Paris becomes world’s first major city with a gay mayor
by Elaine Ganley
Paris-The French capital became the world’s first major city with an openly gay mayor on March 18, with the election of Socialist Bertrand Delanoe.
The unassuming Delanoe was relatively unknown before the campaign, but struck a chord with Paris’ 2 million residents by focusing on improving the quality of life. He promised to reduce pollution and address concerns about the poor suburbs.
The Socialists ended a century of nearly unbroken rule by the right by wrenching Paris from President Jacques Chirac’s conservatives.
But the historic victory in the city of light, and a second prestigious win in the rightist bastion of Lyon, were dimmed by the left’s loss of more than two dozen sizable towns around France.
Losses by several high-profile ministers in Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s government proved a particular humiliation.
"Today, Parisians have freely decided in favor of change in the capital," said Delanoe in a victory speech at his campaign headquarters.
Delanoe, 50, defeated Philippe Seguin, a candidate for Chirac’s Rally for the Republic party.
"Paris is liberated," chanted a crowd that gathered in front of City Hall.
This Sunday, Delanoe will officially become mayor of Paris--a post held by Chirac for 18 years--when the city council, which serves as a sort of electoral college, votes him in.
He will replace incumbent Mayor Jean Tiberi, whose own candidacy divided the right.
In his public demeanor, Delanoe is a man like his patron, Jospin, France’s dry, professorial prime minister. The two men are good friends.
One of a handful of openly gay politicians in conservative France, Delanoe came out on a television program in 1999.
He is an active supporter of gay issues, taking part in Gay Pride marches and campaigning for a national law to give legal recognition to same-sex couples. The "civil solidarity pacts" law passed in 1999.
While Paris is the world’s first, Los Angeles may become the first major U.S. city with an openly gay mayor. Councilmember Joel Wachs is currently second in the polls for an April 10 mayoral election there.
Kentucky town repeals fairness ordinance
by Anthony Glassman
Henderson, Ky.—After a year and a half of life, with no complaints filed under it, this Ohio River town of 25,000 repealed its fairness ordinance on March 13.
The ordinance, preventing discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation, was passed in 1999.
"I don’t think it’s a secret this is not wanted," said Rick Hile, who, along with his wife, had filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance. "There will be a lot of happy people in Henderson tomorrow."
"Repealing it sends a message that we were wrong and it’s okay to discriminate," said 19-year-old Kyle Burson, refuting Hile’s claim. "You’re voting to make it legal to discriminate."
Sonny Ward, a pro-rights city commissioner, chose not to run for reelection, leaving the door open for Bob Hall, an ordinance opponent, to take his seat, shifting the 3-2 balance of the commission.
Hall, Robby Mills and Russell Sights voted against the ordinance.
Mayor Joan Hoffman and council member Michele Deep said during the ordinance that they were sorry to see the measure repealed.
Rev. Jerry Greenlee, director of the Religious Organization Project in Kentucky, told the council members voting to strike down the ordinance that they should worry about their salvation for not being more tolerant, while Gary Puryear of Henderson defended them for standing up for their religious beliefs.
The move to repeal the ordinance, and the Hiles’ lawsuit against the city, were funded by Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice. Hile contended in the suit that the ordinance violated his freedom of religion, forcing him to rent his apartments to gay people despite his religious beliefs against them.
The case was dropped when it was determined that, because the Hiles owned single-family units, the measure did not apply to them.
The repeal, however, was not a surprise, even to supporters of the ordinance.
"It was something that we knew was coming since the election," said Matt Nicholson, community organizer for the Kentucky Fairness Alliance. "Bobby Hall ran on a platform saying he would repeal the ordinance."
"I think one of the things we’ve been trying to get out there is that civil rights shouldn’t be a tennis match," Nicholson continued. "When right are repealed, it gives people license to act on their hate.
