Dykes on Bikes lead the ClevelandPride parade.
Sunny skies, candidates
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland�For the first time in several years, the city�s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride festivities were greeted with a clear sky and pleasantly warm weather on June 16.
From a rally in front of Cleveland State University, the Pride parade marched a new, longer route down Euclid Avenue through Public Square and east on Superior. Following a lavender stripe painted in the road by the city, the parade officially ended at East 6th and Rockwell.
However, the 1,037 marchers continued on East 6th past Cleveland City Hall, which seemed appropriate given the political history made at the rally before the parade.
Both of Cleveland�s declared openly gay candidates for city council, Joe Santiago in Ward 14 (Tremont and Ohio City), and Buck Harris in Ward 17 (Detroit-Shoreway), greeted participants. Santiago spoke at the rally. Harris later emceed the main stage at the festival.
The crowd was also introduced to Edward Hudson-Bey, who has announced that he is an openly gay candidate for Ward 8 (Glenville) city council, and will make it official on his birthday June 30.
Ward 13 (Downtown) council member Joe Cimperman also spoke, pointing out to the crowd the importance of the upcoming Cleveland mayoral race.
"The pride flag needs to fly over city hall in Cleveland," said Cimperman, "and the next mayor needs to recognize the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and include you in the administration, or he has no business in office."
Cleveland attorney Robert Rybka used the Pride rally to officially announce that he is a candidate for Cleveland municipal judge. Rybka is the brother of Ward 12 (Broadway) council member Edward Rybka.
Karen Anders and Dorrie Mills of Columbus, who were the first Ohio couple to get a civil union in Vermont, reminded the crowd that their rights end at the Vermont border, and urged the defeat of the proposed anti-gay "Defense of Marriage Act" in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Anders and Mills have formed Ohio Freedom to Marry to work for marriage rights here.
"We will continue to speak up until queers everywhere can work where they want," said Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center associate director Jan Cline. "We will continue to speak up until queers everywhere can parent if they want and do �it� how they want; until we can wed if we want; until our LGBT youth can feel safe to come out if they want, and even until we can flaunt it if we want."
The parade honored six activists as grand marshals. These were Judy Montgomery, co-founder of the Cleveland chapter of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; Larry Webb, co-founder and board member of BlackOut Unlimited; Patrick Shepherd, one of the founders of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats; Ashley Simone, Ms. Black Gay Ohio; Marcia Lane, board member of BlackOut Unlimited, and Bruce Kriete of Cleveland�s P-FLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and Safe Schools Are For Everyone.
The six rode in a silver rocket ship, a Buck Rogers-era craft that was once part of a ride at the now-closed Euclid Beach amusement park. Marchers representing 65 organizations followed.
For the first time in 13 years of Cleveland Pride, there were protesters. Ten people, including four children, said they saw the event on the Internet and traveled from Columbus and Metairie, Louisiana to taunt the marchers and shout Biblical passages.
The group included Noah Mayer of Columbus, age ten, who held a hangman�s noose with two naked male dolls taped together to simulate anal intercourse, the noose around one�s head.
His father, Tom Mayer, said he saw nothing inappropriate about a ten-year-old promoting such an act of violence. "It�s a good thing," said the elder Mayer, "He needs to make sure he doesn�t fall into the trap of normalizing homosexuality, and he needs to know how God feels about queers."
"[The protesters] add something, showing the world they are so intolerant," observed Cleveland Pride chair Bob Krabbe. "That is exactly why this event is so important, to show the need for our people to have one day a year when we can be comfortable, even making a statement if we want."
Krabbe and Pride coordinator Brynna Fish said this year had a record number of festival vendors and sponsors totaling 102.
The organizers estimated the crowd at the festival at around 7,500, similar to other recent years. The festival�s budget is $60,000.
Fish and Krabbe credit the 20 volunteers who work the year long organizing the event, as well as the 64 who work all day and 200 more who work shifts, with Pride�s overall success.
