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March 9, 2001

 

Hate bill’s foes decry imagined gay benefit

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--Led by the Christian Coalition of Ohio, four opponents of an bill creating a state center to collect data on hate crimes testified that they opposed the measure because they think it would benefit gays.

The bill makes no mention of gays or sexual orientation, nor does an existing law it is based on.

The four testified at a February 28 Ohio Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing for opponents of Senate Bill 22, sponsored by State Sens. Eric Fingerhut, a Democrat representing Cleveland's east side, and Scott Oelslager, a Republican representing Stark County.

The bill defines hate crimes the same way as Ohio’s ethnic intimidation law, passed in 1987. That law increases penalties for five misdemeanors if they are motivated by the victim’s race, color, religion or national origin.

The new bill would not change those classes, yet every opponent testified that it adds gays and lesbians to the measure, and said they opposed it for that reason.

The opponents were apparently motivated by a February 25 e-mail "alert" sent out by the Christian Coalition of Ohio, which misquoted a December 15 Gay People’s Chronicle story.

Fingerhut explained what the bill does in his February 14 sponsor testimony to the Criminal Justice Committee, which is chaired by Oelslager. He said it does two things.

"It requires local law enforcement officials to submit monthly reports of hate crimes to the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation," said Fingerhut. "Second, the bill establishes the Center for the Study of Hate Crimes in Ohio, to be located at a state university selected by the Board of Regents."

Fingerhut explains that the center will collect and analyze data on hate crime incidents in Ohio and issue a report to the General Assembly.

As Fingerhut explained in the December 15 Chronicle story on the bill’s introduction, he believes that Ohio should include sexual orientation and gender in its hate crime protections and he sees this bill as a piece of the strategy to change the law to that effect.

"By creating the data collection center," Fingerhut told the Chronicle, "we create a place for people to meet and learn, and the scholars gathering at that center will not turn a deaf ear to hate fomented against gays and lesbians."

"The discussion generated here will further the cause of changing the law to include sexual orientation and gender," he concluded.

Fingerhut also indicated that he plans to work with Columbus Democrat State Rep. Joyce Beatty, saying he will be the Senate sponsor of her bill to add sexual orientation and gender to the law.

Likewise, Beatty has indicated that she will sponsor Fingerhut's bill in the House.

From those statements, the Christian Coalition sent its members a February 25 e-mail "alert," which misquoted the December 15 story to imply that one Fingerhut’s main goals with the bill was to add "sexual orientation" to the existing ethnic intimidation law.

In the e-mail, coalition executive director Stephen Hartkop told his members that Fingerhut's bill is "part of the agenda of the homosexual groups in Ohio and is part of their program to get Hate Crimes legislation to include sexual orientation."

"This is dangerous legislation," he continues, "because its ultimate objective is to make it a crime to talk out against the homosexual lifestyle and other forms of aberrant sexual behavior."

In the alert, Linda Harvey, executive director of the anti-gay Mission America, lists their talking points against the bill. Calling the bill "the Thought Police Bill," Harvey wrote that Fingerhut's bill does not estimate a cost for the center or set up a system of "accountability" for it.

"Many left-wing advocacy groups consider non-violent encounters such as name-calling to be ‘hate crimes’," Harvey told coalition members. "Thus, the Columbus homosexual advocacy group BRAVO reported 199 ‘hate crime’ incidents in 1998, while Columbus police that year only arrested nine people for crimes relating to bias against homosexuals."

BRAVO, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, works against anti-gay hate crime.

Fingerhut pointed out in a letter to Harktop that "the bill does not, and could not infringe upon the freedom of speech of any Ohio citizen" without violating the Constitution.

According to several legislative aides, their offices have been getting many calls from opponents who got the Christian Coalition's alert.

At the February 28 opponent hearing, the committee heard Harktop, Harvey, Charles K. Reed of Grove City, and Gregory Quinlan speak against the bill.

Quinlan is the president of the Dayton Pro-Family Network, and says he is an "ex-gay."

Quinlan said that his group's primary objective is to "put a paid Christian lobbyist in every state capital of the United States."

As part of his testimony, Quinlan submitted a copy of the Ohio Focus on the Family publication, Ohio Citizen, with a large photo of himself and State Sen. Jay Hottinger on the cover.

Hottinger, a Republican from Newark, is noted for twice introducing an ill-fated "Defense of Marriage Act" into the Ohio legislature.

Reed testified, "The ultimate goal of Senate Bill 22, according to the primary sponsor, Senator Fingerhut, is to give special rights to people who practice deviant sexual behaviors, no matter what those behaviors are since "sexual orientation" is a broad term encompassing the adult homosexuals of BRAVO and Stonewall to the homosexual pedophiles of NAMBLA, who all support this bill."