Two conflicting bills at the state level died earlier this year, both in the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Gross Lindsay, D-Henderson. One would have added sexual orientation to statewide civil rights laws, and the other would have made it illegal for any local municipality to enact such laws.
Lexington, Louisville and Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, all have local or countywide protections for gay men and lesbians.
The battle in Henderson, and across Kentucky, is far from over, with gay civil rights forces ready to fight on any level.
"In general, we don’t throw all our eggs in one basket," Nicholson said. "This battle has energized leaders in Henderson, so we’ll throw resources there. This level of opposition will get people excited again."
by Anthony Glassman
Annapolis, Md.-A Maryland gay and lesbian civil rights bill cleared a major hurdle March 20 when a senate committee approved it.
Conservatives on the Judicial Proceedings Committee have killed similar bills in previous years, most recently in 1999. Supporters believe the full legislature will pass the measure, which is backed by Gov. Parris Glendening.
The panel passed the bill 6 to 5 after the committee’s chair, Sen. Walter Baker, D-Cecil, sent aides to find a parliamentary shut-off for a Republican filibuster.
The committee spent about 2½ hours voting on amendments and debating the bill March 19, and most of that time was taken by Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick, a leading opponent. Mooney said he was not trying to delay a vote, but simply wanted to make his position clear.
Glendening's bill proposes adding sexual orientation to a state law that already prohibits discrimination based on factors such as race, gender and religion. The governor and his supporters believe the bill will pass the full Senate and the House of Delegates.
Opponents agree that a majority of both houses probably will support the bill, but with only three weeks left in the 2001 session, they were hoping to delay action long enough to kill it.
The Judicial Proceedings Committee added several amendments, including four offered by Sen. Leo Green, D-Prince George's County. Green's amendments ensure that the bill will not require Maryland to recognize gay marriages, force employers to provide health care benefits to domestic partners or require educational institutions to promote any form of sexual orientation as part of the curriculum. His fourth amendment specified that the bill was not an endorsement of homosexual conduct.
Lobbyists for gay and lesbian groups agreed to his amendments and said they did not weaken the bill.
The committee also accepted amendments offered by Mooney to allow employers who are sued for discrimination to offer evidence about other gays they employ, and another to exempt the Boy Scouts.
Baker said the Boy Scouts amendment did nothing because the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that the organization is exempt from state anti-discrimination laws.
Mooney attempted to add seven more amendments to the bill, including one that would require a voter referendum, but the committee voted 6-5 to cut him off. The committee then voted 6-5 to pass the bill.
"I believe in fair debate," Mooney told the Frederick News Post. "This committee has been railroaded by the governor." Mooney added that he may filibuster the measure on the Senate floor.
"It’s outrageous that some people would take hysterical positions for promoting their own fundraising purposes," Glendening said. He pointed to a campaign contribution solicitation letter in which Mooney asked for help to keep safe "our beloved state from the left-wing agenda of Parris Glendening and the crazy, anti-business crusade of the militant homosexuals."
If the anti-bias measure passes, Maryland will become the 12th state with a gay and lesbian civil rights law on the books. Presently, eight other states are considering similar bills, with varying chances of passing.
Connecticut panel hears both sides on same-sex marriage
Hartford, Conn.--Hundreds of people packed a March 16 forum with Connecticut lawmakers on the topic of gay marriage and civil unions.
Supporters of proposed bills allowing civil unions in this New England state seemed to outnumber their opponents, mostly representing religious groups.
While there is no bill before the state legislature that would grant civil unions, lawmakers thought it important to get a sense of the populace’s feelings on the subject.
Lawmakers got a mixed message.
Proponents of civil unions pointed to the ever-changing concept of marriage, pointing to a recent past when interracial marriages were illegal and considered immoral, drawing a picture of days when a woman lost all her rights by entering into a marriage.
Opponents brought forth a volley of familiar arguments, citing "God’s law" and tradition. Some equated the legalization of gay unions with the viability of incestuous and polygamous marriages.