Krabbe also bragged that the entertainment was the highest quality ever.
Nearly the entire park gathered around the main stage when comic diva Judy Tenuta took the microphone. Tenuta, who has also played pride events this year in San Jose, Long Beach, and Grand Rapids, said she loves Cleveland. "It�s so pretty here."
On and off stage, Tenuta supports gay marriage and her comedy routines have long been favorites of LGBT audiences.
"It�s because I am larger than life," she explained. "And I order them around and they love it!" During her act, Tenuta gave advice to bottoms. "If you want your top to pay attention to you, act like a Ferrari. Make a lot of noise and don�t put out until he puts all his money into you."
Guitarist and singer Kelly Zullo made Cleveland a stop on her first Pride tour, which also included Columbus, Georgia and Nashville.
Pianist Skott Freedman returned to perform for his second Cleveland Pride festival.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich greeted festival attendees, as did Cuyahoga County Commissioner and mayoral candidate Tim McCormack.
"It is a beautiful day," said Krabbe. "It is a great event, wonderful crowd, and great volunteers and sponsors. It doesn�t get any better than this."
by Anthony Glassman
Dayton�The city�s 15th annual Pride events stretched across the weekend of June 16-17, bringing together politicians, performers and the public in two days of activities that made Dayton Pride Partnership director John Gantt proud.
"All the people I�ve talked to said that they were great events, the show was seamless and the production was second to none," he said.
"Too Much Pride to Keep Inside" was the theme of this year�s events.
Saturday night�s Pride Dinner and Business Expo sold 400 tickets, bringing hundreds of LGBT people to the Dayton Convention Center.
Gantt gave out awards to recognize the efforts of local bars in fundraising for Pride and promoting the events. For the first time in 15 years, every gay bar in Dayton participated in the effort, a fact Gantt did not let pass unnoticed.
In addition, Gantt himself received an Ohio Senate citation for his efforts towards raising public awareness of the gay community and its issues. State Sen. Rhine McLin presented the citation to Gantt, but she was far from the only politico to show their support for the community at the dinner.
Also in attendance were recently-elected city commissioner Edythe Lewis, chosen by the people to replace her late husband, as well as commissioners Dean Lovelace and openly lesbian Mary Wiseman.
Mayor Mike Turner was also there presenting a letter to Dayton Pride Partnership, as well as Timothy McFeeley, political director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Entertainment at the dinner was provided by such local notables as the Rubi Girls, Ashley West and the Strangely Attractive Players performance group.
Sunday saw a family picnic in Carillon Park that drew 150 people into the sun for a cook-out, "Wacky Olympics" with events like three-legged races and a DJ spinning records.
"A great time was had by all," Gantt summed up the weekend.
The Dayton Pride Partnership is also sponsoring a float in the Columbus Pride Parade on June 23, as they did in the Cincinnati Pride Parade.
"This is a continuing effort on our part," Gantt noted.
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--While Columbus and Cincinnati spend 40 and 26 percent of their federal and state HIV prevention funds on gay and bisexual men, Cleveland spends only 12 percent, although that city gets more federal funding for HIV.
Cleveland budgets less than an eighth of its funds to men who have sex with men, who make up half of all new infections in the city.
"A gay man can be out and connected in this city and never hear any HIV prevention message," said Bob Bucklew, the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center�s health outreach coordinator.
Bucklew added that all prevention programs targeting gay and bisexual men are under-funded and under staffed.
The original sources of federal and state AIDS funding for Cleveland have remained the same for gay and bisexual men since the early 1990s, but new sources have systemically excluded them, accounting for the disparity. Critics cite "politics" and "homophobia" as reasons.
The $3.7 million spent within the city of Cleveland for HIV prevention comes from four sources.
� The Ohio Department of Health provides 22%, administered by the Cleveland Department of Health. This money is spent according to the priorities set by a regional advisory group and based on epidemiology. Programs that target gay and bisexual men have consistently gotten 20-25 percent of this money.
