array of auction items and exotic delicacies, according to the center’s executive director Linda Malicki.

"The success of the Garden Party really illustrates how much the community believes in the center’s mission and programs," she said. "Cleveland gets the necessity and power of grassroots activism."


Stonewall Cincinnati to drop their only full-time staffer

Financial straits force group to go all-volunteer, except for part-time manager

by Eric Resnick

Cincinnati--Due to financial problems, the Stonewall Human Rights Organization of Greater Cincinnati will eliminate its executive director position August 10, leaving only a part-time office manager on its payroll.

The board of directors made the decision July 3 when its primary annual fundraiser, Stonewall Cincinnati Celebration, held June 16, fell far short of its goal.

Executive Director Doreen Cudnik was notified of their decision by board co-chairs Barb Martin and M. Freeman Durham on July 5.

The director’s salary is the largest annual expense of the organization. The annual Stonewall dinners have, in the past, been used to fund it.

This year, the organization has not raised adequate funds through its other fundraising events and memberships, either. So, according to board member Heidi Bruins, when the dinner brought in $4,600 instead of the projected $30,000, "We knew we were not going to recover financially."

Actress Sandra Bernhard was scheduled to perform at the dinner, but called from an airport to cancel the night before, due to illness.

Bernhard’s cancellation had no effect on ticket sales or attendance, according to longtime member and board advisor Tom Jones.

"We offered refunds, but no one took one," he said.

Jones and Bruins agree that had Bernhard performed, the event would have lost money, even though 600 people attended.

Jones observed three reasons why the event raised so little money, all coming from decisions he calls "philosophically correct."

Jones said the event was designed to be a celebration for the community, so the ticket prices were held low.

He added that the event was held at the Covington, Kentucky Convention Center to call attention to the anti-gay charter amendment in Cincinnati commonly known as Issue 3.

"It was a fine facility, but its contract required using its catering services, which were far more expensive than past years when we have been able to get most of the food donated."

Jones’ third observation was that they decided to hold the event as part of the pride festivities in June instead of its normal time in April. "This was a mistake, as many people were just tired."

"Getting people to pride events does not necessarily translate to activism or community support," said Jones.

There is not consensus among board members on the causes of the financial crisis, outside the failure of the dinner.

"We haven’t done well [with fundraising] as a group overall," said Bruins. "We didn’t give it the right kind of long term focus it needed."

"We all believed the dinner would save us," said Bruins, "and that it would be the infusion we needed."

Jones said grant writing was not done, but should have been. "But it was never defined as to who should have been doing it."

Board member Paul Groneck expressed frustration with the lack of support from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community for Stonewall and the other organizations in Cincinnati, including the Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center, which has become an all volunteer organization and scaled its operations down due to lack of resources and volunteers.

Co-chair Martin said there were no grants written this year and declined to give her opinion as to who in the organization ultimately had the responsibility to raise money.

"I see where that question is going," she said, "and I am not going to say."

"All non-profits struggle for money," said Martin, "and our biggest expense is the executive director. We can operate without that."

Martin said, "I want to emphasize that this is not as horrendous as it may seem."

Stonewall Cincinnati, which began 20 years ago as an all-volunteer organization, has operated without executive directors since creating the position in the early 1990s, for short periods of time in the past, none longer than a year.

Martin said that part-time office manager Dan Mess will stay on, at least for the short term, to help with the transition.

All interviewed agree that eight years of Issue 3 has demoralized the Cincinnati GLBT community, and this contributes to difficulty raising money and volunteers.

"It is devastating," said Martin. "It took a toll. You really need to be here and live it to understand."

Martin said the board is in the process of restructuring and dividing the responsibilities of the director among members of the board.

She also said she does not believe the changes will have an effect on the operation of the Stonewall Cincinnati Political Action Committee.

In April 2000, Stonewall purchased the Race Street building it now occupies, and moved into it last July. The mortgage on that building is held by Jones.

The building was intended to provide space for groups to meet and house tenants in the unused space. The future of that building is not certain, as the need for office space is reduced and the funds to complete the renovations have not materialized.

The board is resolved to continue the organization’s work as volunteers, and hope the funds become available to hire an executive director again in the future.

"Stonewall has the strongest name in the city," said Bruins. "Stonewall is taken seriously and the straight community knows and values what the organization does."

Bruins credited Cudnik with building coalitions with other segments of the Cincinnati community, and raising Stonewall’s overall visibility.

Openly gay attorney Scott Knox, who served on the Stonewall board from 1988-1992 and remained active with the organization, agreed.