Richard Gatling, a clergyman from Waterbury, cited magazine and internet pornography, condoms and violence in schools as examples of the decline of American culture, while speaking on the subject of same-sex marriage.
Also speaking before the forum was Beth Robinson, cofounder of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, who indicated that a perceived anti-civil union backlash in her state was overstated.
According to Robinson, the majority of legislators who voted for civil unions were reelected, and the two gubernatorial candidates who supported civil unions got the majority of the votes in the election. She also brought up statistics indicating that the majority of Vermont residents supported the legislation.
The Judiciary Committee would have to take action on any proposed bill by April 18 in order to get it in the current session of the legislature.
Village People’s leatherman dies
New York City--Glenn Hughes, the leatherman of the Village People, died March 4 of lung cancer. He was 51.
Hughes was a founding member of the band, created in 1977 to appeal to the masses clamoring for disco music. He and the band celebrated their first hit a year later with the song "YMCA."
Hughes last performed with the Village People, whose membership was fluid, in 1996, but he continued to be involved with the management of the band until his death.
According to Mitch Weiss, the band’s manager, the cancer was detected at too late a stage for doctors to do much to help Hughes.
Hughes was buried in full leather regalia on March 9, with his bandmates serving as pallbearers. According to the band’s management, Hughes requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the charity God’s Love, We Deliver.
Web filter law is challenged
Philadelphia--A suit was filed March 20 in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals challenging a law requiring public libraries to install filters on their web browsers.
The Children’s Internet Protection Act was passed last December by Congress.
An 18-member panel appointed by Congress to study ways to protect children online had rejected the proposal, because of the risk that "protected, harmless, or innocent speech would be accidentally or inappropriately blocked."
Among the plaintiffs in the suit are a 15-year-old lesbian from Portland, Ore., who used library computers to find information on sexual orientation before coming out; the gay web sites PlanetOut of San Francisco and OutinAmerica.com, of Columbus; two congressional candidates whose web sites were blocked; Planned Parenthood, and a number of public libraries.
Under the law, libraries that don’t use blocking technology can lose millions of dollars in federal funding.
The makers of the blocking programs admit that their software does not just block pornographic or adult web sites. The programs also frequently block sites that do not fall under the law, like maps of Disney World, the Army Corps of Engineers, a list of passengers on the Mayflower, and Seventeen magazine.
Blocking programs very often screen out non-pornographic gay sites, restricting the ability of library patrons to get LGBT news, AIDS prevention information, and other innocuous subject matter.
A second case was filed on the same day in the same court by the American Library Association. The two suits are expected to be consolidated.
Teacher sued for using ‘fagometer’
Crown Point, Ind.--A teacher at Taft Middle School is on paid leave, after being sued for using anti-gay remarks in class.
History teacher Donald E. Miller is alleged to have used homophobic taunts in class, including changing the message on a Valentine’s Day conversation heart to "fag." According to reports, he then gave the candy to a student with Tourette’s syndrome, a condition that causes uncontrolled tics, swearing and barking.
According to Jim Brown, an attorney for the boy’s family, Miller also would point a television remote control at students, referring to it as a "fagometer."
Brown said that the principal, when told of the classroom situation, wrote it off to the teacher’s eccentricity.
Miller is on paid leave while the administration conducts an investigation into the complaints.
Choir concert is gassed
Vancouver, B.C.--A March 10 fundraiser for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays was moved to a nearby church after a can of bear repellent was set off in the Sid Williams Theater.
Similar to pepper spray, the gas rapidly filled the theater, filled to capacity with a crowd enjoying a concert by the Vancouver Lesbian and Gay Choir. People quickly exited the hall and waited for emergency vehicles to arrive.
The leader of the choir was hospitalized. A baby and a number of other people were treated for exposure to the gas, which inflames mucous membranes, leaving throats sore and eyes watering.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police located the seat where the canister was set off, and have a description of the teen who was sitting there. They are treating it as a hate crime, and expect to make an arrest.