� Ohio�s alcohol and drug board earmarks its 32 percent for programs treating drug and alcohol abusers.
� Local community foundations and private charities that form the AIDS Funding Collaborative provide 18%. The City of Cleveland contributes some funds to this effort. The city is part of the allocation process, but does not have direct control of how these grants are distributed.
The collaborative granted $35,000 to the Cleveland-Lesbian-Gay Center to fund Bucklew�s position. This is its only current grant targeted to gay and bisexual men.
� By far the most controversial funding source is the federal Community Development Block Grant, amounting to $1 million annually from federal funds that City Council has directed toward HIV prevention.
Its only grant targeted to men who have sex with men is $10,000 to the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center for the MSM Youth Project, which provides HIV testing and education on LGBT issues for professionals in the Cleveland Municipal Schools.
The Community Development Block Grant began in 1999 when City Council and the office of Mayor Mike White were at odds over AIDS prevention funding.
Council was outraged that the mayor wanted to budget $250,000 for prevention, and led by current Public Health Committee chair Merle Gordon of Ward 15 (Old Brooklyn), put together a community group to study prevention needs to distribute the $1 million.
The $1 million did not include a contentious $75,000 paid to the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland to train HIV coordinators. Council named the taskforce as the contract agency hired to provide the training, separate from the grants.
In addition to the MSM youth program at the lesbian-gay center, the community block grant currently funds programs in the Cleveland Municipal Schools health curriculum, prevention education for people with severe disabilities and the homeless, the Cleveland Health Museum, programs emphasizing abstinence, various programs targeting African-American and Latino families, and others.
The block grant doesn�t include gay and bisexual HIV prevention because its request for proposals doesn�t include men who have sex with men.
The request for proposals, issued each year by the Cleveland health department, says, "Submissions must address one or more of the following target populations to be considered for funding: racial and/or ethnic minorities, women, youth at risk, injection drug users, and adults engaging in behaviors that increase their risk of infection."
Bucklew said when agencies providing services for gay and bisexual men see that, they figure there is no reason for them to apply there for funds.
According to Gordon, those priorities were set by the community group using the results of a study she commissioned. Gordon readily takes credit for the Community Development Block Grant program. "It was my project," she says.
Bucklew, who served the administration as the city�s HIV coordinator when the block grant began agrees, noting that the other two members of council that worked on it, Joe Cimperman and Frank Jackson, "had a much lesser role than she did."
Council member Gordon says the interests of gay and bisexual men were represented by Bucklew, who was the city�s HIV coordinator at the time, and part of the community group she organized.
Bucklew disagrees. "I had no voice on that committee," he said. "I never even saw their report until it was made public."
When Bucklew saw the report, which listed him as a participant in its making, he sent a memo to his boss, Cleveland Health Commissioner Joyce Atwell, and Juliett Doris Williams, who headed the Ohio Department of Health�s HIV prevention division. Bucklew disavowed the report and making clear that he had nothing to do with it.
"I wanted to make it public record that I repudiated the findings of the report and was not part of its development," said Bucklew.
Bucklew protested that the study called for reducing prevention efforts for gay and bisexual men while increasing it for other at-risk groups.
"It discounted men who have sex with men as a group that needs help, saying that we represent only a small part of the population as a whole," said Bucklew.
Bucklew said that the findings were misleading. "It pointed out that when AIDS was first discovered, we were 90 percent of the cases and now we are down to 50 percent of the cases, which misses the whole concept as to what prevention is about," he said.
Bucklew said that to read the report, one would believe that prevention is needed everywhere except with gay and bisexual men.
Gordon explains the disparity between the infected population and where the prevention money goes by saying, "All the folks [in the community group] said these were the priorities. That doesn�t mean there are no others and it doesn�t say there were no other groups at risk."
Gordon says the community group also included the AIDS Taskforce, hospitals, the city schools, and people with HIV.
"They decided that gay men were not the priorities," she said.