Cudnik has used the media well, he said. "It was her drive that got the [Issue 3] message to the Olympics 2012 committee."

Knox said there was no executive director during his board tenure, but said it will be difficult for this board to be accessible and do what needs to be done around their full time jobs.

"And I don’t know how the straight community will see this," said Knox. "They could say that gay people are no good at supporting their own."

"This is a tough town," said Cudnik. "I have been privileged to do this work for two years, and it has been amazing what we have done despite the obstacles thrown up by a few wealthy conservatives."


 

Special election may send
another lesbian to Congress

by Anthony Glassman

Needham, Mass.—A special mid-term election in Massachusetts may add one more to Congress’ roster of gay and lesbian members.

State senator and former prosecutor Cheryl A. Jacques began her campaign July 15 to fill the congressional seat left vacant by the death of Rep. J. Joseph Moakley.

If elected, she would join fellow Democrats Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Republican Jim Kolbe of Arizona in a four-member gay and lesbian "caucus" in the House or Representatives.

Jacques was joined at a campaign kickoff by her partner Jennifer Chrisler, who is also her campaign finance manager, and many other members of her family.

"I think people respect the fact that my family is all with me," Jacques said at the event, as reported in the Boston Globe. "We’ve got a big clan and we’re very close."

Jacques faces five others in a September 11 primary election that will most likely decide the November winner in the solidly Democratic 9th District.

She came out in 2000 during a Massachusetts Senate debate on a safe schools bill to protect gay students, one of a number of factors that is giving Jacques a wide base of support.

Jacques authored the state’s gun law banning assault weapons, the toughest such law in the country, an effort she promised to bring to the national level if she is elected.

She also is pushing for repairs to schools, the hiring of more teachers to decrease class sizes, and the expansion of pre-school and after-school programs. Further, she wants to make student loan interest payments tax-deductible.

The run for Congress will take Jacques away from her planned 2002 run for lieutenant governor, a change welcomed by her supporters.

"I was never that fired up about lieutenant governor," Brian Geoghegan told the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. "I think she can do more in Congress."

Jacques is also a staunch supporter of the right to choose, having spearheaded an effort to write into Massachusetts law the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

Jacques’ challenge now is to raise funds and wage a successful campaign before the September 11 primary.

The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Jacques on July 17, pledging political action campaign funding to her run for Congress.

"Jacques has served as a role model for lesbian and gay people everywhere and she has built an impressive record that has made her a viable candidate with an excellent chance of winning," HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg said.

Jacques has also been endorsed by Emily’s List, a national pro-choice organization.

As a former prosecutor, Jacques is also tough on crime. Combined with her progressive credentials, it is a mix that many supporters find convincing.

The press conference announcing her candidacy had only one anti-gay protester, a woman carrying a sign that read "Repent Homo."

Jacques’ opponents in the primary are state senators Brian A. Joyce, Marc R. Pacheco and Stephen F. Lynch, housing advocate John Taylor and federal prosecutor William Sinnott.


 

News Briefs

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

Suspect in teen’s death grew up with a killer

Cortez, Colo.—Shaun Murphy, the 18-year-old accused killer of openly gay Navajo teen Fred Martinez Jr., lived for years with a stepbrother who was later killed in a showdown with police.

In a press conference July 11 following the lifting of a gag order, that information and a complete timeline of the night of the murder were revealed to the public.

Police were initially drawn to Murphy be a July 3 telephone tip that Murphy had bragged that he "beat up a fag."

Murphy’s mother, Angel Murphy Tacorante, was the common-law wife of Alex Gallegos, father of Joseph E. Gallegos.

The younger Gallegos was killed by a police sniper in September 1996, after killing his three roommates, who had learned of his plans to murder his ex-girlfriend. Gallegos, after the three murders, drove to the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where he took his ex-girlfriend and two other women hostage in a dorm. A police sniper killed Gallegos during the stand-off.

According to Tacorante, she had no trouble with Murphy until his stepbrother died.

On June 16, the night of Martinez’ death, the 16-year old gay high schooler went to a party in Cortez, also attended by Murphy and his friend Clinton Sanchez. Murphy, who lives 60 miles away in New Mexico, was violating parole by being over state lines. The offense he is on parole for is unknown; his juvenile record is sealed.

After the party, Murphy and Sanchez made several trips between a friend’s Cortez apartment and a nearby convenience store. On one of those trips, they saw Martinez across the street from his home. They offered him a ride to his destination.

After Martinez got out of the car, Sanchez asked Murphy if he believed Martinez thought they were gay.

