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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 30, 2001

 

Judge: Religion doesn’t trump Louisville equality law

by Anthony Glassman

Louisville, Ky.--A federal judge on March 21 dismissed a suit against the fairness ordinances in Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County, both of which were being challenged by a doctor claiming they violated his constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson III ruled against all of gynecologist Dr. J. Barrett Hyman’s argument, most of which centered on alleged violations of Hyman’s freedom of religion, giving a summary judgment to the city and county.

Hyman claimed the ordinances would cause him to be prosecuted for his religious beliefs. Hyman is a Baptist, and said that it would violate his religious beliefs by forcing him to hire a gay man or lesbian. He also argued that the laws violate his rights to freedom of association and of speech.

Hyman was backed up in court by the American Center for Law and Justice, an organization headed by televangelist Pat Robertson.

Supporting the city and county in the suit were the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as the United States Department of Justice, who filed a brief with the court asserting that individual freedoms cannot be allowed to trump civil rights laws.

In January 1999, Louisville passed its fairness ordinance, making employment discrimination against gay men and lesbians illegal. In October of that year, Jefferson County passed a broader ordinance, adding public accommodations, including renting apartments and selling real estate.

If Hyman and the ACLJ appeal the ruling, it will go to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that upheld Issue 3, a Cincinnati charter amendment that bans the city from enacting any civil rights protections based on sexual orientation.

If the appeals court ruled for Hyman, it would not mean he won the suit. Rather, because Simpson dismissed the suit, a successful appeal by Hyman would return the case to Simpson’s court, where he would be required to hold a full trial on the case.


 

Detectives seek leads in man’s beating death

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--A 58-year-old gay man was beaten to death in his Prairie Township home last week. Detectives are unclear of a motive, but have not dismissed a sexual relationship gone wrong between the victim and the killer.

Leonard Sartori was found March 21 in his ransacked home by his younger brother Richard at about 10 am following his beating death the previous night.

Sartori was bound and had received numerous blows to the head with a heavy, blunt object.

Sartori had paid his younger brother to clean and do chores for him each Saturday.

Additionally, Sartori’s car, a 1996 Buick Regal, was stolen from the garage.

The abandoned car was later recovered by police in the "Bottoms," a high-crime area of Columbus.

Franklin County sheriff’s detectives are not sure of the murderer’s motive, but do not believe the crime was motivated by hatred for gays.

Sartori lived a closeted life and did not share his sexual orientation with his family or many friends. But privately, Sartori frequented gay bars and had numerous anonymous sexual encounters. Detectives believe he spent a lot of time in Columbus’ Short North neighborhood.

Detectives believe that insight into this private gay life and Sartori’s habits will lead them to the murderer.

Sartori, who worked as a forklift operator at the Wal-Mart distribution center in Grove City, had been a recent target of theft. Last year, he reported two cars stolen within two weeks. Both cars were later recovered and the suspect has been charged with auto theft and burglary.

Detectives do not believe these thefts are related to the murder.

Franklin County sheriff’s detectives Zachary Scott and C.A. Floyd believe that members of the Columbus gay community know Sartori, and can provide information that will help with their investigation.

Anyone who knew Sartori, the clubs he frequented, men he picked up, or can talk about his gay life are encouraged to contact Scott at 614-462-6741, or Floyd at 614-462-2599. Anonymous information can be passed through Stonewall Columbus at 614-299-7764 or the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Project at 614-268-9622.


Students band together to find acceptance in high school

by Eric Resnick

Austintown-They wear their class rings and pinky rings.

Their cars sport rainbows. They're campy with each other and at times, a little flamboyant.

While some high schools have organized gay straight alliances, these gay young men at Austintown’s Fitch High School have formed a group of their own. They are empowering each other and opening the eyes and minds of their fellow students and faculty in this working-class Youngstown area high school, most noted for its macho contact sports teams.

Socio-economically, racially, and religiously, they are a diverse group of seven--three seniors, three juniors, and one sophomore, with different career goals. They are college-bound and vocational students, including an auto shop student the others call a "grease monkey."

They date, but not each other, even though fellow students have spread those rumors and some tales of the gay students having oral sex in the halls. They eagerly compare the physical attributes of male teachers.

The original group discovered each other during last year's production of Lil' Abner. They eat lunch together and talk about other guys. And yes, some of them are taking their boyfriends to the prom.

The central figure in this group is senior John Morse, 19, who, because he has been out and visibly gay since he was a small child, attracted the others.

"We have pilot lights. John has a fireplace," said Nick, 18 (not his real name).

Morse's mother Sue Morse, who is a lesbian, says she cried when her son came out to her.