NAMBLA is the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a New York City group often pointed to in anti-gay literature. It has no Ohio affiliate or activities.

To illustrate his point, Reed read a Chronicle personal ad seeking group sex to the committee, referring to it as an "article."

Reed insisted that "you would be a domestic terrorist if you presented the gospel of Jesus Christ to a homosexual or other sexual deviant."

According to Chad Foust, an openly gay legislative aide to Fingerhut, the repeated claims by the opponents that originated in the Christian Coalition alert irritated Oelslager.

Foust said Oelslager stopped the hearing in order to focus those giving testimony on what the bill actually does and does not do.

But Foust also said that the opponents were unfazed, and continued with their anti-gay statements.

At the proponent hearing held February 21, the committee heard the testimony of three people. Columbus NAACP president Fred Parker, Columbus Jewish Federation director of community relations Alan Katchen, and Phyllis Carlson-Riehm and Kate Foulke, representing Action Ohio, a coalition for battered women.

"My purpose here this morning is to convey the unequivocal support of Senate Bill 22," began Parker.

Parker invoked the name of James Byrd, the Texan who was dragged behind a pickup truck because he was black, saying, "Senate Bill 22 sends a message that the state of Ohio is committed to providing the necessary6 educational, data collection and enforcement resources necessary to ensure that crimes of this sort are eradicated."

Due to the death of former governor James Rhodes, the final hearing on the bill was postponed until March 14.

The Criminal Justice Committee is expected to vote on the bill immediately following that hearing. If it passes committee, the bill will move to the floor of the Senate.

State Rep. Joyce Beatty has indicated that she will re-introduce her bill to add sexual orientation and gender to the ethnic intimidation law in March.

 


 

Drug maker shunned by
AIDS service groups

Boycott of donations marks South African
suit for generic drugs

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Cleveland—A number of AIDS service organizations, in protest of GlaxoSmithKline’s participation in a lawsuit against South Africa, announced March 7 that they would not be accepting financial contributions from the pharmaceutical giant until it backed out of the suit.

The suit, combining the might of 42 major drug companies headed by Glaxo, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, was filed to stop South Africa from providing its citizens with generic copies of AIDS drugs. The country’s Medicines Control Act was created to allow the health minister to circumvent international patent laws to provide affordable treatment.

An international day of protest was called for March 5, with demonstrations in cities covering at least a dozen nations, including South Africa, Canada, the United Kindom, and the U.S.

The decision by Cleveland AIDS service agencies followed a rushhour protest in Public Square by ACT UP Cleveland. About a dozen protesters marched back and forth across Ontario St., chanting "Act up, fight AIDS!" before being escorted away by police.

It is not known what effect the refusal of Glaxo’s funds will have on either the company or the ability of the agencies to function, although the money donated by Glaxo makes up a small portion of most agencies’ budgets.

"We recognize that this is a complex legal issue, and that there are important implications for the pharmaceutical industry as a whole," Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, said in a release. "But the dozens of African, Asian, and South American countries devastated by AIDS have few resources at their disposal; whole nations are at stake."

"This is a moral issue, and only an international partnership, with the flexibility to consider new approaches, can solve the crisis," Pike continued. "This lawsuit will only hamper the development of a solution."

In South Africa, where ten percent of the population is infected with HIV, the vast majority cannot afford the name-brand AIDS drugs on the market. The government does not have the resources to provide medication for all of them, even with last year’s announcement of price cuts to sub-Saharan Africa, where 25,000,000 of the world’s 36 million AIDS cases are.

Importing low-cost generic drugs, typically priced at 4% of the U.S. cost for the medications, would enable South Africa to establish treatment programs encompassing the majority of the 4.5 million infected people in the nation.

A prime concern for African governments is AZT, produced by Glaxo. Clinical studies have shown that when pregnant women with HIV take a regimen of AZT, it decreases the chances of transmission of the virus to their unborn children. In an area of the world where the vast majority of HIV infection is heterosexual, this is viewed as a vital program.

On March 6, South African judge Bernard Ngoepe postponed the trial until April 16 to allow the drug companies time to respond to a request by South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign to enter the suit and present evidence supporting the efforts of the South African government. The drug makers wanted a four-month postponement to prepare their response to the request; Ngoepe gave them until March 28 to present their reply in writing.

Ngoepe’s stern decision came in response to an argument from TAC’s attorney Matthew Chaskalson that the drug companies should not be given an almost indefinite period in which they could "scour around for evidence."

Also supporting South Africa in the suit is the French organization Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and the World Health Organization.

Closer to home, the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, the Agape program of Antioch Baptist Church, the Open House in Cleveland Heights, Proyecto Luz, AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati and Violet’s Cupboard in Akron have all joined the protest, rejecting financial contributions until the end of the suit.

