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

Issue 3 backer named to state civil rights panel

‘We should have done a stronger
background check’ says Taft’s office

by Eric Resnick

Columbus-The appointment of a former Cincinnati council member to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission is drawing fire from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, and regrets from the governor's office.

At the strong recommendation of the Hamilton County Republican Party, Governor Robert Taft appointed Rev. Charles Winburn to fill a vacant seat on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Winburn, pastor of the non-denominational Church in College Hill, was a leader of the "Issue 3" effort to repeal a gay and lesbian civil rights ordinance and ban any future ones. The measure is now in effect.

Anti-gay themes were the centerpieces of Winburn's council campaigns, as he told Cincinnati residents that adding sexual orientation to non-discrimination laws would protect necrophiliacs and make it difficult or impossible to prosecute pedophiles.

In 1996, Winburn introduced a council resolution urging the Ohio general assembly to pass laws prohibiting same-sex marriages and led the opposition to passing a hate crime bill inclusive of sexual orientation in Cincinnati.

"He's just so conservative," said Stonewall Cincinnati executive director Doreen Cudnik, "that many African-Americans don't think he supports civil rights on race, either, so it isn't just sexual orientation with him."

Winburn is African-American.

Cudnik, who took her post in 1999 after the Issue 3 campaign, has confronted Winburn on his homophobia and believes he has learned some things since then.

"There are people in this city who pre-date me who will never trust Charlie Winburn," said Cudnik, "but we have made strides with him and he has always treated me with respect."

Cudnik describes a time shortly after her arrival from Cleveland, when she attended a city council meeting on another matter. Hearing Winburn degrade and demean lesbians and gays from the floor, Cudnik took him on during the public comment part of the meeting.

"He listened and apologized to me and we had another meeting last fall," said Cudnik.

Cudnik also pointed out that Winburn, as chair of the council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, asked Stonewall to be part of a community leaders meeting he was organizing to discuss police community relations.

Cudnik said no one can forget Winburn's history, "but now he has this job, and now it is our job to hold him to the progress he has made, and we will."

Winburn was not available for comment, but promised Cudnik and told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he would enforce an anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation if Ohio passed one.

Taft spokesperson Mary Ann Sharkey indicated that the governor was not trying to be insensitive to the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when he appointed Winburn.

"We got many recommendations from Cincinnati and this issue never came up," she said.

Sharkey said neither the governor nor his chief of staff were aware of Winburn's history on gay issues.

"When the criticism over the appointment started, we finally did a Nexis search [a news database] to find out more about him, then we knew," said Sharkey.

"Had we known prior to the appointment, he still may have gotten the appointment, but he would have had to answer questions about it."

"We were not on top of this," said Sharkey. "We should have been. We should have done a stronger background check."

State board deletes ‘sexual orientation’ from ethics code

Measure is restored after counselors complain

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--A state regulatory panel says it was only "streamlining the language" when it removed "sexual orientation" from a set of anti-bias rules last month.

The deletion was the only change made to a proposed code of ethics for chemical dependency counselors. After an outcry from gay and lesbian counselors, the language was restored on March 9.

The change was made after the Ohio Counselors Credentialing Board for Chemical Dependency Counselors became a part of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services on February 12. Before that, the board was a separate entity in state government.

After the merger, the department was required to file its administrative rules with the Joint Commission on Agency Rule Review.

Senior department staff thought that meant their non-discrimination policy should be consistent with the language in Gov. Robert Taft’s 1999 executive order banning discrimination in state employment.

The 1999 order, which omitted "sexual orientation," replaced one written specifically to include the language. That order, signed by then-Gov. Richard Celeste in 1983 and continued by Gov. George Voinovich, was allowed to expire when Taft took office.

Taft’s 1999 order names no protected groups beyond state and federal civil rights laws, instead citing unnamed "others" not covered by those laws. Ohio and federal law do not include sexual orientation.

"We thought it should be in line with the language used by the rest of the state," said department spokesperson Stacey Frohnapfel. "Randall Webber, our equal employment opportunity coordinator, said [the old statement that included sexual orientation] wasn't consistent and should be changed."

Sexual orientation has been part of the non-discrimination statement of the code of ethics for at least 15 years.

Its removal was the only change recommended for the 38-page code.

