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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
June 1 , 2001

 

Scouts usher troop out of
gay-friendly church

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland--The Great Lakes Council of the Boy Scouts of America helped a troop move out of a gay-friendly church rather than renew the church�s Scout charter.

The adult volunteer leadership of Troop 98, formerly of Pilgrim Congregational Church in Cleveland�s Tremont area, worked with the Great Lakes Council to move the troop to another church. At the same time, they led Pilgrim officials to believe they would cooperate with the church�s building use policy, which includes the congregation�s gay and lesbian Open and Affirming statement.

The troop had been chartered to Pilgrim for 90 consecutive years, longer than any other scouting unit in the Cleveland area.

Pilgrim considered the troop to be part of the church�s entire ministry, and an opportunity for some boys who had few others. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that the Boy Scouts had the right to ban gays, the church struggled with what it should do with its troop.

"There was a divide in the congregation," said Pilgrim church council member Mark Suriano.

Suriano, Pastor Laurinda Hafner, and three other council members formed a task force to resolve how the troop could stay at Pilgrim, at the same time honoring the church�s commitment to non-discrimination.

The task force began meeting in September in preparation for the troop to renew its charter in March, 2001. Hafner served as Pilgrim�s scouting coordinator, which gave her final approval of all adult leadership, a seat on the Boy Scout council�s executive board, and responsibility for the chartering process.

Pilgrim is also a member of Scouting For All, which works to change the Boy Scouts� gay ban.

The Open and Affirming policy of Pilgrim has been in effect for ten years. The Boy Scouts have never refused to grant a charter to Pilgrim prior to this year.

Troops, especially those chartered by religious institutions, typically have agreements with their sponsors regarding use of the building. These agreements reflect the mission and values of the chartering institution, and can guide troop affairs.

Troops chartered by synagogues can make troops adhere to building use policies forbidding travel on the sabbath or requiring kosher food.

Troops associated with the Mormon Church are part of the church�s official youth program and must adhere to Mormon edict. The Mormon Church charters more Scout troops than any institution in America.

Pilgrim is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Many UCC congregations affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members.

Other UCC churches that sponsor troops have building use agreements reflecting their non-discrimination policies.

Pilgrim requires all groups that use the facility to sign the building use policy.

"Troop 98 has always had an unwritten policy of non-discrimination," said Hafner, "The only thing new was that the policy was in written form."

The task force invited the troop leaders, none of whom are members of Pilgrim congregation, to a meeting to discuss how the church�s policies and the Boy Scout policies could find common ground.

Troop 98�s scoutmaster and three assistants came to the October meeting accompanied by two representatives of the Great Lakes Council. One was a volunteer lay leader, the other was Deon Jackson, a district director on the Boy Scouts� paid staff.

Task force member Marilyn Dubisak said the troop leaders expected to hear that troop was going to be kicked out of Pilgrim, and they came to the meeting wanting to be sure they had enough time to find a new place to meet before it happened.

After discussions, the task force members believed an agreement was reached and reported this to the church council.

What they did not know was that the adult leaders, according to Great Lakes Council Scout Executive John Cadwallader, had already contacted his office seeking assistance to move the troop to another location.

Cadwallader admitted that no correspondence or communication transpired between him and Pilgrim Church. He also said that it is "very rare" that charters are not renewed, but that there was no way he could renew Pilgrim�s.

Cadwallader left all communication to Jackson. "When they had meetings, including one of our top professionals," said Cadwallader, "what they asked us to do, Deon could not have had the right to go and recharter with it, so he went and found another institution that would sponsor [Troop 98]."

Cadwallader sees no reason for there to have been communication between himself and Pilgrim Church.

"What were we going to solve?" he asked. "There was no reason to set up a dialogue in working out a situation that could not be worked out."

Troop 98 now meets at Blessed Sacrament Church on Fulton Rd., about two miles from Pilgrim.


 

New director Lorri Jean seeks to revitalize the NGLTF

by Bob Roehr

Washington, D.C.--Lorri L. Jean is taking on the job of revitalizing the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as its executive director. Many people feel that the venerable institution has stagnated over the last decade, while new organizations have come along and others have grown tremendously.

In this interview with a reporter who has known her since the 1980s, Jean speaks candidly about why she is taking on the challenge and the skills that she brings to it.

Jeans, 44, says that her return to activism is a combination of desire, timing, and "maybe a little bit of fate." The start-up company she was involved with was sold about the time Elizabeth Toledo announced her resignation as NGLTF�s executive director. Plus, Jean was "feeling a little bit antsy about being out of the mix."