The AIDS Foundation Miami Valley had not made a decision as of press time, and executive director William Hardy was torn by the issue.

"We always review sources of funds," he said. "We take money from lots of companies whose products and policies are questionable, like tobacco companies and liquor companies."

"I think putting their [Glaxo’s] money to use in Dayton and the rest of Ohio is a good use of the money," he continued. "Saying we’re not taking their money may not do much good, and is insidious."

Hardy was, however, not supportive of the stance Glaxo has taken.

"I think there are bigger ethical considerations at stake, saying this country should be able to produce this product. If I though it would turn this battle, I would be running to the band to give them back the money."

"Do I think Glaxo should back off? Definitely. We wrestle with this issue [of taking companies’ money] all the time."

As for the Cleveland protest, Brooke Willis, one of the organizers, was happy with the results.

"I’m really please with the level of participation and excited that AIDS activism isn’t dead in Cleveland," he said.


Second trial begins for hustler who stabbed man to death

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus—A man convicted of stabbing to death a gay man he had picked up in a bar began a new trial March 5.

The Franklin County Court of Appeals granted the retrial to Michael Belcher, convicted in 1998 of killing Glenn Brown, due to comments made during closing arguments of his first trial. An assistant prosecutor commented that Belcher had not testified on his own behalf, and the appellate court ruled the comment improper.

Belcher had been sentenced to two consecutive ten-year sentences without the possibility of parole for the January 18, 1997 murder of Brown in his Victorian Village apartment.

Witnesses at the time said that they had seen Belcher and Brown together at a local gay bar. Tips given to the Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Organization led police to Belcher, a hustler with a history of picking up and robbing gay men. He had gone home with Brown the night before the killing.

Belcher was convicted of manslaughter, not murder, because of testimony that there was another person involved in the attack, believed by police to be a robbery gone wrong.

A neighbor testified that he heard shouting and a scuffle, and then someone said, "Let’s get out of here." He then saw two people leave Brown’s apartment.

When Brown was found, he was barely clinging to life, with seven five-inch-deep stab wounds.

"His apartment was covered in blood, every single room," prosecutor Tim Pritchard said at the time of Belcher’s conviction. "The kitchen, the bedroom, the entryway all had blood spattered on the walls."

Judge Beverly Pfeiffer sentenced Belcher to the maximum penalty for one count of aggravated robbery and one count of involuntary manslaughter.

"I’m just sad for Glenn Brown’s family, having to go through this again," said BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley. She noted that she could not comment further because of the group’s involvement with the case, providing advocacy in the courtroom for Brown’s family.


‘Bush gay advisor’ turns out to be one-man hoax

by Bob Roehr

Washington, D.C.--"Tom Beddingfield, a 22-year-old Republican activist and campaign consultant . . . is moving into the Old Executive Office Building, where he will advise the president and other administration officials on gay and lesbian issues," the San Jose Business Journal reported in its March 5 issue.

"He is so conservative that even the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay and lesbian Republicans, don’t want to have anything to do with him."

Beddingfield gained notoriety last year when he turned in petitions purportedly containing the signatures of 1,000 gays and lesbians in support of California’s Proposition 22 marriage ban initiative.

He also told the Business Journal that he had worked on getting John Ashcroft confirmed as attorney general.

But it appears that Beddingfield’s latest claim may be part of a string of embellishments and fabrications that he has made over the last few years.

"I do not know this guy; never heard of this guy; and there is zero, repeat zero, truth in this report," said Charles Francis of the Business Journal story.

Francis is a long-time friend of President Bush who arranged a meeting last April between the candidate and a group of gay Republicans. He is chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition, "a gay-straight alliance within the Republican Party" intent upon making sexual orientation a non-issue.

His e-mailed note on Beddingfield came after checking with White House officials.

Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said that he had no recollection of Beddingfield, nor his participation in their efforts concerning the Ashcroft nomination.

In a 1998 article in Oasis magazine, Beddingfield then 19, recounted the tale that first gained him public attention. It was a story of coming out and teen love with enough twist to fill a soap opera. It included the obligatory parental banishment, religious objections, harassment in school, capped by the suicide of his boyfriend Brandon at the age of 16.

This pair of young conservatives in love would attend political events, and he claimed to have met not only then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and George Bush, but also President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. Beddingfield claims to have delivered this spiel at meetings across the state of California.

He attributed Brandon’s death to his becoming an expert on the Titanic (love will go on), which led to his appearance on national television, including Oprah and Letterman, speaking on that subject.

The gay and lesbian National Stonewall Democrats called for Bush to name a White House gay and lesbian liaison. The position, last held by Julian Potter, was vacated when Bill Clinton left office. Bush indicated in December that he may not fill it.