"Everyone agreed that there had to be leadership to prevent the escalating rates of HIV among women and youth," said Gordon.
"If we focus on who does and who doesn�t get funding, we miss the point of how to prevent the spread of this disease," said Gordon. "The decisions were made holistically."
Gordon added, "It was political. It took months to deal with the politics of all this."
Bucklew does not believe there was any need to marginalize gay and bisexual men in order to get council to fund AIDS prevention. According to him, all the "politics" were internal to the community group, because, "council had already appropriated the $1 million."
"My concern," said Bucklew, "is that this does not become a debate about taking from one group to give to another. All these groups have needs."
"The debate should be about the soaring new HIV infections among men who have sex with men in the city of Cleveland, and the inadequate response from people claiming to be working on the side of the epidemic," said Bucklew.
Gordon said Cleveland State University�s social service department is conducting a study on the effectiveness of her Community Development Block Grant funding in reducing HIV infection. Their report is due in September.
Gordon said the way the block grant funds are spent could be "adjusted" depending on what the CSU study finds.
Will the next request for proposals for funding include programs that target gay and bisexual men?
"Maybe," said Gordon.
by Eric Resnick
Atlanta--HIV infections among gay and bisexual men may again be on the rise, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control May 31.
The study, conducted by epidemiologist Linda Valleroy Ph.D., sampled 2,942 men who have sex with men ages 23-29 in Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Seattle between 1998 and 2000. Of the sample group, 373 were found to be HIV positive; 290 of the infections were recent.
Valleroy�s findings support an earlier CDC study showing rise in infection among 15-22 year old gay and bisexual men.
Together, the studies point to a substantial increase in new infections in gay and bisexual men in adolescence through early twenties. The CDC has also documented increases in risk behavior and rectal gonorrhea transmission in gay and bisexual young men in several reports over the past two years.
"This study has documented the dramatic impact HIV is having among gay and bisexual men of all races and the urgent need to expand our prevention efforts for these men, particularly in the African-American communities," said Helen Gayle, M.D, the CDC�s director of HIV, STD and tuberculosis prevention.
The agency�s findings indicate that the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among African-American gay and bisexual men is as high as 30 percent. Latino men infected also represented a higher percentage than the population.
According to the study, 4.4 percent of gay and bisexual men in this age group are infected, and among African-Americans, the rate rises to 14.7 percent.
Gayle added that prevention programs for gay and bisexual men of color must address the stigma of homosexuality prevalent in those communities that prevents men from identifying as gay or bisexual and keeps them from accessing prevention and treatment services.
The rise in infections among young gay and bisexual men corresponds to the findings of the CDC�s Young Men�s Health study released in 1999. That study showed a 30 percent increase of unprotected anal intercourse--commonly called barebacking--among young men.
The 1999 study showed the number of men who always use a condom declined nearly ten percent in three years, with the largest decline among men in their 20s.
At that time, Dr. Richard Steketee of the CDC concluded that one problem reaching the young men with a message of prevention is that, as a result of improved medical treatment, many of them have not seen their loved ones die of AIDS and they think it is a manageable disease.
Helms, Boxer amendments cover same ground as 1984 law
by Bob Roehr
Washington, D.C.--A cultural battle of symbols involving gays and the Boy Scouts was fought to a draw in the U.S. Senate on June 14. It centered on amendments proposed by Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to a major education bill.
Most agree that the amendments will have little practical effect.
The Helms amendment bans federal funds to any local school district that "denies equal access" to the Boy Scouts or other groups because of their policy that "prohibits the acceptance of homosexuals." It squeaked by on a 51-49 tally after hours of rhetorical posturing on the floor of the Senate.
"The Helms amendment is the equivalent of name-calling; it addresses a problem that doesn�t exist," said Gregory King of the American Federation of Teachers. "If there is any school district in the country today that is denying the Scouts the same treatment that they offer to other youth groups, I�m unaware of it."
"It was always a solution in search of a problem," said Log Cabin Republicans spokesman Kevin Ivers.