"We have all heard horror stories of how our brothers and sisters have been treated by homophobic counselors and therapists," said Don Laufersweiler, a former credentialing board member. "Currently, there is a provision that can be used to correct that. If these new rules are approved, that will no longer be the case. And, it will no longer be an ethical violation for a homophobic counselor to demean, ridicule or refuse to treat a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person."

Frohnapfel countered, "This department never intended to do anything to give a slap in the face to the LGBT community. We just did it to keep in line with the executive order."

Frohnapfel also said that there is "umbrella language" elsewhere in the ethics codes that protect all people, not just those belonging to a named group, from discrimination by counselors. She also pointed out that the proposed rules were consistent with the classes protected under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The intention of odadas was to be all-inclusive by borrowing the language of the executive order with regard to discrimination policies, whether they be for employment or client’s rights," said Frohnapfel.

"I can only believe that this is a direct result of recently being forced into a situation where the board needed to come under the umbrella of an uncaring state bureaucracy who couldn't care less about the needs of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities," countered Laufersweiler.

Ohio Citizen Advocacy Board executive director Donna Conley, a former director of the credentialing board, said the rules are binding on counselors, so they should not be discounted, but she doesn't believe counselors will start discriminating against gays and lesbians if they change.

Neither does openly gay psychologist and counselor Dr. Jim Helmuth of Akron. "We have discretion as professionals as to who we treat," he said.

But Helmuth sees a possible barrier to needed treatment if a counselor is homophobic or offends a gay patient. "Chemically dependent people find all sorts of excuses not to continue their treatment," said Helmuth, "and this could become a big one."

"Sexual orientation" was put back in the proposed code of ethics on March 9, after complaints from gay activists and a call from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the federal agency that administers the department’s block grant funding.

A public hearing on the proposed changes is set for March 19. Following the hearing, the approved code of ethics will be effective July 1.

Taft spokesperson Mary Ann Sharkey said the department "misused" the governor's executive order.

"No one here asked them to do this," she said. "There is another agenda going on here."

Sharkey said the governor is not likely to reinstate Celeste's executive orders, "but when he returns from his mission to South America, he will be looking into it."

Judge hears case of TG girl
removed from parents’ home

by Eric Resnick

Columbus-The drama surrounding the August 23 removal of a six-year-old transgender girl from her home by Franklin County Children Services may be coming to a close.

Franklin County Juvenile Court Judge Kay Lias presided over a hearing March 6 resulting from the mediation process entered into by Paul and Sherry Lipscomb and their attorneys, Children Services and their attorneys, two attorneys representing the child, and three assistant county prosecutors.

The hearing concluded a memorandum of understanding that set out the goals for the parties to move them closer to returning the child to one of her parents.

The parties agreed to court-supervised mediation November 22 under the condition that the parents agree that state intervention was needed, and that Children Services drop charges of neglect against the Lipscombs.

The child was removed from the home following the Lipscombs' attempt to enroll her as a girl in the first grade at McVay Elementary School in Westerville, where she attended kindergarten as a boy.

Born with male genitalia and the name Zachary, the child, diagnosed with gender identity disorder, has identified as a girl since age two and now goes by the name Aurora, which she chose. Prior to the custody battle, the Lipscombs filed with probate court to have her name legally changed.

Under Ohio law, children can be removed from the home for three reasons, abuse, neglect, and "dependency," which means, broadly, the child is in need of government intervention. In this case, dependency was based on Children Services’ belief that the child's needs were not being met.

The now-dropped neglect charge was not part of the original complaint. It was added September 11 to the original dependency charge.

Guardian ad litem (child's court-appointed guardian for legal affairs) Rebecca Steele has maintained that the child is violent and needs treatment, which her parents were not providing.

The child has been treated by the Cincinnati Children's Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with GID.

Steele and Children Services had originally attempted to dispute the GID diagnosis, and gender identity issues were cited in the original complaint. But in December, Steele told the Columbus Dispatch that gender identity is not the real issue in the case.

Still, since her removal from the home, the child has been in foster care and forced to live as a boy using the name Zachary. There are four boys placed in that home, but no other girls. She is allowed to wear only boys' clothing or clothing that is considered gender neutral. She is forbidden to wear jewelry or play with toys considered feminine.

Aurora, who because of Asperger syndrome is strong-willed and stubborn, still insists she is a girl and rebels, sometimes violently, at being made to live as a boy.