Panel approves wrongful-death bill
Sacramento, Calif.--Gay couples and others registered as domestic partners could recover wrongful-death damages under a measure endorsed March 13 by the state assembly’s Judiciary Committee.
The bill expanding domestic partner rights was prompted by the dog mauling death of San Francisco lacrosse coach Diane Whipple, whose partner, Sharon Smith, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit last week.
Smith told lawmakers March 13 that it "added insult to injury" to learn that current law does not allow domestic partners to recover damages in wrongful-death cases.
The committee voted 8-1 to advance the bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, to the Labor and Employment Committee.
Whipple, 33, was fatally mauled in January by two dogs as she tried to enter her apartment. Smith filed the lawsuit against San Francisco lawyers Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller, who kept the dogs in their apartment.
A San Francisco grand jury has been convened to determine whether to charge the couple.
If approved by the Legislature, Migden's bill would not be retroactive but would apply to future cases. Smith said she would still ask the state courts to recognize her and Whipple as a couple.
The new measure also would allow domestic partners to make medical decisions for each other; use sick leave to care for one another; and inherit property without a will or administer an estate.
Opponents said they believe the measure attempts to undermine Proposition 22, an initiative approved by a majority of California voters last year that defined marriage as a solely male-female union.
Biographies may return to library
Anaheim, Calif.--A set of gay and lesbian biographies may be returned to a school library under an agreement between the school board and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The agreement involving the ten biographies taken from the library at Orangeview Junior High School was announced March 16 by the ACLU.
But Thomas "Hoagy" Holguin, a member of the Anaheim Union High School District board, later told the Orange County Register that it's not a done deal.
Neither Holguin nor ACLU officials could be reached for further comment. In December, the ACLU filed a federal suit on behalf of two students claiming the district violated constitutional free speech rights when it removed the biographies from the library. Among the banned books was a series called Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians, containing biographies on tennis player Martina Navratilova, economist John Maynard Keynes, and writers Willa Cather and James Baldwin.
The ACLU said the district had approved a settlement and a motion for approval of the agreement was being filed in U.S. District Court.
Three arrested at St. Pat’s parade
New York City—Three members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Association were arrested during the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The three women were trying to chain themselves to a fence in an attempt to block marchers. The act was in protest of the parade’s exclusion of the Irish-American gay group.
The two sides have been battling for over a decade. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Catholic group that puts on the parade, insists that letting in gay men and lesbians would be against the basis of their organization, while the ILGA has argued that their exclusion from the parade is discriminatory, and fails to represent the full spectrum of Irish-Americans.
The ILGA has lost a number of court challenges against the Hibernians, including one in the Supreme Court.
Other boroughs and cities have allowed gay Irish groups to march in their parades.
Vermont marriage ban going nowhere
Montpelier, Vt.—The Vermont House passed an explicit ban on gay marriage March 16, but senators said they don’t plan to act on the bill, dooming its chance to become law.
The bill would not undo the groundbreaking civil union law approved last year. Civil unions run parallel to marriage, granting all of its rights, benefits and responsibilities on the state level, but remain a separate legal entity.
The Republican-controlled House had approved the bill March 15 in a preliminary vote after an emotional three-hour debate.
Supporters said the bill was needed to clearly state that marriage is not between two men or two women under Vermont law. Opponents said the civil unions law already says that, and an additional statute is unnecessary.
Rep. George Schiavone said his goal was to preserve traditional marriage, while Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin said the bill was a reactionary political statement and reflected anti-gay bias.
"I think that the House, by playing politics with this bill, is awfully close to baiting a minority group that should receive the same respect as everyone else in the state," Shumlin, a Democrat, said.
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Richard Sears said the panel was unlikely to consider the bill.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
There’s a gulf between deserving an Oscar and getting one
by Kaizaad Kotwal
Let's face it. Size is everything, and often all that glitters is gold. So put on your betting hats, place your wagers and figure out who will get to hold, caress, stroke, kiss and fondle, in front of billions of viewers worldwide, thirteen-and-a-half hard inches of gilded manhood. You guessed correctly--it's Oscar time!