"The mere rumor that Bush has appointed an openly gay man with virulently right-wing philosophies to the position of gay and lesbian liaison raises great alarm in the community," said Stonewall Democrats director Michael Colby.|


 

Oops: Marriage ban bill almost outlawed gay sex

by Ross Sneyd
Associated Press

Montpelier, Vermont--An effort to explicitly outlaw gay marriage was derailed March 2 when its proponents discovered they could not explain all of the proposal’s potential legal ramifications.

After attempting to rewrite the bill several times on the floor of the House, the Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to suspend consideration of the bill until the legislature returns in mid-March from its week-long Town Meeting Day recess.

The problems cropped up because proponents of the bill sought to prohibit two men from marrying or two women from marrying by adding the clauses "or another man" and "or another woman" into a law outlawing incest.

State law currently prohibits a man from marrying his sister, mother, aunt and other close relatives. Women face the same prohibitions.

The same law also prohibits those relatives from having sex, and violating the statute is a felony punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to five years in jail. Proponents of the bill appeared to be unaware of that provision.

Democrats questioned whether by prohibiting marriages between same-sex couples, the bill’s proponents also were seeking to make sex between same-gender couples a felony.

"In creating this prohibition, we would essentially be opening them to this penalty, which would be a felony," said Rep. Margaret Hummel.

Initially, Judiciary Committee Chair Peg Flory said she and her committee members wanted to push the bill through a preliminary vote and they would explore other ramifications before a final vote when the House returns from the Town Meeting Day recess.

"If it is a problem, we will attempt to correct it, or if it is not correctible, I will make the motion to call it back into committee," she said.

The problem centers around how the initiative is phrased. Proponents of the idea wanted to say unequivocally that same-sex marriage is illegal in Vermont.

Last year, the legislature adopted language defining a marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Referring to language in the Supreme Court’s ruling that said same-sex couples were being unconstitutionally denied the rights and benefits of marriage, gay marriage opponents demanded that the legislature do something.

It turns out, though, that many prohibitions in state law--including those concerning incest--carry criminal consequences.

Rep. Duncan Kilmartin, R-Newport, argued that the definition of marriage as one man and one woman in the civil unions law might be interpreted as a prohibition that also could carry a criminal penalty.

"I believe that this is an appropriate prohibition and in the public’s best interest," Kilmartin said.

Many people in the legislature said they disagreed with Kilmartin but were angry that the Judiciary Committee would try to push the bill without knowing for certain.

"I am quite frankly stunned to think the chair of the Judiciary Committee is willing to pass her amendment on this floor without the full knowledge of the fact that in so doing, if approved by this body, we’ll be categorizing a group of friends, neighbors and constituents, characterizing their personal relations . . . and subjecting them to criminal penalties, jail and fines," said Rep. Ann Seibert, D-Norwich.

The House is now scheduled to take up the bill again on March 15.


 

Lawyer seeks to add straight man to sodomy challenge

Richmond, Va.--A lawyer for ten men convicted of soliciting sex from undercover police officers in a Roanoke park is broadening his challenge to Virginia’s sodomy statute, seeking to include an appeal from a man convicted of sodomy with a woman in Frederick County.

"There seems to be a widespread misperception that sodomy is something that’s committed only by gay people," attorney Sam Garrison said. "The overwhelming majority of violations of this statute every day and every night in this commonwealth are committed by straight people."

In November, the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of ten men arrested for soliciting sex in Wasena Park and rejected their challenge of the state’s sodomy law. The panel ruled that, because the men solicited sex in a public place, they had no legal standing to contest Virginia’s law making consensual oral sex a felony.

In January, the full appeals court refused to reconsider the panel’s decision.

Garrison has filed for a hearing before the state Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether it will consider it. Garrison’s March 1 filing asks the court to include the case of Fred Leslie Fisher, who was convicted of sodomy with a woman in a Frederick County hotel room.

Garrison says the "crimes against nature" law improperly criminalizes all acts of oral sex engaged in by consenting adults under any circumstances, and claims it violates privacy rights and constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Gay civil rights advocates add that it is also used to paint gay and lesbian parents as criminals in child custody cases.

Roanoke authorities have said that while the law technically applies to everyone, they only use it to charge people who engage in sex in public places.


News Briefs

Study finds 40% of gay teens attempt suicide

Boston--Forty percent of Massachusetts gay and lesbian teens attempt suicide, according to a report to be released in May.

The study looked at all suicides from 1996 to 1998. According to the preliminary results, residents of the state are four times more likely to kill themselves than be murdered, compared to one suicide for every six murders in the nation as a whole.

A 1997 survey of 4,000 high school students found that, overall, 10% of students attempted suicide, but that figure quadrupled for gay, lesbian and bisexual students.

Last year, Massachusetts appropriated $750,000 for suicide prevention among LGBT teenagers. According to the Department of Public Health’s deputy commissioner Paul Jacobsen, however, the agency decided to spend the money on outreach to all students.