The case has been complicated by revelations about the lives of the parents. Both live with bipolar disorder, a psychiatric diagnosis requiring medical treatment.

In October, Paul Lipscomb told Time magazine that he also had gender identity issues and was planning to transition from male to female.

Sherry Lipscomb appeared on television seeking to draw attention to the situation, prompting Lias to issue a gag order in September.

The parents separated in October, causing their attorneys to withdraw due to possible conflict of interest if, in a divorce, the issue of permanent custody was raised.

Both parents had to hire attorneys independently, causing the case to be delayed.

Sources close to the case indicate that Paul Lipscomb is Aurora's strongest advocate, especially on her expression of her gender identity, and in his concern for proper treatment of her Asperger syndrome. He will likely be granted custody by spring 2002, based on the 18-month length of most foster placements.

Due to illness, Sherry Lipscomb did not attend the March 6 proceedings. But those in attendance discussed the status of the court-ordered counseling each parent must have, as well as other objectives, including steady employment and a stable home.

Both parents are making progress in these areas. However, because a child is involved, the court will not reveal specific information on the case.


News Briefs

Connecticut may recognize same-sex couples

Hartford, Conn.-Supporters of same-sex marriage laws are optimistic that Connecticut will become the next state to legally recognize gay and lesbian couples.

Lawmakers say the proposal to institute civil unions similar to Vermont’s has drawn growing interest in the General Assembly. Legislators already have agreed to extend health insurance coverage to partners of state employees, and they also enacted a gay-inclusive hate-crime law.

The legislature’s Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on March 16 on the issue.

In 1999, opponents of a bill that would allow gays to adopt children tacked on a so-called "defense of marriage" provision, which would have defined marriage as being solely between a man and a woman.

Supporters of the original bill pulled it after the amendment was added. A similar move is expected if a bill to allow civil unions or full gay marriage comes before the legislature.

Around 35 states have "defense of marriage" acts or amendments, while Rhode Island, New York, Hawaii and California are among states with pending bills to allow civil unions or gay marriages.

The Netherlands will enact a law allowing full same-sex marriage next month, the first in the world. Several other countries have domestic partner laws, which vary from simple registries with no benefits to almost marriage-like status.

Bartender basher convicted

Traverse City, Mich.—A man in this northern Michigan city was found guilty of assault and battery March 8 for his involvement in the September attack on a bartender at a gay nightclub.

Donald Lawrence Quick, 26, faces up to one year in jail.

Defense lawyer Craig Elhart said the co-defendants—Interlochen residents Christopher M. Pinkowski, 20, and Kyle W. Poff, 21—were allowed to plead guilty to misdemeanors in the assault.

The three men were accused of attacking the bartender outside the Side Traxx nightclub Sept. 30. The trio allegedly chased him for several blocks while shouting anti-gay slurs and wielding a baseball bat.

The bartender told police he outran his attackers and made it back to the club safely.

Quick had been charged with felonious assault and would have faced up to four years in prison had he been convicted of that charge. However, jurors were given the option of convicting him of assault and batter, a one-year misdemeanor, and conspiracy to commit simple assault, a 93-day misdemeanor.

Partner sues dog owners

San Francisco—The partner of a woman fatally mauled by two dogs in January sued two lawyers who were caretakers of the animals, hoping to prove the lawyers’ negligence as well as set a precedent for gay and lesbian civil rights.

Sharon Smith’s March 12 wrongful death suit alleges that Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller were negligent in their handling of the two Presa-Canaria mastiffs that attacked and killed Diane Whipple in the hallway of her apartment building.

Previously, only legal heirs—spouses, children and parents—have been able to file wrongful death suits.

Michael Cardoza, Smith’s attorney, alleges that Noel and Knoller displayed complete disregard for the safety of others by keeping the dogs in their San Francisco apartment, referring to the animals as "custom-made .357s with fangs," according to Reuters.

The lawyers were keeping the dogs for a client who is in the maximum-security Pelican Bay State Prison.

Smith said she is the beneficiary of Whipple’s will, which was written in 1997. Kate Kendall, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, pointed to the will as evidence that Whipple was Smith’s spouse, and that Whipple’s death has left Smith a widow.

Smith said any financial award from the suit would go to support a non-profit women’s lacrosse foundation recently created to honor Whipple, 33, who coached lacrosse at St. Mary’s College near San Francisco.