"I really have missed working full time on behalf of our community. I think that I have missed it more acutely since G.W. [President Bush] got elected, and I have felt like there is a lot more need for people to be focused on the advancement of our cause in this environment. I've also felt, I've yearned, for a different kind of a voice than what I've been hearing. I've been hearing a lot of silence in response to G.W."

Lorri Jean cut her teeth as an activist while a student at the Georgetown University Law Center. She was the lead plaintiff in a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit against the university, which claimed a religious exemption from the city's gay-inclusive human rights act. Jean was on the winning side, a pattern she strives to maintain.

She served as president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (1986-1988) in Washington, D.C. while working as an attorney with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the folks who respond with aid when floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters hit. It didn't take much persuading to get her to move to San Francisco in 1990 to head up the agency's large regional office there.

Activism drew her to Los Angeles in 1993 to take charge of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, then an $8-million-a-year operation.

"When I arrived, almost 95 percent of their budget was government [contracts and grants]. I thought that was a problem," she said. "They were raising less than a million in private dollars. When I left [six years later in February 1999], we were raising about $10 million annually in private dollars [and the total budget had grown to $32 million]. I also left them with a $10 million endowment."

She also left a legacy of programs from housing for gay and lesbian runaways, to a HMO/managed care practice operating at three state-of-the-art facilities, to the National Association of LGBT Community Centers, which she co-founded.

The Los Angeles center was "the big dog, just dramatically overshadowing smaller groups," she says. This led to envy and distrust. Jean set out to overcome those barriers through meaningful collaboration where all of the participants received recognition. It's an approach she brings to the Task Force.

"Most local leaders are willing to share the credit, they just don't want to be pushed out of the limelight because a bigger more powerful managerial organization" comes along.

The Task Force has been floundering for much of the last decade with turmoil at the top, which reflects decisions made by the board of directors. Six executive directors have come and gone, often with gaps and people serving on an acting basis between those appointments.

Where once NGLTF was roughly comparable in size, budget, and membership with the Human Rights Campaign, the HRC has grown to be far larger by every measure. The Task Force's annual budget has oscillated between $2 and $4 million for most of that time.

"Solidify the infrastructure . . . particularly in the fundraising area" is one of Jean's priorities. As an experience fundraiser she argues, "It doesn't make a difference how radical anybody might be, or how important their voice might be, if there is no money, nobody is going to hear it."

To raise that money, "not only do you have to be good at it, you have to have something good to sell,� she said. �One of the Task Force's greatest problems is that its work has been way too well a kept secret. That is something that I intend to fix."

Jean has a self-confidence that does not stray into arrogance, a willingness to admit less than perfection without sounding defensive, and a focus on solutions that contributes to her reputation as a pragmatist. She can schmooze with the best of them, then deftly direct the conversation to the business at hand.

She can also point to an impressive record of accomplishments without making it sound like bragging. Those skills will be put to the test with her job at NGLTF.

Jean says it is "awfully early in the game" to discuss programmatic changes for the organization. She will "talk with leaders and activists around the country and see what they are thinking the Task Force ought to be doing these days." So don't look for any new initiatives before next year.

"I'm really looking forward to helping the Task Force become more visible as a really unapologetic voice of what rights our community ought to have," she says. "We have the ability to do some of that since our primary focus is not lobbying on Capitol Hill and having to create and preserve relationships that may require a different kind of diplomatic finesse and compromise."

"We need to adopt a new approach as a movement, a zero tolerance approach to bigotry. Zero tolerance of politicians who are not willing to support our full and complete equality in all aspects of our society," Jean says, echoing her speech a year ago at the Millennium March on Washington. That includes support for gay marriage, a standard that sets her at odds with some political pragmatists in other organizations as well as some ideologues on the left.

"I really bemoan the loss in our community of organizations like ACT UP and Queer Nation," she says. "They provided the sort of extreme continuum, in the view of mainstream politicians, so it made the rest of us sound so much more reasonable. Without them, I think that it has slowed our progress."

Jean will work in a Los Angeles office, commuting regularly to the Task Force�s main office in Washington, their Policy Institute in New York City, and other community obligations throughout the country.

"L.A. is my home now, I really love it there," she says. Her partner Gina M. Calvelli has professional ties as a partner in law firm there. She has hired Darrel Cummings, her deputy at the Los Angeles center, to open the NGLTF�s office in the city.

She says, "I think that people are hungry to support things that they think are really going to make a difference. More and more as we live under the administration of George W., people are going to see that we are losing some ground. I think that some of the complacency that has existed over the last eight years is going to change. So I'm really optimistic."