Later that night, Murphy left his friend’s apartment, ostensibly to get some marijuana. When he returned, he had blood on his clothing. He told Sanchez that he had been in a fight, and that the other person was still lying in a nearby canyon, a popular hangout for area youth.

After the two returned to New Mexico, Sanchez was seen by police depositing Murphy’s soiled shoes and clothing in a gas station trash can. Police officers had staked out Murphy’s apartment after the phone tip.

When he was found dead days later in the canyon, Martinez was surrounded by bloody rocks that police believe may have been used to bludgeon him. Police could not say how long he lay in the canyon before he died from a blow to the head.

 

Egypt tries 52 men in bar raid

Cairo, Egypt—Fifty-two men arrested for being gay faced their first court hearings July 18 on charges of immoral behavior and contempt of religion.

Police swooped down on a nightclub boat before dawn on May 9, rounding up 60 men they said were having a gay wedding.

The arrests and impending trial have been big news in Egypt, where homosexuality, while not explicitly a crime, is seen as a shameful sin and met with zero tolerance.

Three of those arrested, who were found to have only taken pictures on the boat, were released. Five others, who are foreign nationals, were released without being charged shortly after the arrests.

Prosecutors have not released details of the case against the men, but since their arrest, Egyptian newspapers have published their names and pictures. Some stories were illustrated with photos of nude men cuddling in a bed that had nothing to do with the boat arrests.

The boat, anchored in the Nile off Cairo’s upscale island of Zamalek, was known to be popular among gay men, which aroused concerns that those detained were targeted for being gay.

In a joint protest statement, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Watch said, "This case exhibits of some of the worst features of Egypt’s justice system."

In June, Egypt led a group of Muslim nations that tried to strip United Nations credentials from a civil rights group because its name specifically refers to homosexuality. A majority vote let the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission keep its credentials.

 

Rhode Island gets TG rights law

Providence, R.I.—Rhode Island joined Minnesota on July 17 as the second state to approve a non-discrimination law explicitly including transgendered people.

The new measure adds "gender identity or expression" to the state’s non-discrimination laws.

"Gender identity or expression" is defined by the law as "a person’s actual or perceived gender, as well as a person’s gender identity, gender-related self-image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression," regardless of whether that is "different from that traditionally associated with the person’s sex at birth."

The law will protect people from discrimination in housing, employment, credit and public accommodation. It will protect a broad range of people, from pre- and post-operative transsexuals to feminine men and masculine women who otherwise appear to conform to societal norms for their genders.

"The passage of this long-overdue law is a crucial step in the struggle to make clear that discrimination based on gender difference and stereotypes is wrong," said Kate Monteiro, president of the Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.

 

Fatwa issued on gay Muslim group

London—Al-Muhajiroun, a British Muslim group, has issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for the death of an American gay Muslim group’s members.

The gay organization Al-Fatiha believes that the fatwa, issued earlier this month, is more of a media effort than an actual religious decree.

According to reports, the fatwa refers to the members of Al-Fatiha as apostates, betrayers of their beliefs, and claims that the group is illegitimate. It also calls homosexuality a disease, and says that Islam calls for death for it.

Al-Fatiha officials believe that the fatwa is spurious, however, and was only sent to the British press as a reaction to the group’s participation in San Francisco Pride and last month’s Al-Fatiha conference in San Francisco.

Writer Salman Rushdie went into hiding in 1988 after a fatwa was called against him for his alleged heresy in writing his novel The Satanic Verses.

 

Gays abused in 30 countries

New York City--Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people the world over are "tortured, ill-treated, sexually assaulted, forcibly subjected to medical or psychiatric treatment [and] forced to flee their home countries in terror" because of their sexual orientation, Amnesty International said June 22.

The group’s report documents cases from 30 countries.

Gay sex is illegal in at least 70 nations and in 17 U.S. states and territories, Amnesty said.

"Despite being a widespread occurrence across continents and cultures, the torture and ill-treatment suffered by LGBT people is surrounded by a conspiracy of silence," the report said. "Generalized tolerance of abuses against LGBT people, fear of retaliation, and reluctance by the victims to gain exposure, are some of the factors contributing to this silence.

"Incidents of sexual-identity-based ill-treatment remain largely unreported and under-investigated, and those responsible are seldom brought to justice."

Some governments actively fuel homophobic violence through inflammatory statements and institutionalized discrimination, the group confirmed. "Many more share responsibility for it through lack of action."

The report is online at www.amnesty.org.

The U.S. states and territories which ban gay sex are Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia, Amnesty said. However, laws in Michigan and Minnesota have been voided by courts.