J.R. Warren trial gets a new date

Fairmont, W.V.--One of two Marion County teenagers accused of killing a gay black man is now scheduled to stand trial on July 23 in Beckley, court officials said.

David Parker, 18, of Grant Town is charged with first-degree murder in last summer's beating death of 26-year-old Arthur "J.R." Warren, with whom he had a sexual relationship. Marion County Circuit Judge David Janes has set aside a week for the trial.

The trial has been postponed several times, most recently after problems arose coordinating the schedules of defense experts and witnesses. Prosecutors also wanted more time to have a psychiatric evaluation performed.

Parker's co-defendant, Jared Wilson, 18, of Fairview, is still tentatively scheduled to face trial May 29 in Wheeling. Both trials were relocated after a judge ruled an impartial jury could not be seated in Marion County. Both teen-agers could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of killing Warren last July 4.

Investigators say the beating began when Parker became angry with Warren for telling others about their relationship. Wilson says he took part in the beating under threats from Parker. Both suspects were 17 at the time.

City may add TGs to rights ordinance

New York City—After eight months, a bill to add transgendered people to a civil rights ordinance has been given the green light for consideration.

City Council Speaker Peter Vallone moved the bill to the General Welfare Committee recently after holding it up for months. Vallone stalled the bill because gender-based discrimination is already against New York City ordinances.

The amendment to the standing ordinance would protect people from discrimination based on gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, whether or not it is "different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth," the New York Post reported.

Council members Bill Perkins and Margarita Lopez, the sponsors of the bill, argue that gender, to the mind of most people, is male or female, and so transgender people are not perceived to be protected under current provisions.

The first hearings on the bill should come later this month.

PlanetOut-Advocate merger is off

San Francisco--PlanetOut says its planned merger with the publisher of Advocate magazine will not go through.

The two privately held gay and lesbian media companies signed a letter of intent last year that would have given Liberation Publications Inc. about $30 million in PlanetOut stock.

The gay web site PlanetOut is focusing instead on its merger with San Francisco’s Online Partners, the owner of, its biggest rival.

According to Media Metrix, a Net traffic measurement firm, had 612,000 unique visitors in January and PlanetOut had 565,000. No other gay web sites had audiences approaching those numbers.

Judge strikes sodomy law

New Orleans—A Louisiana law outlawing anal and oral sex by consenting adults was again ruled unconstitutional by a civil district judge on March 9.

Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson will issue a permanent injunction against the statute.

Gay and lesbian activists, who have led efforts to get sodomy laws stricken from the books, celebrated the ruling.

The Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians filed the lawsuit, alleging the law violates the right to privacy and discriminate against gay men and lesbians.

The state argues that the law is needed to promote marriage and encourage procreation.

Assistant attorney general Charlie Braud said the state will appeal the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Since the early 1980s, courts in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Montana, Maryland and Georgia have thrown out sodomy laws. Currently, 12 states ban all anal or oral sex, with some exceptions for married couples, while five more states ban sex between same-sex partners.

Hillary will skip St. Pat’s parade

New York City—Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, criticized by gay civil rights groups last year for marching in the nation’s oldest and biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade because it bans gays, said March 9 that she will not march this year.

Asked whether last year’s flap kept her from marching again, Clinton said only that she had already committed to appear in a parade in Syracuse after attending holiday events in New York City.

This year, the parade’s 240th, will mark the 11th time that the New York-based Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization has been banned from marching under its own banner.

Erie County rights ordinance fails

Erie, Pa.-Despite strong public support of a proposal to add sexual orientation to a non-discrimination ordinance, County Council voted 5-1 to table the bill on March 6.

The only council member voting against the delay was Mark DiVecchio, the bill’s sponsor.

The tabling was brought on by inaccuracies in the language of the bill, including references to York County, after which the bill was molded.

The county’s Human Rights Commission proposed a number of changes to the anti-discrimination ordinances, including the addition of sexual orientation.

The county council meeting had to be moved from council chambers to a courtroom to accommodate the 100-person crowd.

Supporters of the ordinance said it is needed to show that discrimination will not be tolerated in Erie County. Opponents argued that, since the ordinance doesn’t have church exemptions, it would require churches to hire gay men and lesbians.

College cancels Westenhoefer show

Pittsburgh—A Catholic college is reviewing its policies on rental of their auditorium following their last-minute cancellation of a contract with lesbian comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer.