Cincinnati prepares for a week of Pride festivities

by Anthony Glassman

Cincinnati--Cincinnati Pride, invigorated with Olympic dreams and studies of the effects of Issue 3, has its main events on June 10 with a rally, a parade and a music festival in Hoffner Park.

The festivities, however, will start considerably earlier than 11 am that day. They will kick off a week earlier with the AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati Drag Races.

The Drag Races, a wildly successful annual fundraiser for AVOC, consists of four-person teams donning dresses, purses, wigs and heels and running a relay race down Court Street for the honor of getting the Golden Pump Award. The race will start at 4 pm Sunday, June 3, with registration beginning an hour earlier.

The Drag Race will cap a street festival on Court Street beginning at 1 pm, which will include live bands, booths for local businesses and organizations, food and drink.

The festival, though, is only a small part of the weekend. Friday will see a drag show at Shooters, 927 Race St., and male exotic dancers at the Pipeline, 241 Court St. On Saturday, Shooters will have Country Western Night, while the Pipeline�s upstairs dance club Flux will feature DJ Wayne Shepard. Spurs, located at 326 E. 8th St., will have a cookout on Sunday at 4 pm. Shooters will host a benefit drag show at 8 pm, while in Flux a "Winner�s Circle" dance will feature host Miss Mona Lott along with Blak Cheri, DJ Chris Mercier, Larry Fought and DJ Gumbo.

Of course, that�s all leading up to the main event seven days later, the Cincinnati Pride Parade and Festival. At 11 am, a one-hour rally will lead up to the parade�s step-off from the Burnet Woods Gazebo in Clifton.

The keynote speaker will be Scott McLarty, a longtime Cincinnati-area activist. Since moving to Washington, D.C., he organized that city�s Green Party, and helped negotiate the merger between DC�s Green Party and the D.C. Statehood Party. He coordinated the Green Party�s platform on human rights, offering far-reaching LGBT protections, for the 2000 campaign. Before he left Cincinnati, he was one of the leading protestors of the 1990 obscenity case surrounding a Robert Mapplethorpe photo exhibit and of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain�s homophobic employment policies.

Other speakers include Phebe Beiser and Vic Ramstetter of the Ohio Lesbian Archives, originally housed in Beiser�s home, now in the Cincinnati Women�s Building, home of Crazy Ladies Books; Cynthia Jeffries, director of outreach and public relations for Crossport, Cincinnati�s most prominent transgender support organization; Larry Wolf, long-time community activist and gay journalist, and Ed Hicks, also a longtime Cincinnati LGBT activist, currently on the staff of the Memphis Business Journal.

John Maddux will read a Pride proclamation during the rally, which will be hosted by Ken Colegrove, producer of Alternating Currents and organizer of this year�s events, Erica Riddick, Michael Chanak, Wendy Mataya and the parade�s grand marshal, 76-year-old Peaches LaVerne, Cincinnati�s oldest female impersonator.

The Pride parade will step off from the Burnet Woods Gazebo at noon, heading north on Clifton Ave., onto Ludlow Ave., and winding up at Hoffner Park at roughly 1 pm, where the Out 2 Hoffner Park Music Festival will take place.

A baker�s dozen acts will be featured in the festival: Tracy Walker, Black Magic Rhythm All Stars, the Gordon Freeman Trio, Happy Charles, the Tigerlilies, Just The Band, Jaime Fota, Vicki D�Salle, VocalPoint, Ronald Brooksbank, Bill Durham, Don Keaton and Don Nicastro.

After an absence of many years, Cincinnati showed its pride last year with a parade, which promises to be eclipsed by this year�s.


Commission ignores gender issue, suspends firefighter

Salem, OhioThe Salem Civil Service Commission has upheld the suspension of a firefighter whose non-conforming gender presentation has brought harassment from co-workers.

The commission refused to hear evidence suggesting that the suspension may be retaliation by the fire chief, or related to the gender issues.

The three-member civil service tribunal heard the appeal May 21. They upheld the one-day suspension of Lt. Jimmie Smith, a 20-year veteran, because he did not dispatch "first response" paramedics when a citizen requested non-emergency ambulance transport.

The city of Salem, southwest of Youngstown, allows its EMS units to be used for non-emergency transport so that insurance will pay for the medical trip.

An ordinance passed by city council in late 2000 requires that first responders be sent on all emergency EMS calls. In this case, Smith, who was the commanding officer of his shift on April 25, judged the call to be a non-emergency.

Fire Chief Walt Greenamyer suspended Smith for "gross neglect, conduct subversive to the good order of the department, and willfully disobeying the lawful order of the department."