Winnie Stachelberg, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, called it an attempt "to bully schools into granting the Boy Scouts special privileges not offered to other groups. This is really an underhanded attempt to reward those who practice discrimination and punish those who value equality."
Boxer�s amendment came up later the same day. It prohibits schools from discriminating against any youth group on the basis of their "favorable or unfavorable position concerning sexual orientation." It passed on a vote of 52-47.
Neither measure will have much effect, because both cover the same ground as the Equal Access Act of 1984. That law requires schools to give the same access to all groups, regardless of viewpoint. Passed to allow student Bible clubs, the measure also requires schools to allow gay-straight alliances.
"The amendment changes nothing in the area of equal access," said Scott Cozza, president of Scouting for All, a group that works to end the Scout ban on gays. "Any group can meet at schools under the EAA."
Few school systems have attempted to deny access to the Scouts, most notably Broward County, Fla., where a federal judge ruled in March that the Scouts must be allowed the same access as other groups.
However, roughly a dozen school boards around the country have ended the active support that they give the Scouts. This has included troop sponsorship, rent-free access to facilities, and allowing recruitment during school hours. Neither the amendments nor the Equal Access Act affect this.
The vote on the Helms amendment occurred in the first days of Democratic control of the Senate, before reorganization of that body was complete.
The pro-gay forces ended up with the votes of Republican turned Independent Jim Jeffords and six other Republican senators. Among them were both Ohio senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, and Nebraska�s Chuck Hagel, all of whom opposed both amendments as non-germane.
Eight Democrats crossed the aisle to embrace Helms and more than countered those Republicans. Three were from the Dakotas, the remaining five from the old South. Five of these senators later voted for the Boxer amendment.
The two somewhat competing amendments, Helms and Boxer, now go to a conference committee with the House. It earlier passed a version of the Helms proposal on a voice vote.
The White House has indicated that it opposes any extraneous amendments and it includes these two among the extraneous, though it has not publicly singled them out, said Ivers.
Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., will head the Senate side of the conference. He is strongly opposed to the Helms provision.
Given that constellation of facts, it seems likely that the amendments will simply disappear in conference. But partisans on both extremes will have their scorecards on which to raise money and try to bash opponents in the next election.
by Anthony Glassman
Cleveland�The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network�s chapter here handed out their Pathfinder Awards and scholarships on June 13 in Cleveland Heights, in a ceremony as full of hope for the future as it was a tribute to past efforts.
Overlaid on the festivities was the knowledge of the impending change in leadership of GLSEN-Cleveland, with the imminent departure of Judy Montgomery, one of the founders of the chapter and long-serving female co-chair.
Montgomery will be leaving her position September 12, at the group�s annual meeting. Replacing her will be Karen Scebbi, who is currently on the board of GLSEN-Cleveland and a psychologist with Cleveland Public Schools.
Assuming the post of male co-chair will be Oberlin College athletic director Michael Muska, who helped found the national organization with Kevin Jennnings in the early 1990s.
"After six years of hard work, I am not really very sad to step down," Montgomery said. "I am very excited, however, to leave the leadership of GLSEN-Cleveland in such capable hands."
Filling out the list of new board members and officers, pending membership approval at the annual meeting, are Joel Readance as the public relations chair, Carol Wrabel as program co-chair, and Tim Jenkins as treasurer. To enhance continuity during the transition, Judy Maruszan and Dick Pohl, both board members since 1997, will continue in their positions.
The changes ahead, however, did not overshadow this night of honoring the achievements of people dedicated to assuring dignity and respect for all in the world of education.
The 2001 Pathfinder Awards were given out for four categories. Taking the prize for the student activists category were Ryan Walker of North Olmsted High School Spectrum, the gay-straight alliance that is the focus of the upcoming documentary Project Spectrum. Also honored in this category was Ellen Irwin Saal of Firestone High School in Akron.