Carlow College rents Antonian Hall to the public for shows and events on a regular basis, so Cindy Klink, a promoter for gay and lesbian entertainers, approached Carlow in November to book the hall. She signed the contract, paid the rental, parking and insurance fees, and started advertising the March 18 show.

On February 28, Carlow College canceled the contract.

Sister Grace Ann Geibel, president of the college, reviewed a Westenhoefer CD and found it inappropriate, according to the school’s lawyer.

Both Klink and Westenhoefer believe that the last-minute cancellation was motivated by anti-gay bias. Carlow College was flooded with angry calls after an appearance by Kate Clinton on campus eight years ago.

Westenhoefer’s show has been moved to the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, whose auditorium holds just over half of Antonian Hall, which Klink says will cost her a good deal of money.

Chicago bids for Gay Games 2006

Chicago—Chicago has moved one step closer to hosting the Gay Games VII in 2006, submitting their formal bid to bring the games to the Midwest.

On January 30, Chicago 2006 submitted the 100-page request to the Federation of Gay Games.

In addition to Chicago, three other cities are in contention for the event: Atlanta, Los Angeles and Montreal.

Gay Games VI will take place next year in Sydney, Australia.

The final selection of 2006 host city will be made in October, at the federation’s annual meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mayor faces recall election

Tempe, Ariz.—Residents were successful in forcing a recall election for the openly-gay mayor, a target of criticism for opposing city employee United Way contributions to the Boy Scouts and his support for large development projects.

The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office certified March 7 that opponents of four-term Mayor Neil Giuliano submitted enough valid signatures to prompt a September 11 election.

City officials said they will not try to block a recall election, which must be called by April 5.

The mayor handily won his fourth term last March, but his attack last fall on city support for the United Way opened the door to critics upset by the city’s urbanization. Guiliano was criticized by many residents because he didn’t want money raised by city employees to go to the United Way, which supports the Boy Scouts of America.

Giuliano opposes the Scouts’ policy of refusing to accept gay troop members and leaders. The city still supports the United Way.

State workers get partner coverage

Augusta, Maine—Same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners of Maine state employees will soon be eligible to receive publicly funded health insurance benefits.

The State Employee Health Commission quietly approved the change weeks ago, and Gov. Angus King let the decision stand.

King’s financial commissioner, Janet Waldron, said she did not feel obligated to tell lawmakers about the change because she thinks it is not a controversial issue. She said the change would not take a financial toll on the state because not many people are affected.

Candidates stack gay political group

New York City—Mayoral hopeful Mark Green has been accused of political naughtiness after 22 members of his office and campaign staff, along with their spouses, joined the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, allegedly to secure GLID’s endorsement in the mayoral primaries.

One-third of Green’s overall staff paid dues to join the organization.

The organization was thought to be eyeing City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who has ties to prominent club members State Sen. Tom Duane and Council Member Christine Quinn.

A member of Green’s campaign team, who is also one of the founding members of GLID, said that he was responsible for signing up his co-workers in an attempt to strengthen GLID. Green spokesman Joe DePlasco also said that if GLID did not want the new members’ support, they would be willing to abstain from voting on the organization’s endorsement. GLID has over 400 members.

According to sources connected to Green’s campaign, Hevesi’s camp had engaged in the same actions, enrolling heterosexual staffers and their spouses in the organization.

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


Amy Ray goes stag

by Harriet L. Schwartz

Just as she takes on Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner as the personification of white male dominance in the rock industry, Amy Ray also confronts her own related inner demons on Stag, her new album.

" 'Hey Castrator’ is a song that tries to tackle things about myself that I recognize but don't necessarily love," Ray said in a phone interview. "It has to do with the way I experience women or people. I think objectification--a little bit of that is healthy. But it's identifying with that macho white male rock thing and seeing it in myself a little bit and being disgusted with that."

Ray is best known for performing with Emily Saliers as the Indigo Girls. She explores both the personal and political on this solo album, sometimes mixing the two.

" 'Blackheart Day' is a song to myself about not being able to rise above my bad mood," she says. "But when I talk about social issues--human rights issues, or gender issues--like in 'Laramie'--things that I'm calling other people down on, I'm including myself when [suggesting that] someone needs to work on things."

While "Laramie" may look inward and outward, "Lucystoners" is a definitive anti-rock-establishment statement. Though Ray hammers on Wenner throughout the choruses, she covers other territory as well, including graffiti and harassment in rock and punk clubs, and radio play as other places where straight white men oppress women and sexual minorities.