Greenamyer testified that he had suspended Smith's captain Tom Eastek in December for not dispatching first responders, and felt that his suspension of Smith showed him to be impartial. But he admitted that the circumstances in Smith�s case were different, and in Eastek�s case, there was a life-threatening situation.

Salem Public Safety Director Henry Willard testified that he does not support Smith's suspension.

Salem's mayor, auditor, and director of public service were also called to testify, due to a meeting they attended with the law director April 20 in which Greenamyer allegedly discussed sensitive and confidential medical information about Smith. This information, which Smith�s attorney asked be kept confidential, has led to department-wide sexual harassment and sex stereotyping.

Smith alleges that it also led to a plan by Greenamyer to force Smith to resign.

At an April 15 meeting with Eastek, Smith discussed the reasons underlying his apparent lack of gender role conformity.

Eastek took the information directly to the chief, who brought in the other city officials. Smith believes that the information also became common knowledge among members of the department.

Salem Law Director C. Brooke Zellers, who is also counsel to the commission, directed Harry Dugan, the commission's chair, to rule all testimony and evidence related to the gender-related harassment and the April 15 meeting outside the scope of the hearing.

Zellers received a letter April 30 from Smith's attorney warning the mayor, fire chief, and other city officials including Zellers that Smith considered the actions of his captain and chief to be a violation of confidentiality. Smith�s attorney, Randi Barnabee of Northfield Center, Ohio, specializes in matters of gender equality.

In the letter, Barnabee claimed that the suspension resulted from Smith's hiring of her to pursue federal civil rights charges against the city officials involved.

Following the hearing, Zellers said he was unaware that Smith hired counsel to pursue such charges, and he could not understand why any would be filed against city officials.

Barnabee said the federal case that will be filed as the result of the commission's ruling will be tried under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Barnabee said this case has the potential to set federal legal precedent that will protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from discrimination in the workplace.


News Briefs

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

Air Force can charge doctor for tuition

San Francisco -- A gay psychiatrist must pay the U.S. Air Force more than $71,000 for his education because he failed to fulfill his active duty obligation, a judge has ruled.

In a decision released May 29, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said John Hensala, a former U.S. Air Force captain, should be required to pay back the government because he voluntarily announced he was gay and should have known the consequences of violating the military�s "don�t ask, don�t tell" policy.

Hensala, 36, a San Francisco psychiatrist in private practice who sued last May, said he shouldn�t have to repay the money because he wanted to serve, but the Air Force refused to let him.

Hensala was honorably discharged after telling his superiors in 1994 that he is gay. He claimed he wanted to serve honestly and had no reason to believe he would be automatically discharged after his announcement.

The Air Force contended Hensala announced he was gay to avoid active duty military service.

The government paid for Hensala�s education at Northwestern University�s medical school under a program that required four years of active duty military service after graduation. He put off that service twice, during a three-year residency at Yale, and a two-year fellowship at the University of California at San Francisco.

In December 1994, the Air Force told Hensala his military service would begin the following year. Days later, Hensala announced he was gay.

The judge agreed his timing may have been suspect.

Hensala�s lawyer, Clyde Wadsworth, said he planned to appeal Alsup�s decision to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We are deeply disappointed with the court�s order," he said. "We think that it�s simply wrong."

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said his office had not yet seen the decision and refused to comment.

Campsite with rainbow flag attacked

Honolulu�Two men allegedly poured kerosene on sleeping gay campers� tents at 3:30 in the morning, lit it and attempted to run over the campers as they tried to escape. The campsite, in Polihale State Park, was marked by a five-foot rainbow flag.

Orion P. Macomber, 19, and Eamonn D. Carolan, 18, were arraigned May 29 on three counts of attempted murder and several other felony charges stemming from the May 26 incident.

Macomber and Carolan allegedly called the men "faggots" and yelled that the Bible "tells us to kill you sodomites" during the attack, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

One day earlier, Gov. Ben Cayetano said that he will sign the hate crime bill passed by this year�s legislature.

It gives longer sentences for crimes motivated by the victim�s race, religion, disability, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation.

Cayetano said said his decision was "close call" because he doesn�t believe Hawaii has a problem with hate crime yet.

Dog owners plead not guilty

San Francisco�The two lawyers whose Preso-Canario mastiffs mauled lesbian lacrosse coach Diane Whipple to pleaded not guilty May 29 to second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Marjorie Knoller is charged with second-degree murder and failure to control a mischievous animal, while her husband, Robert Noel, is charged with manslaughter and failure to control the dogs, Zeus and Hera.

If convicted, Knoller faces at least 15 years to life in prison, while Noel could serve up to four years for the attack.