"I wanted him to be straight," she said. "I didn't want him to go through what I did."

Sue Morse said she began to worry when her son was mild-mannered, so she tried to instill masculine qualities in him, but it didn't work.

"My girlfriends have been telling me he is gay since he was little, but I didn't believe them."

Charles, 17, (not his real name) is the son of minister.

His parents suspected he was gay when he was in ninth grade and sent him to a boot camp in Pittsburgh to try to make him straight.

"It didn't work," said Charles. "I fooled the program."

Charles described the aversive therapy used at the camp, and said he had to take lie detector tests measuring his attraction to other men.

"If you make yourself believe it long enough to get through the test, you can pass," he said.

"What do these people think is going to happen when you go to a camp with 20 other gay men your age for three months?" he added.

Each of the students has encountered homophobia at school, from both faculty and other students.

"I was kicked out of band right after I came out at school," said Charles. "I can't prove it was because I am gay, but all I did was walk out the wrong side of a gate."

Nick, who draws sneers from his friends when he says he's a Republican, reports having trouble with a guidance counselor who couldn't understand how a young man could know he's gay.

"Being gay is a just popular thing to do right now," the counselor told him.

Nick is a Christian, and says he has met friends in gay Christian Internet chat rooms. He is not out to his family, and is glad that his younger brothers and sisters will not attend the same school when they are older.

The students said that once it was known that there were gay male students, girls at the school helped them meet others.

"They would come up to us and say, 'Here's another one. We found somebody just like you’," said Nick.

For Morse, who came out as a freshman, meeting the others the past two years has changed his school experience, after what he describes as "two straight years of hell."

During a moment of play in the hall with someone he describes as a "butch lesbian," Morse was stopped by the principal. Thinking the woman was a man, the principal told the two not to display affection.

At that, the woman looked right at the principal, pointed to different-sex couples doing what they were doing, then pointing to her chest and telling the principal, "See, I have boobs!"

All three describe themselves as popular students who now blend in and sometimes lead their classmates, even though each suffered harassment and vandalism early on.

Morse's car was keyed. Nick has been taunted and beaten up. Morse said classmates would stand outside their house at night screaming fag. Charles said the word was written in eggs thrown at the side of his house.

But at the same time, the gay students were not shrinking under the pressure. Instead, they continued to have lunch together and others joined them.

"We would have been lost without each other," they agree.

"Teachers love us," said Charles, "and because we're good students, they stand up for us."

Nick says he had an English class assignment to write about his perfect date. "I used all masculine tenses," he said, "and it was fine with the teacher."

The students say they are often questioned by other students who want to know about "gaydar" and if their outfit looks good.

"Occasionally," said Morse, "someone insists the right girl would fix us."

"Not!" sounded Nick and Charles in unison.

Charles observed that the increased visibility of gay people in the popular culture has made more people curious about what gay life is like.

"Especially the straight jock types," he said, "and it's fun to tell them."

All say that because of finding each other, their high school experience has been relatively easy, and they hope the juniors among them will have the ability to keep things going when they are gone.

Morse has been accepted at the American Musical and Dramatic Arts College in New York.

Nick hopes to become a lawyer specializing in immigration law.

Charles is pursuing a career as a music teacher and professional model.

Morse's boyfriend and prom date is Mark, 23, who lives in Pennsylvania. He is a football player.

Morse is the only one of the three who has participated in any public gay civil rights activism. He and his mother attended last year's Millenium March on Washington.

Nick doesn't see any purpose to marches, "except as a chance to meet guys."

But all three are very politically aware and seem to understand their role in the larger struggle for equality.

They see double standards, even at a school that accepts them.

"We can't do what the so-called straight guys do in the locker room," said Nick. "They call it fun and games, but if I grabbed John in the places they grab each other, the rumors would fly, and we would be kicked out of school."

These students were unfazed by the controversy surrounding the rap star Eminem and his anti-gay lyrics.

"What a joke," said Morse. "It's like he's a manufactured rock star."

All say that the more people get to know them as people, the less their being gay is an issue.

Nick hopes for the day when being gay will be considered normal.

"Maybe it will happen when we get all of our rights," he said.

Their advice to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered high school students: Take it easy and be yourself. And don't be afraid to come out.

"It only takes one," said Morse.

Sue Morse, realizing that her son isn't going through what she did in school, smiles and says, "I'm so proud of him."


News Briefs

Maryland senate passes rights bill

Annapolis, Md.--Nine hours after voting to break a two-man, four-hour filibuster, the Maryland Senate passed of a bill adding sexual orientation to the state’s non-discrimination laws March 27.