Every year, it goes without saying, that many deserving individuals and films don't even get nominated. Of those that are, it's not always the best that wins. The more times you have been snubbed in the past increases your chances of winning, and if you have a great marketing machine behind you, even the least deserving can walk away with the gold.
Here's a handicapping of the 2000 Oscars in the major categories. There's a big difference between who deserves to win and who will end up winning.
Actor in a Leading Role: This is an interesting race this year with four actors with past nominations and one newcomer: Javier Bardem in Before Night Falls, Russell Crowe in Gladiator, Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Ed Harris in Pollock and Geoffrey Rush in Quills.
Bardem, the newcomer, is the most deserving of the five nominated here, with Hanks's turn as the marooned FedEx worker being equally deserving. I still maintain that Jamie Bell, who played the title role in Billy Elliot, should have been nominated and should have won.
Rush doesn't deserve this nomination, but he has momentum from his past nods and wins.
Russell Crowe's dynamic turn as Maximus in the Roman epic will probably edge out his competitors by a nose, not because it is the year's best performance, but because the Academy is going to have to make reparations for ignoring his stellar work last year in The Insider.
Actress in a Leading Role: This is the only certainty this year, with Julia Roberts finally winning her golden man for her funny, spirited and brassy Erin Brockovich.
Also nominated are Joan Allen in The Contender, Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, Ellen Burstyn in Requiem For a Dream and Laura Linney in You Can Count On Me.
It is a major travesty that Bjork was not nominated for her shattering and ground-breaking debut performance in Dancer in the Dark. This was the only female performance this year that really made a difference, but actors are territorial and don't look kindly upon a non-actress taking their job and beating them at their own game.
Given the fact that she's not even nominated, it needs to be said that Ellen Burstyn's portrayal of a pill-popping, over-the-hill, TV-addict widow in Requiem is hard to ignore. Hers is a marvelous and most unglamorous comeback. But Roberts is the clear odds-on favorite here, and it is her best work to date. Roberts’ role is also more sympathetic, and being based on a real-life heroine who is still living, the Academy gets to give two nods for the price of one.
Actor in a Supporting Role: This is probably the only category this year where the one deserves to win probably will.
Benicio Del Toro in Traffic deserves this award hands down. His subtle yet quietly powerful turn as a corrupt Mexican cop who finds his conscience in the thick of the war on drugs is a true tour-de-force.
Others nominated include Jeff Bridges in The Contender, Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire, Albert Finney in Erin Brockovich, and Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator.
Finney's turn as Brockovich's boss Ed Masery is brilliant as well. If the Academy gets sentimental this year, like it did last year with Michale Caine's win in The Cider House Rules, then Finney may upset Del Toro. And if the Academy decides to vote young, then Phoenix could upset.
But this is Del Toro's award to lose, and if he doesn’t it will be the second-biggest travesty of the 2000 Academy Awards.
Actress in a Supporting Role: This is a very close field and it could be anybody's game. Nominess include Judi Dench in Chocolat, Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock, Kate Hudson in Almost Famous, Frances McDormand in Almost Famous and Julie Walters in Billy Elliot.
Dench, McDormand and Harden have all turned in winning performances. However, Hudson is the it girl this year and it will be hard to defeat her, although the award should go to Julie Walters for playing the tough yet moving ballet teacher in Billy Elliot. Walters could be hurt by the fact that Elliot has not been as embraced by the Academy as it has been by critics and audiences alike.
Best Screenplay (based on material previously produced or published): This is a really competitive category this year, including Chocolat by Robert Nelson Jacobs, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Wang Hui Ling, James Schamus and Tsai Kuo Jung, O Brother, Where Art Thou? by Ethan and Joel Coen, Traffic by Stephen Gaghan and Wonder Boys by Steve Kloves.