" 'Lucystoners' covers a lot of territory with sexism and homophobia that me and Emily have experienced in the industry, over time," Ray says. "Jann is unfortunately an excellent symbol for all this stuff. He is notoriously [seen as] sexist in the feminist community and so I picked him. I don't even know him, so I have nothing personal. When I say he gave the boys what they deserve, I meant it. It doesn't mean that the guys don't deserve the coverage, they do. But it means he's sorely lacking in his parity with women. He probably has women on the cover (of Rolling Stone) as much as men, but they are always presented in a very specific way."

Ray believes that there has been a post-Lilith backlash in the mainstream music industry. She says stations that played women artists--from alternative stations spinning Courtney Love to mainstream stations playing Sarah McLachlan--either no longer exist or have changed their format. The combination of less radio play, less touring, and fewer major label releases adds up to a music industry again dominated by men.

"I've talked to a lot of [radio] music directors about it and they say their research shows that people's taste had changed, but you have to wonder, why did that happen?" Ray says. "Did the stations start playing something different? What is research and who's doing it--white men? Probably. Then they talk about advertisers and demographics--I think there's a lot of passing the buck. There's always some kind of spin, whenever women gain some notoriety, people shoot it down."

Ray says that the independent labels have picked up the slack and that women artists find far greater support in that segment of the industry. Ray's own indie label Daemon Records is now in its eleventh year.

Ray called on the talent of many of her Daemon colleagues as well as a few old friends and artists she has admired to put together Stag (see sidebar). The Butchies, who have recorded on Mr. Lady Records, gave Ray a sense of direction as she began the process that would lead to Stag.

"The songs with the Butchies were a few of the first songs done and I didn't expect them to be as diverse and as strong in terms of branching out into different styles," Ray says. "[They played] a song like 'Laramie' that's not normally in their style, and also 'Lucystoners,' which is a little more their style. When they had such great performances, it raised the bar of what I was expecting."

Fans may have imagined that Ray's solo album would pick up where the Indigo Girls' latest studio album Come On Now Social left off, particularly building on Ray's rock-oriented songs like "Go" and "Compromise." However, Stag has a much more raw sound, owing more to a punk aesthetic than anything else. Ray says that working with a smaller budget impacted the album's vibe, but that regardless of money issues, she still wanted a stripped-down rock feel.

"Most of it is stylistically my choice, what I want it to be--a punk approach, the rawness," she says. "A lot of the stuff was recorded live, with us playing together in one room--that has a raw sound, it's very hard to control sonically. So I made choices to do things that way that I thought would lend themselves to the song.

"I was specific about each song about how I recorded it, within some financial perimeters. Like my choice of microphones. I used certain mics for certain songs and was very calculated about my choice of mics and recording format and things like that. That kind of thing doesn't cost me extra because I have mics and can bring them in. Or I would record the bass through an amplifier in a big room with mics. I did different tricks. Some of it came out really well and some of it you can't tell the difference that I did it."

Ray says there were key moments when she felt the absence of Emily Saliers. She says that Saliers typically handles lead guitar for the Indigo Girls, so the solo project required that Ray take on that role--she also missed Saliers' input on harmonies. Finally she adds, "When I was driving long drives to Atlanta or Birmingham to record, it was very alone and different, making decisions about mixes, those things I'm used to going to Emily with."

Whether working solo or with Saliers, Ray continues to explore her musical process. She says she has a tendency to over-think, but has also learned to trust her intuition. She looks no further than songs on Stag to prove her point. "When I started 'Measure of Me' a long time ago, it was just what it is," she says. "It was in that form with those lyrics. I kept thinking I needed to make something more out of it. So I wrote several different choruses and went through all these acrobatics with it--so did the Butchies--they were learning all those versions, and we ended up doing it the way it was, and that's what it's meant to be, nothing more than that."

"A song like 'Late Bloom' came very fast to me, was recorded fast and I mixed it myself. Things that don't usually bode well for a song, and it turned out to be one of my favorite tracks. I think there's a difference between over-thinking and really working on something. I work on my songs for a long time. Sometimes they take that much work and sometimes I miss the boat and don't realize I should have stopped. Sometimes I'll go back to an original version of a song, maybe technically it isn't as good, but it has something emotional that I can relate to."

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