Carol Wrabel, a chemistry teacher at North Olmsted High School and the faculty advisor for Spectrum, was given the educator activist award, while Bill and Marie Libby of Hudson were given the community activists award. The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and its director, Chris Link, were honored with the activist organization award.
Bill Giallourakis, also of North Olmsted High School, was given the 2001 Robbie Kirkland Memorial Scholarship, established in honor of the St. Ignatius student who killed himself after years of anti-gay harassment in his school. Kirkland�s death led to the emergence of Leslie Sadasivan, his mother, as one of the leading crusaders for the rights of LGBT students in northeast Ohio.
Johnathon Conrad of Geneva won the Robbie Kirkland Essay Contest, wrapping up the awards.
"I am so proud that GLSEN is where it is today and with this group leading the way, GLSEN is going to make even more of a difference for the youth of northeast Ohio," Montgomery said.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Conviction of Statehouse Pride flag vandal upheld
Columbus�The Tenth Appellate District Court of Appeals on June 19 upheld the conviction of the street preacher who tore down a rainbow flag flying at the Statehouse during Columbus Pride 1999.
Charles Spingola was convicted of criminal damaging, a misdemeanor, following the incident. Spingola had climbed a flagpole outside the Statehouse and cut down the flag, which was then burned by another anti-gay protester. Three people in all were convicted in connection with the incident.
The flag�s presence at the Statehouse had been approved by the Capitol Review and Advisory Board. The board changed the rules after the incident to allow only government flags.
Ohio U. designates unisex restrooms
Athens, Ohio�Ohio University has designated about 30 restrooms across campus as being for either men or women.
The decision resulted from a campaign by student Collin Lovell, who graduated June 9 with an economics degree.
"They [the unisex bathrooms] are safe for transgender people who might shock the general public walking into a men�s restroom or a women�s restroom," said Lovell, who is transgender.
Ohio University is among a growing number of universities nationwide that have accommodated or have considered accommodating the transgender population, a diverse range of people who cross traditional gender boundaries.
The university doesn�t track how many students identify themselves as transgender.
Universities across Ohio are watching the trend.
Steve Kremer, director of residence life at Ohio State University, said the school has some single-toilet unisex restrooms.
AMA says Scout ban harms youth
Chicago�With their sights trained on the Boy Scouts, members of the American Medical Association have proposed a resolution that would ask national youth groups not to ban gays because such policies could drive young people to suicide.
AMA members proposing the resolution, discussed June 6 at the association�s annual meeting, said reversing policies that exclude gays could help "lower the increased risk of suicide in the adolescent homosexual population."
The proposal does not explicitly name the Boy Scouts, but the member who raised the issue is a Scout troop leader in Rhode Island. Steve DeToy, government affairs director for the Rhode Island Medical Society, said he knew of no other national youth groups with policies to exclude gays.
The proposed resolution was to be sent to the AMA�s 547-member House of Delegates for a June 21 vote. The resolution would become official AMA policy if approved.
Taskforce to make human red ribbon
Cleveland�The AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland has announced their intent to form a "human red ribbon" to commemorate this month�s 20th anniversary of the first reports of AIDS.
On Tuesday, June 26, the Taskforce will try to organize up to 200 volunteers to form a "human red ribbon" in the Wade Park Fine Arts Garden, directly in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art at 11150 East Boulevard, in the University Circle area.
Volunteers will begin lining up at 5:30 pm; when the crowd is properly arranged, a Taskforce photographer will record the event for use in an AIDS public awareness campaign this summer.
Media, elected officials and the public have been invited to attend. More information is available from Patrick Shepherd, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lesbians should get Pap tests
Washington, D.C.�Lesbians and bisexual women have another reason to make sure to see their doctors regularly, according to a study in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Both groups have fewer Pap smears than their heterosexual counterparts, increasing the chance that the human papilloma virus, certain strains of which have been linked to cervical cancer, will go undetected.