The bill, introduced by Gov. Parris Glendening, was being blocked by Sens. Alex X. Mooney and Andrew P. Harris, both Republicans.

Mooney spent the first two hours reading newspaper articles about gay rights, same-sex marriage, and similar topics. Harris took over just after midnight, reading aloud the New Jersey appellate court decisions in the gays-in-the-Boy-Scouts case.

Two hours later, weary senators voted to end debate, returning nine hours later to approve passage of the bill, which is now in the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee.

The bill is expected to pass the House, where a similar bill went through easily two years ago. In 1999, the sticking point was in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the chairman allowed it to die.

Last week, that same chairman searched for a parliamentary mechanism to stop an earlier Mooney filibuster on the bill, in the committee.

The measure passed 32-14, a greater margin than the two-thirds majority needed to break the filibuster, and far beyond the simple majority needed to pass it on to the House.

The bill was one of Glendening’s main goals for the legislative session. He spent weeks talking to senators, trying to convince them of the necessity of the bill. He eschewed the possibilities of redistricting the Senate to get the bill passed or using government construction projects as bargaining tools.

"I wanted people to do this for the right reasons," Glendening told the Baltimore Sun. "This has been a very important vote."

Glendening himself has a personal stake in the bill. His brother Bruce was in the Air Force for 19 years, and hid his sexual orientation for fear of being discharged, something that Glendening refers to frequently when asked about the legislation.

Opponents of the bill relied on filibusters, amendments designed to render the measure impotent, and familiar rhetoric to fight the legislation.

If the measure passes the House, Maryland will join 12 other states and the District of Columbia with gay and lesbian equal rights laws.

 

Washington Blade is sold

Atlanta--An Atlanta publisher has agreed to buy two weekly newspapers in New York and Washington, creating the nation’s largest chain of gay and lesbian newspapers.

Window Media, publisher of Southern Voice, will buy the Washington Blade and the New York Blade for an undisclosed amount. The acquisitions will give the company a total weekly circulation of 175,000, said Chris Crain, a part owner and editorial director of the chain.

The publications will keep their separate identities. The company also owns gay and lesbian weeklies in New Orleans and Houston. The Washington Blade’s circulation is about equal to all the other Window Media papers combined, Window president William Waybourn said.

 

Rikki Swin TG institute opens

Chicago--The Rikki Swin Institute opened March 20, establishing a research and educational facility dedicated to teaching the public about transgender issues.

A retired plastics manufacturer, Rikki Swin financed the creation of the institute herself.

The institute brought together some of the world’s leading surgeons, psychiatrists and lawyers dealing with transgender issues for a conference the following weekend, its first contribution to the destigmatization of transgendered people.

The institute defines transgendered as covering everything from heterosexual cross-dressers to people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery, and points to the lack of understanding of those with gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder as a prime reason for the necessity of its existence.

In the U.S., only Minnesota has a statewide law banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity, although bills are pending in a number of other states. Several cities, among them Toledo, have ordinances banning gender identity discrimination.

 

Rhode Island considers couple rights

Providence, R.I.--Two bills are before the legislature of the smallest state, trying to follow Vermont’s lead in granting marital rights to gay and lesbian couples.

The first bill, introduced by State Rep. Michael Pisaturo, who is gay, would allow gay men and lesbians to marry in Rhode Island. Pisaturo has introduced a version of this bill three years in a row. Last year, he pulled the bill from consideration because of lack of support.

That was before Vermont introduced civil unions.

A second bill would follow Vermont’s lead, granting marital rights to same-sex couples by instituting civil unions in the state. This bill is being sponsored by Reps. David Cicilline and Nancy Hetherington.

According to Hetherington, she introduced the bill both to follow Vermont’s lead and to avoid opposition from those regarding marriage as a union solely between members of the opposite sex.

Several people spoke to the House of Representatives in support of the bill, both gay and straight.

Also noted were issues involving parental rights, as well as the perception of gays as second-class citizens.

 

3% women, 4.1% men report gay sex

New York City--The bi-annual National Opinion Research Center survey for 1998 shows a marked increase from a decade earlier in people acknowledging same-sex sexual activity.

According to the survey, 3% of women surveyed said that they had sex with another woman at some point, up from 0.2% in 1988. The fifteen-fold increase is seen as surprising by some involved.

The increase among men was more moderate, rising to 4.1% in 1998 compared to 1.7% in 1988.

The study, whose results are published in the Journal of Sex Research, did not investigate the causes of the rise in reported gay and lesbian sex.