Farmer shoots four who told joke

São Paulo, Brazil--A 56-year-old farmer, reportedly angered by a friendly joke about his sexuality, shot to death three of his friends and a cousin and then killed himself.

The shooting happened in Jundiai, 43 miles north of São Paulo.

Duilio Pessoto left his rural home by car March 1 armed with two revolvers. He shot his first victim on a nearby road as the man drove by and killed two more men at a bar, Globo television reported.

Pessoto then drove further down the road, pulled the car over and shot his fourth victim and himself on the street.

Locals said that Pessoto was angry because somebody had made a joke suggesting that he was gay. Pessoto was single and apparently lived alone.

Sheriff supports TG deputy

San Antonio, Texas--A sheriff’s deputy released a statement March 5 expressing gratitude for the support of coworkers in the face of upcoming gender reassignment surgery.

Lt. Brian Lunan, who is married and has three children, was diagnosed with gender identity disorder, and is commencing a three-year process to become a biological woman.

Bexar County sheriff Ralph Lopez, Lunan’s superior, said that, after consulting county attorneys, he fully stands behind Lunan’s right to undergo the procedure in a discrimination-free environment. The county’s attorneys confirmed that Lunan has a constitutional right to correct the gender identity disorder and be protected from discrimination in the workplace.

Lunan is part of the patrol division, but may be reassigned to a desk job once his hair length exceeds department standards.

Man sentenced in postcoital rage death

San Jose, Calif.--Judge John T. Ball of the Santa Clara County Superior Court sentenced Kozi Antonio Scott to 15 years to life on March 2 for the murder of transgendered teen Alina Marie Barragan.

On January 19 a jury found Scott guilty of second-degree murder in the death of the 19-year old, who dressed as a woman. Had the jury found Scott guilty of first-degree murder, as the prosecutors asked, he would have faced a sentence of 25 years to life. Scott will be eligible for parole in ten years.

Throughout the case, Scott and his attorney argued that Barragan’s death was an accident. Scott, a 22-year old hotel employee, brought Barragan home, where the two consumed alcohol and had sex. Prosecutors said that when Scott discovered that Barragan was biologically male, he became enraged and put Barragan in a "sleeper hold," a move commonly used in professional wrestling that cuts off the oxygen to the brain.

Illinois panel approves rights bill

Springfield, Illinois--A bill that aims to protect gay men and lesbians from discrimination, which failed by two votes in the Illinois House two years ago, is headed back to that chamber.

The Human Services Committee approved a bill 5-3 February 28 adds "sexual orientation" to a state law that bans discrimination in jobs, housing, public accommodations or credit on account of race or religion.

Landlords living in their own building with five or fewer apartment units would be exempt.

The same bill failed 57-59 in the House two years ago. It made it to the House floor last year but was never called for a vote.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said he’s a co-sponsor of the bill but would not predict its success in the chamber.

Adoption ban fails

Little Rock, Arkansas--A proposed legislative ban on gay adoptions and foster care was defeated for the second time by an Arkansas House panel on February 28, killing the bill.

According to Arkansas law, bills can only be brought up before committees twice. The 10-9 vote in the House Aging, Children and Youth, Military and Legislative Affairs Committee was the second vote on the bill that would have banned gay men and lesbians from adopting children or being foster parents in the state.

In October, the Department of Human Services began asking potential foster parents if they were gay or lesbian, with the intent of denying them foster parenthood, following a decision by the state’s Child Welfare Agency Review Board.

A department spokesperson said that the policy does not affect adoptions, and so far there have been no reports of prospective foster parents answering yes to the question.

State says dentist discriminated

Concord, New Hampshire--The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights decided March 5 that there is probable cause to accept the claim of a lesbian that her dentist illegally denied her service because of her sexual orientation.

The woman filed a complaint with the organization following a March 1999 incident. Going in for a scheduled, routine dental treatment, the dentist, Jay Roper, asked her why she had a woman listed as spouse in the patient records. When the woman replied that she was her spouse, Roper allegedly refused to treat her.

The state investigator interviewed both Roper and the complainant, and agreed that the refusal of service was based on sexual orientation. Discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation is illegal under New Hampshire law.

The commission’s findings free the woman to sue for damages in court for the violation of the anti-discrimination law.

Police relax public sex policy

Boston--A gay and lesbian legal organization said March 1 that the state police have relaxed their policy on public sex and ordering gay men from highway rest areas.

A settlement reached between state police and a Cape Cod man who said he’d been forced to leave a public rest area included a "general order" that forbids officers from ordering someone to leave a public place "in the absence of unlawful conduct."

There was no monetary settlement, other than for legal fees for the plaintiff’s attorneys, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders said.