Because lesbians do not generally have sex with men, many feel that a Pap smear is unnecessary. The new study, however, showed that 13% of the women in the study of 248 lesbians and bisexual women tested positive for HPV, indicated a strong possibility of woman-to-woman transmission.
HPV is believed to be the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country. Most people�s symptoms are unnoticeable, but some will develop genital warts. The big issue with HPV, however, is the strain that scientists believe can lead to cervical cancer.
Four percent of the women in the new study showed signs of pre-cancerous lesions. If caught early, cervical cancer is treatable, which is why, according to the researchers, it is imperative that lesbians and bisexual women get Pap smears.
According to Jeanne M. Marrazzo, a co-author of the study, women should get pap smears every year for three years, and perhaps slightly less frequently after that if no problems emerge, although other authorities in the field differ on the frequency required for Pap smears.
Church votes down ordination ban
Louisville, Ky�Gays aspiring to preach in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) inched closer toward the pulpit with the blessing of the denomination�s chief policy-making body.
A measure to remove a ban on ordaining gay and lesbian clergy from the church�s constitution was approved 317-208 July 15 by the General Assembly of the nation�s sixth-largest Protestant denomination.
The measure still must be ratified by a majority of the church�s 173 presbyteries, its regional legislatures, over the next year.
Opponents of the ban celebrated the vote, which followed hours of debate on an issue the church leadership has been silent on for two years.
Last year, the General Assembly passed a ban on blessing same-sex unions, which failed the ratification vote this spring.
Court clears city partner requirement
San Francisco�A city ordinance requiring companies that contract with the city to offer domestic partner benefits to their employees has passed a challenge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court ruled unanimously against S.D. Myers, Inc., which argued the ordinance violated federal laws governing interstate commerce and exceeded the city�s jurisdiction. Myers was represented by the American Center for Law and Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
Myers, located in the Akron suburb of Tallmadge, had lost a city contract to service electrical transformers when it refused to offer the benefits.
The court ruled that municipalities have a legitimate interest in enacting laws like San Francisco�s and refusing to do business with companies that have discriminatory policies. It also said there was no evidence of undue economic burden placed on the companies by the ordinance.
Lucie Blue Tremblay says she will sing until she is 90
by Kaizaad Kotwal
Lucie Blue Tremblay has been singing professionally for almost 20 years now, and she plans to continue till she�s "eighty or even ninety."
Tremblay started in her native Canada in 1982 and made her entree into the United States in 1986. She spoke with this writer by phone from her home in Eastern Township, about two hours east of Montreal in Quebec. She and her partner of two years moved to this new home in the country in August of 2000.
Tremblay�s partner is the inspiration behind her most recent CD, Because Of You, all the songs of which she "wrote in ten days."
"I have never done that," explains Tremblay. The singer and songwriter met her current muse "when I was not looking at all."
"I met someone amazing," she continued, "at a time when I didn�t feel that I wanted to be with anyone anymore."
According to Tremblay, "relationships are wonderful things but they also hurt a lot," and she had reached a place where she felt that she needed a break.
"I thought that this relationship stuff wasn�t for me."
In keeping with the age-old cliche about finding love when one is least looking for it, Tremblay believes that she is a perfect case in point. She had however, moved "from a place of hurt from an older relationship to a place of healing and letting go."
"My spirit was open," she exclaimed.
One of the songs on the CD, titled "Letting You Go," was the "beginning of the rest," she says.
That was about finding strength, finding courage and going on the journey of moving on. For Tremblay, this is her "strength song," that song which has allowed her to be completely open. In many ways this is "also my coming out song," she adds, because in it she talks about the heartbreak that forced her to take anti-depressants for a year and a half.
"I always try and write from a place of great honesty," said Tremblay, "and with this song I was writing about real life where I was honest enough to write from that place."
As a result, Tremblay has touched many people, people who have also dealt with the same issues.
"The bonus of such honesty is that you get to meet all these people with these amazing connections," she said.
Even with her first album, where she wanted "everything to be really pretty," she included a song about incest which allowed some audience members to connect with this artist right from her debut.