Amy C. Butler of the University of Iowa, one of the researchers, indicated that more positive portrayals of gay men and lesbians on television caused more tolerance of gay people among the populace, giving people more license to act on same-sex desire.

Others say that the amount or type of sex has not changed much, but the poll shows people are more at ease acknowledging that they have had same-sex encounters.

 

Dog owner charged in mauling death

San Francisco--A grand jury handed down indictments for second-degree murder and manslaughter March 27 in the case of Diane Whipple, a college women’s lacrosse coach who was mauled to death January 26 by two large Presa Canario mastiffs.

Marjorie Knoller faces the murder charges, while her husband, Robert Noel, will be tried for manslaughter.

Knoller and Noel, both attorneys, claim that they did not own the dogs, and they will use that in their defense. Investigators say, however, that the two dogs were part of a dogfighting ring being run from prison by a 38-year-old Aryan Brotherhood member that the couple legally adopted, and his cellmate.

Police, searching the cell for evidence, found naked pictures of Knoller.

The couple was arrested at a client’s house 170 miles north of San Francisco a few hours after testifying before the grand jury. According to reports, the couple informed the police of their destination, and they were followed by an officer in an unmarked car.

Noel has offered a number of defenses in the months since the attack, including blaming Whipple for not getting into her apartment quickly enough, theorizing that her perfume enraged the dogs, and accusing her of striking Knoller.

Whipple’s partner, Sharon Smith, has also filed a wrongful-death suit against the couple. Although California law only allows spouses and other legal heirs to file such suits, Smith has a will, signed by Whipple, naming Smith as her beneficiary.

Smith, along with marriage rights activists, hope that the will can establish Smith as a legal heir, opening the door to greater rights for gay and lesbian couples.

 

HRC will build a new home

Washington, D.C.—The Human Rights Campaign is getting a new home.

The national gay and lesbian rights lobby, which currently leases offices at 919 18th St. NW, has contracted to buy a lot at 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW for $8 million.

Architecture firm HOK has been hired to design the new headquarters.

Although the lot could house a 120,000 square foot building, Jeff Sachse, capital campaign president for HRC, indicated that the organization’s future home would not be that large.

 

Hate crime bill is back in Congress

Washington, DC—Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., announced March 27 that he was cosponsoring Sen. Edward Kennedy’s, D-Mass., hate crime legislation.

The bill, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001, is similar to Kennedy’s bill that died in Congress last year. It would add sexual orientation, gender, and disability to federal hate crime legislation, and give federal assistance to municipal and state law enforcement agencies to deal with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

Last year, the proposed legislation was defeated when it was stripped from a Department of Defense spending bill while in conference committee.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is also a lead co-sponsor of the bill. Half of the members of the Senate were listed as cosponsors of the bill, and 180 members of the House of Representatives signed on as cosponsors for the House version.

The bill is also supported by 22 state attorneys general, the Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriff’s Association, and is backed up by a 2000 Gallup poll indicating that 72% of Americans support adding sexual orientation to hate crime legislation.

 

Namibian police told to purge gays

Windhoek, Namibia—President Sam Nujoma indicated March 21 that police were ordered to purge gay men and lesbians from the country.

Speaking before students at the University of Namibia, Nujoma said that he had told police to arrest, deport and imprison gays.

The outburst seemed to have been incited by data indicating a sharp increase in the HIV infection rate in the country.

Gay activists, led by members of the Rainbow Project Coalition, challenged the president to show which laws would allow him to enact his pronouncement, indicating that nothing in the country’s laws or constitutions outlaw homosexuality. According to Ian Swartz of the RPC, the constitution guarantees protection from discrimination based on individual differences, with no exclusion of homosexuality.

The governing party claims that homosexuality is due to foreign influence, and does not exist in indigenous societies in Africa. However, almost all native languages and dialects have a word for homosexuality, and early anthropologists recorded gay and lesbian relationships within native tribes long before they were assimilated into larger societies.

Other African leaders have made similar anti-gay declarations, most famously Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who has repeatedly called gays "lower than pigs and dogs." He is joined by Kenya’s Daniel arap Moi, calling gays a "scourge," and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, who said last year that "I have told the [police] to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them."

 

Rights repeal slipped out of committee

Helena, Mont.-House Speaker Dan McGee, R-Laurel, came under fire March 20 for the method he used to resurrect his bill abolishing the ban on discrimination against gay and lesbian state employees.

The measure was stranded in the House State Administration Committee for a month after the members deadlocked 9-9. Rep. Gay Ann Masolo of Townsend was the only Republican to join Democrats in opposing the bill, but that was enough to prevent the legislation from advancing.