The man, identified only as John Doe, was asked to leave a public rest area at least twice by Trooper Shawn Walsh. The man filed suit in August 1999, alleging state police were motivated by anti-gay stereotypes.

State police alleged that the man had "unlawful intent" by being at the rest stop.

In the fall of 1999, a Middlesex Superior Court judge barred state police from forcing the man to leave the public rest area as long as he wasn’t breaking the law.

According to the new guidelines, having sex in a public place would not be considered an actionable offense if the people involved are adequately hidden from view. According to the order, there must be a "substantial risk" that the activity will be seen by casual passersby.

"John Doe" was arrested in 1998 for having sex in the woods next to a rest stop, something that ordinarily would not be witnessed by someone attempting to use the rest area in the middle of the night.

State police have already begun training new recruits on the issues in the general order, and existing officers must also be trained on its principles.

Larry Kramer may give to Yale

New Haven, Connecticut--Playwright and gay activist Larry Kramer, who accused Yale University of homophobia for rejecting a donation to set up a gay studies program in 1997, is again negotiating the terms of a donation to his alma mater.

Neither Yale nor Kramer would discuss the possible size or conditions of a donation.

In 1997, Kramer offered to give Yale $5 million to create an endowed professorship in gay studies.

Yale rejected the offer because the university thought gay studies was too narrow a field for a permanent professorship.

Kramer founded the AIDS group ACT UP. His plays include The Normal Heart and The Destiny of Me.

Roanoke killer rants in letter

Roanoke, Va.--Ronald Gay, the man accused of opening fire in the Backstreet Cafe killing Danny Overstreet and wounding six other people, sent a letter to the Roanoke Times, which they commented upon but did not print March 3.

In the letter, Gay calls himself a "Christian Soldier working for my Lord," and said, "When I am gone, another will take my place."

While not admitting to the shootings at the bar, he does say that gay and lesbian "meeting places and bars will be destroyed with them" if they do not go to "their city," referring to San Francisco.

Gay will face trial the week of May 21 for the attack on the bar, a popular gay and lesbian hangout. The letter will probably not help his defense.

"Well that’s just lovely," assistant public defender Roger Dalton remarked when told about the letter.

Gay’s family hired a psychiatrist to examine him in February, and Dalton is still awaiting the analyst’s results.

Gay faces one charge of first-degree murder, six counts of aggravated wounding, and seven firearms charges.

Presbyterian same-sex ban failing

The independent Presbyterian web site Presbyweb on March 6 tolled the death knell of the denomination’s proposed amendment that would prohibit church officers from presiding over same-sex unions, as well as preventing those ceremonies from being held on church property.

According to Presbyweb, 53 presbyteries--local divisions of the church--have voted for the amendment, while 78 have voted against. Either side would need 87 votes by late May to decide the issue.

The site based its projections on the results of a 1997 vote to require ordained church officers to "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

If the presbyteries that have not yet voted go the same way on the current measure as they did on the 1997 one, it will fail, Presbyweb projected. It noted that in the voting so far, most presbyteries have voted the same way. Enough have switched sides, however, to cause this one to fall behind, while the 1997 measure passed.

Tatchell tries to arrest Mugabe again

Brussels, Belgium--Peter Tatchell, leader of the British gay rights group Outrage, attempted perform a citizen’s arrest on Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe on March 5.

Tatchell charged that Mugabe should be arrested for violating the United Nations Convention on Torture, which Belgium signed in 1984.

When Tatchell came forward to attempt the citizen’s arrest as Mugabe was leaving the Hilton hotel, Belgian secret service agents stepped out of the way and allowed Mugabe’s bodyguards to handle the situation. The bodyguards pushed Tatchell down and Tatchell argues that they knocked him unconscious.

Tatchell also attempted to arrest Mugabe, who refers to gays as dogs, last October when the president was in Britain.

China psychiatrists say gay is okay

Beijing, --The Chinese Psychiatric Association has announced that their revised guidelines, to be released in April, will no longer list homosexuality as a mental illness, the Los Angeles Times reported on March 6.

The new standards regard homosexuality per se to not be abnormal. However, it can be considered a mental disorder if the person who is gay or lesbian is unhappy with their sexual orientation.

People who are secure in their orientation have no need of psychiatric help, according to Chen Yanfang, vice chairman of the association’s standing committee.

In a 1994 handbook, the organization voiced its opposition to the World Health Organization’s standards of acceptance of homosexuality.

The organization looked to the American Psychiatric Association, which removed homosexuality as a mental illness in 1973, but still considered it a disorder in those who were unhappy with their sexual orientations until 1986.

The move is heralded as the first major step towards the acceptance of gay men and lesbians in this conservative country, still grappling with free-market reforms after decades of Maoist communism.