Kloves's screenplay, about a literary professor in a career crisis and his relationships with his lover, his student and his gay agent was exceptionally strong. But Gaghan's multi-layered and powerful Traffic deserves the award, and more. Its story of the failed war on drugs is great writing and an important screenplay in the Hollywood milieu, where message-oriented films are looked down upon. Look for Gaghan to win with an upset coming from Crouching if the Academy jumps on its bandwagon.
Best Screenplay (written directly for the screen): Another close category with nominees including Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe, Billy Elliot by Lee Hall, Erin Brockovich by Susannah Grant, Gladiator by David Franzoni, John Logan and William Nicholson (story by David Franzoni), and You Can Count On Me by Kenneth Lonergan.
This is a really tough one to call with any one of the five getting a win that night. If Gladiator sweeps in the other categories, then this will go to the Roman epic as well. Crowe may be given the award as consolation for a film that was otherwise shut out in the major categories.
Grant could win for Brockovich because the Academy does have a penchant for real-life stories, and Grant's savvy script is a successful blend of wit, drama, political activism and romance. Lonergan's tale of a brother and sister coming to terms with their troubled lives is a nuanced and detailed character study, as is Hall's Billy Elliot. Too close to call but look for Crowe to win by a hair.
Best Original Score: It is unfathomable as to why Bjork's haunting and meticulous score for Dancer in the Dark is not among the nominees. Hans Zimmer's nomination is one of the few that I think Gladiator does deserve, and look for him to win. Who should have won? Bjork, Bjork, and Bjork!
Best Original Song: Bjork's "I've Seen it All" from Dancer in the Dark with lyrics by Lars von Trier and Sjon Sigurdsson is clearly the best song. In fact, in a just system, any one of the other songs from the film would beat out the other songs in this category.
But look for the Academy to give a lifetime achievement award to Dylan via a Best Song win for Wonder Boys.
Best Directing: Steven Soderbergh has done what no other filmmaker has ever done--won two directing and two best film nominations in the same year for Traffic and Erin Brockovich.
Stephen Daldry is up for Billy Elliot, while the film itself didn't get a Best Film nod. Ang Lee is also nominated for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Ridley Scott is up for Gladiator.
Soderbergh deserves to win, no questions asked, for Traffic. He has made one of the most interesting and important films to emerge from Hollywood in the last decade. It's a daring and gut wrenching look at the war on drugs. But Soderbergh's embarassment of riches means that he may cancel out his own votes and Traffic isn't exactly easy to swallow. If that happens it will be the third travesty of the evening.
If Soderbergh should be defeated, then the award is most likely to Ang Lee, who has been waiting in the wings for a long time.
Best Picture: Soderbergh's double entry of Erin Brockovich and Traffic could once again prove problematic for the über-genius. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will be given the Best Foreign Film award, so it most likely won't win this one as well.
The only reason Chocolat is even in the fray is because of Harvey Weinstein's aggressive marketing campaigns for his Miramax Studios. And I am one of the very few who believes that Gladiator, while a great film ,doesn't belong in the top five of the year.
Traffic deserves this award because it is a truly important and unique piece of American cinema. But look for Gladiator to win because the Academy loves epics, especially ones that raise nostalgia for the gems of yesteryear like Ben Hur.
Brockovich with its mass appeal and political subject could upset.
Thus, this year is probably going to be more crazy and unpredictable than those in recent memory. There are no clear favorites outside of Julia Roberts for Best Actress and Crouching as Best Foreign Language Film. What should have been a record-setting evening for Bjork (she should have been nominated and won Best Actress, Best Song and Best Score) by being the first artist to win three individual awards in one evening will be a complete shut out for this daring newcomer to cinema.
Soderbergh, while deserving of all his accolades, might end up kicking himself for turning in two great films in the same year.
If nothing else, one can always focus in on all the eye-popping fashions and seam-popping plastic surgery on display. And remember that only one lucky winner in each category gets to take home 13½ inches of gilded delight.
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