Tremblay�s honesty is not just apparent in her music but also in her forthright and very open interview. She classifies herself as an "independent recording artist who is trying to establish new rules by going against the music industry standards." Even though she�s on tour currently to accompany the release of her new CD, she still sings material from her entire ouevre.
"I have tremendous respect for the people that support me," she says with genuine appreciation in her voice. "Because I am not a big artist and don�t get around that much, I always do requests at all my concerts."
Tremblay does this so that her fans get to hear "their song." She also says that her work "is not necessarily about the money," but rather about her "dedication to the music."
"I just do it because it�s what I do."
Tremblay knows that in some months money from her work flows in and at other times there�s less. But she�s very Zen about the whole thing believing that it all works out somehow. Her approach to religion and spirituality is also, in her own words, "very Zen."
"I am a very open person and believe that everything is good." She goes for whatever is "smart and healthy," which currently includes practicing meditation and taking up Tai Chi in the future, something her partner is "very into."
Even her dog Shanti, Sanskrit for peace, reflects her Zen philosophy. Shanti, who turned 11 in January, has been with Tremblay from the beginning.
"She�s been with me through everything." Tremblay acquired her chocolate lab from Laura Berkson, a performer from Rhode Island, whom she met in Albany, New York at a concert. Shanti used to tour a lot with Tremblay, especially "during all the car tours where she would sit next to me and she was the one I would talk to."
Today hip dysplasia keeps Shanti more at home, where she is recently learning to get along with Pooh the cat, Tremblay�s partner�s feline friend.
Tremblay is a woman of simple pleasures, "being on the water with her girlfriend" being one of the things that brings her the most joy. Both women love to kayak and are trying to figure out what to do with the huge garden that hey acquired with their new home in the country. "Good food and good wine" are also amongst Tremblay�s sweet pleasures.
Her passion about her music and her loves is unabated as well when she gets to talking about politics.
Tremblay was dismayed by the most recent U.S. presidential election and she is even more dismayed by George W. Bush, "a guy who is willing to go digging in the pristine nature reserves for a little bit of oil that is not going to last very long while changing all the ecosystems."
"He really doesn�t care what he screws up along the way," she says with great consternation in her voice, "and it�s going to affect the Yukon in Canada as well where all the migrating caribou come from."
"My greatest concern is the political apathy," she adds, "and that scares me tremendously. If there is a time to be political it is now. The Republicans have spent a very long time to get to where they are now."
She also acknowledges that lesbian women have been around social and political causes for a very long time. Lesbians have been, in Tremblay�s estimation, there for gender issues, race issues, health issues from AIDS to breast cancer, regardless of the demographic in concern.
On the Canadian political front, she believes, with a great deal of idealism, "that what the system really needs right now is a huge political clean-up. People are afraid of change; a clean up of the political arena would help people to do the real work that is necessary."
Tremblay�s current plans include performing at the National Women�s Music Festival, June 21 - 24 in Muncie, Indiana. "These are the groups that keep me alive," she says appreciatively. She�s also working on Christmas songs for a holiday album she�d like to put out in the future. Her plans also include working on songs for children. "A lot of us are having children and so we need good children�s songs."
During the first week of May, the Frank-Tremblay Safe Campus Scholarship began at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. The scholarship, "which is for GLBT students who lose emotional and financial support from their families when they come out," is named after the songwriter and openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Tremblay hopes that this unique scholarship will encourage other campuses to follow suit.
Whether as an independent musician or as a political activist, Tremblay seems to have a clarity of course and a perspicuity of political perspectives. She has a lot of love for her music and her ardent fans and her followers in turn have a lot of admiration for the artist and her work. She is as intelligent and articulate as she is passionate and emotional.
Tremblay�s spirit, whether through her music or in person, is large, magnanimous and very comforting. If, as Shakespeare has said, "Music be the food of life," then Tremblay�s songs are a luxurious banquet where love, life and longing abundantly overflow.
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