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

 


 

From Eden to Uranus

Four of the Cleveland festival’s six gay films are documentaries, including one from northeast Ohio

by Anthony Glassman

For the 25th anniversary of the Cleveland International Film Festival, the organizers have pulled out all the stops for the Ten Percent Cinema, their showcase of gay and lesbian (this year, pretty much gay) films.

They have six new films with multiple showings, as well as "Absolut Best," an evening with Comedy Central’s Daily Show film reviewer Frank DeCaro. They are also bringing back the classic Longtime Companion as part of their 25th anniversary celebration.

Four of the six films that are part of the event are documentaries, covering widely varying aspects of life in the gay community. The documentaries are Trembling Before G-d, an award-winning film about gays and lesbians in the world of Orthodox Judaism; Keep the River on Your Right: a Modern Cannibal Tale, about Tobias Schneebaum, an openly gay painter-turned-anthropologist; Letters to Uranus: the Hidden Life of Tedd Burr, a Cleveland film chronicling a conversation, shot in real time, between filmmaker Lenny Pinna and actor/director Tedd Burr, and, making its Ohio debut, the Sundance-award winning Scout’s Honor, chronicling the battle against the homophobia in the Boy Scouts of America.

Lest one get the impression that all of the films being shown are serious fare, the film festival folks are also debuting Nico and Dani, a Spanish film glorifying underage sex, smoking, drinking and drugs, and Big Eden, an American indie starring Arye Gross as a New York artist who returns to the home of his youth in Montana to care for his grandfather, while struggling with his love for his old high school best friend.

And, as mentioned before, Longtime Companion, the 1990 film that garnered Bruce Davison an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.

Big Eden

Freshman film maker Thomas Bezucha both wrote and directed this film about going home, and it’s an impressive achievement for the former vice president of Ralph Lauren.

Henry Hart (Arye Gross), a successful artist in New York, gets called back to his home town of Big Eden, Montana, on the eve of the opening of his big gallery show. (The Whitney winds up buying two of his paintings, even though he’s not there to schmooze. Of course, that’s beside the point.) It seems his grandfather Sam, who raised him since childhood, has had a stroke, and Henry must go home for a while to take care of him.

There are, of course, some small complications. First of all, Henry is gay, something only his grandfather’s friend Grace (Louise Fletcher) knows. Second, Henry’s great unrequited love, former high school heartthrob Dean, is back in town after splitting up with his wife.

Although at first gun shy, Henry starts spending time with Dean, hoping to rekindle a romance that never really got off the ground in the first place.

By forty minutes into the movie, everyone in town realizes Henry is gay, although Henry himself doesn’t seem to know they’ve figured it out. It’s apparently an unusually accepting Montana town; no one cares what team he plays for.

Okay, that is a lie. Pike Dexter, the Onandaga man who owns the general store, cares that Henry is gay, although not for the reasons you might think. Pike has had a crush on Henry since high school, just as Henry has on Dean, causing the quiet, gentle man no end of heartbreak.

Pike manages to work his way into Henry and Sam’s lives, but his efforts might be for naught when Dean decides that maybe he and Henry could have a romantic relationship.

It is a warm and funny movie, right down to the happy ending. Whose happy ending, I won’t tell you, but nobody dances alone at this ball.

Gross and Schweig were excellent. The character of Henry is supposed to be kind of whiny and neurotic, a little self-centered but not maliciously so, and Arye Gross is good at that. Eric Schweig is a very physical actor; his entire body illustrates Pike’s unease, nervousness, expectation, elation and disappointment. (As a side note, this reviewer would have happily taken the lovesick Mr. Dexter off Henry’s hands; he was like a little lost puppy, only about 6’ 2".)

Of course, the supporting cast was also magnificent, but with Louise Fletcher, who played the menacing Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, what else did you expect?

Letters to Uranus

The program guide for the film festival refers to this documentary as the "Northeast Ohio answer" to My Dinner with Andre. It is an apt, if not accurate, analogy. In My Dinner with Andre, the audience is a third-person observer, a fly on the wall, if you will. In this film, the audience is a participant in the conversation.

Lenny Pinna, who did just about everything on this film, apparently carried the video camera around on his shoulder as he spoke to Tedd Burr, a true grande dame of the Cleveland theater scene going back decades. We can just hear Pinna’s voice when he says something; Burr, on the other hand, comes through loud and clear.

This isn’t really the type of film someone reviews; you can only come up with comparisons, and hope they do the movie justice.

For instance, it could be a poor man’s Naked Civil Servant: instead of a British expatriate, we have a native Clevelander, and instead of acting out scenes from a life, we have them described to us.

It could be a gay Arsenic and Old Lace, only without old ladies, Cary Grant, or anyone being poisoned.