The attack has thrust Whipple�s partner Sharon Smith into the national spotlight as a crusader for gay equal rights. She is leading a charge in California to allow one partner in a same-sex relationship to file a wrongful death suit, which is not currently allowed under state law. If Smith�s suit succeeds, she has announced that she will donate the award to LGBT charities.

Whipple�s mother has also announced her intention to file a wrongful death suit against Knoller and Noel.

Civil union repeal passes

Montpelier, Vt.�The Republican-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed a measure that would repeal civil unions and replace them with "reciprocal partnerships" open to blood relatives as well as gay and lesbian couples.

The May 24 vote will most likely prove to be meaningless, since the Democrat-controlled Senate and Gov. Howard Dean have expressed their opposition to the measure. It is viewed as a legislative way to demean the validity of gay and lesbian civil unions, and fulfill campaign promises made by new House members to repeal them.

The first vote on May 23 deadlocked the House, forcing Speaker Walter Freed to break the tie.

Rep. Duncan Kilmartin proposed an amendment early in the debate that would outlaw granting marriage benefits to same-sex couples based on "their sexual intimacy or sexual activity," according to the Rutland Herald,. The proposed amendment was quickly pulled when it was suggested that it should apply to heterosexuals as well.

The removal of the amendment led several liberal lawmakers to argue that the "reciprocal partnership" bill was being used as an anti-gay measure to remove Vermont�s groundbreaking civil unions law. Proponents of the bill, however, claim that they simply want to make the non-marital unions more inclusive, since blood relatives could benefit from the bill, while they cannot take advantage of civil unions.

Decade-old gay murders solved

New York City�Authorities have arrested a Staten Island nurse after a new fingerprint system linked him to five murders of gay men in the early 1990s.

Richard W. Rogers Jr., 50, was charged with murder May 29 for the 1992 slayings of Thomas Mulcahy, 58, and Anthony E. Marrero, 44. The two men�s dismembered bodies were found in trash bags left at highway rest stops in New Jersey.

Mulcahy, a computer executive, was last seen at the Townhouse gay bar in Manhattan; Marrero was a hustler who worked Grand Central Station.

Three other men disappeared from Manhattan gay bars between 1991 and 1993, and were also found dismembered in trash bags at rest stops. Gay activists convinced police that the murders were the work of one serial killer.

The New York Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project offered a $10,000 reward for Mulcahy�s killer in 1993, and worked with a police task force set up for the five cases.

But the first break didn�t come until two weeks ago, when the Maine state police started running a regional fingerprint database through their new computer matching system. It matched a print from one of the trash bags to one from the slaying of a University of Maine student 28 years ago.

The print belonged to Rogers. Also a student then, he had been acquitted of manslaughter in 1973 after he said he had killed the man in self-defense.

Gay veterans memorial dedicated

Cathedral City, Calif.�A new monument to gay veterans was dedicated May 27, the day before Memorial Day. It is the second such memorial set up in the last year.

The first was dedicated in Phoenix on Veterans Day.

The 4� foot granite obelisk was funded by private donations. It is in Desert Memorial Park, most famous as the final resting place of Frank Sinatra.

According to organizers, it is the only solely gay veterans� memorial in the country, since the Phoenix memorial, while donated by LGBT veterans, is dedicated to all veterans.


 

A celluloid cornucopia

Sundance celebrates Pride month with 37 LGBT feature films

by Anthony Glassman

The Sundance Film Festival has a history of presenting the finest independent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender films. For the fourth year, the Sundance cable channel brings them to you for Pride month with their Out Loud Film Festival, a showcase of some of the best queer cinema covering 70 years of international filmmaking.

Last year�s Out Loud Film Festival was a wonder: 26 feature-length films, new and old, fiction and documentary. This year Sundance ups the ante, bringing in 37 full-length film and 12 shorts, packaged conveniently in their "Shorts Stop: An Hour of Short Films" Sunday night program.

The shorts cover every imaginable topic appropriate to the festival, from In Search of Mike, an hysterical, bitter look at one man�s relationship with his mother, to Lady, a day in the life of a completely sexually impulsive, if ambiguous, woman.

Four of the shorts, Inside Out, hITCH, Just One Time and $30, are in Boys Shorts 3, but the other eight are just as impressive.

Family, for instance, consists of interviews with the teenaged filmmaker, his father, and the gay radio host who helped him come to terms with his sexual orientation. Starring, written and directed by Stephen Patrick Foery, it is an outgoing yet introspective look at one boy�s life, delving into his emotions and those of the people who have had the most profound effects on his life.

 

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