On March 20, while Masolo was in another committee, McGee prodded the administration panel to act. With the key opposing vote missing, the bill passed 9-8.

McGee acknowledged he timed the maneuver to take advantage of Masolo’s absence.

The Montana Human Rights Network called the surprise vote "underhanded" and an example of "dirty tricks."

The bill would repeal a guarantee of protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation that former Gov. Marc Racicot ordered added to state employment guidelines.

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


With Bush in the White House, Clinton’s back on tour

‘Now it’s like we’re living in an ex-gay ad,’ says comedian Kate Clinton

by Andy Scahill

Columbus--Twenty years ago, a little-known comedian named Kate Clinton came onto the comedy circuit. A former English teacher, a feminist and unabashed liberal, she did politically-conscious comedy before it was chic. In doing so, she helped countless gays and lesbians laugh liberally in the face of staunch conservative times.

On March 30, Kate Clinton will be visiting Columbus’ Southern Theatre.

In her new comedy album Read These Lips, Clinton takes on such varied topics as the Vagina Monologues ("My vagina prefers dialogue"), Catholicism ("Mea culpa, your-a culpa"), the Internet ("A dot-org gal in a dot-com world"), and of course, the new president ("In your tush, you know it’s Bush").

Andy Scahill: I understand that you’re celebrating your 20th anniversary on the comedy circuit.

Kate Clinton: Yeah, for those of you pay attention to this sort of thing, the proper gift would be china. I’m registered at Wal-Mart and have a particular fondness for the Gold Harvest pattern.

AS: Do you still love being on the road and touring?

KC: Still love it. Sometimes I feel like I’m on a USO tour.

AS: Looking back, how have the past 20 years doing comedy been to you?

KC: Does the word survivor mean anything to you? Gay politics have really been a changing landscape over the past twenty years. When I first started out, I was in the lesbian separatist crowd. Then around ’85 when AIDS hit, I noticed the circuit becoming more co-gendered, and more gay men started coming to my shows. And with the ’90s, there were gay people on TV, gay celebrities coming out, and finally a president who could say "gay and lesbian" without throwing up.

AS: And now?

KC: Now it’s like we’re living in an ex-gay ad. I feel like my role is as a reminder.

AS: Hence your brainchild, the Permanent Committee to Impeach George W. Bush.

KC: Exactly. Except now we’ve now extended it to include all the Bushes: Dubya, Jed, the whole lot. What’s funny is that I actually started the campaign three months before he got elected.

AS: Are you influenced by your partner, Urvashi Vaid, former director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute)? Do you two ever feel like a gay power couple?

KC: To be honest, we wish that we had more power. But we’re honored to do what we do.

AS: For your book Don’t Get Me Started, you had to translate your stage act into written comedy. Was that difficult for you?

KC: Yeah, the first problem was that I couldn’t type. You have to be more delicate with things like the transitions. You can’t overwrite. But I started performing the drafts with live audiences, and that helped. And I’d annoy my friends by inviting them over for dinner and making them listen to what I had so far.

AS: "No dessert until you hear this chapter."

KC: Exactly.

AS: You were an English teacher for eight years. Does that ever come back in your comedy act?

KC: Oh God, in the strangest ways. Sometimes I’ll turn to someone who’s talking during my act--that whole toe-tapping thing. And to be honest, my outfits. Sometimes I look like a cross between an English teacher and the Campbell’s Soup kid.

AS: Any thoughts on the Bush presidency so far?

KC: I was invited to The Spin Room recently, which is a CNN show with Bill Press and Tucker Carlson. I got in trouble for talking about the Bush camp—how Bush, Dick and Colin sounded like a lower GI series. But I could have said something a lot more offensive, like "President George W. Bush."

AS: Dubya must be a comedic gold mine.

KC: I find myself taking my old Reagan stuff and replacing him with Bush. It works.

AS: Are you following the Oscar nominations?

KC: Yeah, I was crushed that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t nominated. (Laughs) I have a rule during the summer movie season that I only go to films with subtitles and accents.

AS: Do you get out to the theater much in New York?

KC: I do, but have to say that my favorite theatre-going experience here was attending a Sing-a-Long Sound of Music in downtown Chelsea. I was happy for about a month after that. There were kids, there were adults, gay and straight. In front of us were a bunch of kids dressed up like "A Few of My Favorite Things." I could have cried—I was sitting right behind "paper packages tied up with string"!

Clinton’s March 30 show will also feature Columbus comedian Fran Pietrantano. Tickets are as low as $25, available through Ticketmaster.

Andy Scahill is editor of OutinColumbus.com, where this first appeared.

 

 

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