 

Court won’t stop German partner law

The court won’t issue an injunction to stop the law taking effect in two weeks.

BUT it will continue to consider three states’ argument that it is unconstitutional, with a decision expected next year.

As with most of these cases, the decision on this immediate injunction can be an indicator of the court’s eventual ruling.

Karlsruhe, Germany—The nation’s highest court on July 18 cleared the way for a law granting same-sex couples a range of rights to come into force as planned next month, rejecting two conservative states’ request for a delay.

Starting August 1, lesbian and gay couples in Germany will be able to register as partners and share a common surname.

The Federal Constitutional Court turned down the plea by Bavaria and Saxony for an injunction to prevent the law, pushed by the government to reduce discrimination, from taking effect.

Officials from the states had argued that the law breaks constitutional provisions that protect marriage and the family.

The new law would allow gay couples to exchange vows at local government offices and require a court decision for divorce. Same-sex couples would also receive rights given heterosexual spouses in areas such as inheritance and health insurance. Foreign partners of German gays and lesbians will be allowed to join them in Germany.

The law was passed by the center-left majority in the lower house of parliament last year, but the upper house voted to withhold some tax privileges granted to heterosexual couples.

The law will come into force although the constitutional court still must rule on whether the law contravenes the German constitution. A decision is expected next year.

Five other countries, along with the U.S. state of Vermont, now have broad domestic partner laws: France, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. Hungary and Canada include same sex couples in their common-law marriage statutes.

In April, the Netherlands became the first nation to grant full marriage to gays and lesbians. Belgium is considering it.


Evenings Out

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is coming in August

by Anthony Glassman

A sultry, sexy, seductive 26-year-old is going to be in Michigan next month, singing her heart out at the top of her lungs.

She’s got an amazing range, from acoustic guitar-oriented music to jazz to grrl rock screeching through the forest.

She’ll be putting on workshops and classes with everything from purification sweat lodges to movement and improvisational dance classes for teens.

Who is this, you might ask? The 26th annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, coming to a state near you August 7 to 12.

Last year’s festival was a huge event, since it was celebrating its silver anniversary. Apparently, however, organizers are not content to rest on past accomplishments, resisting the urge to put this year’s music festival together on autopilot.

There will be a film and video festival spanning all six days of the event; it will feature the best of new women’s cinema from across the world.

There will also be a number of spoken word and comedy performances. Wednesday will see Sister Spit’s Ramblin’ Roadshow take one of the festival’s three stages, featuring Lambda Literary Award winner Michelle Tea, along with fabulous femme Shar Rednour, Sini Anderson, Ida Acton, Rene Van and Erika Lopez.

Bigger news is that Lea DeLaria (mmmm . . . we love Lea) will play Thursday on the night stage.

Sabrina Matthews, fresh off another round of Comedy Central playing her special, will also be adding to the hilarity.

Old-school women’s music fans will have music aplenty to keep them occupied. Lucie Blue Tremblay, Canadian chanteuse and songwriter extraordinaire will be there, as will the legendary Cris Williamson.

Amy Ray is bringing her Stag tour to the festival, toting along the Butchies with her (of course, the Butchies fall more into the grrrl grrroup category, but since they’re with Amy Ray, they count both as legendary and punk. Nice work if you can get it.).

Indie and punk music will be provided aplenty as well. Kathleen Hanna’s band Le Tigre will be joining labelmates the Butchies at the festival. Jill Sobule (who, I believe, kissed a girl) and Dar Williams will be there, along with Laura Love and Melissa Ferrick, who just made a number of smashingly successful appearances in Ohio. Half Looking and Bitch & Animal will give a bit of the new wave for the women, rounding out the hip and hot category.

Because the festival has always thought globally, Irish jazz duo Zrazy, Velvet Janes from Australia, Topp Twin (a couple of Kiwis), Ubaka Hill, Ibu Ayan and the Isle of Klesbos represent female talent from around the world.

All this and more, since that is hardly all the performers they have.

Of course, many features from previous years will also return, like children’s activities, arts and crafts, full disability access, and a sense of community that the (comparatively) short-lived Lilith Fair could only hint at.

The festival takes place near Hart, Michigan, in the western part of the state. Shuttles will be available from Grand Rapids airport, about 1½ hours to the south of the festival site.

For more information and tickets, visit their web site at http://www.michfest.com, or send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to We Want the Music Co., Box 22, Walhalla Mich. 49458. They can also be reached at 231-757-4766.


 

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Lakewood, Ohio—flow text from 8 story here


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