What it is, in actuality, is a living document of the life of an interesting person, an archive of local lore. Instead of piecing together Burr’s life after his death, Pinna let Burr do it himself while still alive. As Mr. Spock used to say, fascinating.

Keep the River on Your Right

David and Laurie Gwen Shapiro directed this documentary about Tobias Schneebaum, a painter-cum-anthropologist who lived in the jungles of Peru and New Guinea with tribes of head-hunters and cannibals.

He ate human flesh, he learned about their cultures, and he interacted with them as a gay man, which perhaps adds the most interesting twist to the story. The religious right may want you to believe that homosexuality is a sign of a declining civilization, but most indigenous peoples around the world have some form of it.

How did Schneebaum get along with the tribes he met? Watch the film.

Longtime Companion

Norman Rene’s 1990 drama, which got Bruce Davison a Golden Globe award in addition to his Oscar nomination, chronicled the lives of a group of friends during the AIDS epidemic, from its first flickers around the vestiges of people’s lives to international pandemic.

The festival is bringing this film back as part of its 25th anniversary retrospective, and it is a marvelous choice. Witty, emotional and most of all sincere, this movie is, to this day, one of the most powerful films about AIDS and its effect on those who deal with it. This is all before protease inhibitors and cocktails, before a widespread view of AIDS as a manageable, if chronic, disease. In the time frame of the narrative, AIDS was a death sentence, and there weren’t decades of appeals to be heard before it was carried out.

As another side note, Davison should have won the Academy Award for his performance in this film. He has had many roles along the course of his career, but none with the sheer scope of humanity that he displays here. Of course, awards could have been easily and deservedly handed out to much of the cast, but that is not the way things work.

Nico and Dani

Dani (Fernando Ramallo) invites his friend Nico (Jordi Vilches) to stay at his house for a while during their summer break. Dani’s parents are away on vacation, and it will just be the two boys (and Dani’s cook and his tutor) for the summer. At least, that’s what he hopes.

Dani and Nico, when there are no girls around, engage in krampack, the subtitle of the film and an apparently generic term they invented for . . . helping each other out. The problem is, Nico is trying to score with a girl, and Dani is trying to score more krampack.

Love, jealousy, underage sex, drinking, smoking and use of marijuana infuse director and co-writer Cesc Gay’s film with an odd air, a cross between pedophiliac voyeurism and innocence. It’s been compared to Beautiful Thing, but about the only thing the two films have in common are teenagers.

Despite any strange aftertaste it might leave, it is, nonetheless, a worthwhile film. Let’s face it, it’s always interesting to see a Spanish gay film not directed by Pedro Almodovar.

Scout’s Honor

Tom Shepherd’s documentary on the movement inside and outside of the Boy Scouts of America to dismantle the BSA’s ban on gays in scouting won big at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and it is making its Ohio debut at the CIFF.

The film looks at the organization Scouting For All, as well as current and former Boy Scouts of all ages, asking the question, since when does "morally straight" mean "heterosexual?" And why, if a Boy Scout is always honest, are people being penalized for telling the truth?

Trembling Before G-d

Another Star Trek reference: To boldly go where no film has gone before, into the lives of some of the most torn people on Earth, gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews.

Sandi Simcha DuBowski takes a look at a group of people previously ignored. There are often stories about people growing up in fundamentalist Christian households who finally, after years of struggling with their sexual orientation, come out of the closet.

Imagine the same situation, if you will, only with long beards, earlocks, gefilte fish, and lots of shouting in Hebrew and Yiddish. It’s not a pretty picture, is it? Yet this is what gay and lesbian Orthodox and Hasidic Jews must face, growing up in communities that can be as strident about "what God wants" as Jerry Falwell.

The spelling in the title, by the way, is a reference to the proscription in Jewish Orthodoxy against spelling any of the various names of the divinity. Orthodox Jews have pseudonyms, if you will, for all the referential terms for God in the Bible, like adoshem instead of adonai. They actually both mean something in Hebrew, but here endeth the lesson.

Absolut Best

The crowning glory of Ten Percent Cinema this year (it’s arguable, true, but who is writing this article?) is Absolut Best, an evening of film clips with the Daily Show film critic Frank DeCaro, whose gay spin on movies adds hilarity to an already hysterical show, and makes everyone question Jon Stewart’s sexual orientation.

DeCaro will show film clips selected by online and live polling in 1999 by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation showcasing the most popular gay, lesbian and transgendered films. Throughout, DeCaro will add his own commentary to the clips. If his appearances on Comedy Central are any indication, it will be an event to remember. The only problem is, it’s one night only, at 7 pm on Saturday, March 17.

For its silver anniversary, the Cleveland International Film Festival has outdone itself. At this rate, there might not be enough really good gay and lesbian films for next year’s festival.|

See Charlie’s Calendar on page 8 for show times.

 

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