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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 25, 2001

150 lobby Congress on gender equality

by Bob Roehr

Washington, D.C.�"Gender Rights are Human Rights" was the theme of the first National Conference on Gender and the Sixth National Gender Lobby Day organized by Gender PAC on the weekend of May 18-21.

Executive director Riki Wilchins said that more than 400 people attended the conference and 150 stayed to lobby Congress on Monday.

She stressed the importance of having constituents speak with their elected officials on the importance of gender equality. That means "the right to safe streets in communities, the right to safe schools where our kids are harassed, the right to have a fair and equal workplace environment."

"People should not be fired, harassed, or denied employment because of their gender, whether that is a woman who is considered too feminine for advancement, a lesbian who is considered too masculine, a gay man who might be camping it up a little bit, or a transgender person who is transitioning on the job. We believe that people should have full equality in the workplace, regardless of their gender. It�s a simple concept and it is time that mainstream America got used to it."

GenderPAC filed its first three "impact litigation cases" last year, said Wilchins. But it is also looking for ways "to cast or enhance existing legislation in ways that also expand gender rights."

They are asking members of Congress "to support our congressional EEO project, to sign a diversity clause saying that they don�t discriminate based on gender in their own office hiring." Last year was the first time they sought this commitment and they gained 94 signatories. The goal this year is 150.

"Six years ago we had our first lobby day," said Wilchins. "The congressmen had no idea what we were talking about, they didn�t know what we were doing there." But by last year, ten Republicans were among those who signed the diversity pledge. "That�s really amazing movement," she said.

An anomaly in the civil rights act

One of the highlights of the conference was an animated lecture by Chai Feldblum, who reviewed the changing nature of gender law. She is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and played a leading role in drafting both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the gay and lesbian Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA.

"I�m a pragmatist with a passion," Feldblum said, "I want to make change."

Part of the way of effecting change is to understand how the status quo came to be created, she said. The convoluted path of gender law is based in the 1964 Civil Rights Act when a conservative House member pressed an amendment to include coverage of sex only in Title VII, hoping to sabotage the entire act. The anomaly stuck and the bill passed.

Case law has been built around the court�s interpretation of Congress�s intent in enacting this clause. Attempts to modify civil rights legislation have been restricted by the unwillingness of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights�an alliance of organized labor, racial and ethnic organizations, and religious groups�to be fully supportive of equality for gays and lesbians.

One of the results of this is the strategy of trying to enact ENDA, an employment-only bill, rather than an omnibus civil right measure for the GLBT community. The transgender community was not explicitly included in ENDA because the conference and congressional allies were not willing to take that step.

Gay law, gender law closely related

Feldblum explained how her own views have changed.

"The idea that there is this complete distinction between sexual orientation and gender, which is what I believed in 1994, I now think is simply, completely wrong."

She tied her change in thinking directly to meetings with Wilchins and other transgender activists that began about six years ago.

"They made me think about it in depth for the first time."

"Gender affects all of our ways of interacting, both legally as well as socially," said Feldblum. "Society thinks that lesbians are masculine, therefore they are ready to say that a masculine looking woman, who is discriminated against because she is masculine, is being discriminated against because she is a lesbian. But my femininity is also an aspect of my sexual orientation."

"You look at the women who spend all of this time on the lipstick and makeup. They are doing it partly because they think it helps them get guys. That is what they think is attractive to men. Their gender presentation also relates to their heterosexual orientation. I�m no different. It�s just that, I�m not looking at the men."

"And that is why gender presentation also is an aspect of my sexual orientation. So they are connected, no matter how gender non-conforming you might think you are."

Feldblum urged gay and women�s groups to bring cases for gay and transgender rights under gender law. "It is about individual people making change in the law and in society."

Wilchins� closing comment on Feldblum fully captured the mood of the audience: "Chai may be a femme, but she�s a legal top as far as I�m concerned."


Helms measure would cut funds for schools that limit Scouts

by Barbara Dozetos

Washington, D.C.--A measure intended to protect the Boy Scouts of America from discrimination because of its anti-gay policy could create a special protection for all anti-gay organizations.

Hoping to guard the Scouts from "malicious assaults by some homosexuals and some liberal politicians," North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms introduced an amendment to an education bill.

His Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act would "prohibit the use of federal funds by any state or local educational agency or school that discriminates against the Boy Scouts of America in providing equal access to school premises or facilities."

Helms applauded the U.S. Supreme Court�s decision last year upholding the Scouts� right to ban openly gay individuals from its ranks, then decried the groups and individuals protesting the policy.

"These radical militants are up to the same old tactics when targeting an honorable and respectable organization," Helms said on the Senate floor May 14. "They never miss a beat . . . those who demand that everybody else's principles must be laid aside in order to protect the rights of homosexual conduct."

The measure is redundant and will create "a special protective status for groups with anti-gay viewpoints," said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson David Smith.

"This is gratuitous gay bashing and nothing more," he said. "The schools cannot ban the Boy Scouts from facilities now because of First Amendment protections."

Helms' amendment, Smith said, simply adds the threat of losing federal funds to something that is already prohibited. While some schools have discontinued sponsorship and other special privileges for the Scouts, none have successfully banned them from school property.

"The Boy Scouts have always had, and still have access to schools, so this is really nothing more than a punishment in search of a problem," said Winnie Stachelberg, HRC's political director. Helms' tactics, she said, are familiar, "using his position of power to bully those with whom he disagrees."

"The foundation of federal education policy is based on the principle of local control, and such decisions should be left to local school boards," said Stachelberg. "The Helms amendment is clearly a federal intrusion into the decisions of local school boards."

Joining Helms in sponsoring the amendment are Sens. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Bob Smith of New Hampshire, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Rep. Van Hilleary of Tennessee has introduced identical language in the House. Both measures were expected to see floor debate and a vote before the Memorial Day break.


Phone book won�t publish after collecting ad money

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland--A phone book listing gay and supportive businesses in the Cleveland area will not be published as planned, leaving advertisers on the hook for thousands of dollars they had paid to the publishers.

Edder Publishing of Buffalo, New York, has gone out of business and will not be printing the Cleveland Gay Phone Book. The company has not yet declared bankruptcy.

Edder published the Western New York Gay Phone Book in 1999 and 2000 and maintained a web site at www.gayphonebook.com. The company had plans to publish directories in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Cleveland businesses said they had paid Edder for ads in February and March but had not been shown proofs, and when they attempted to contact the company, the phones were shut off or no one answered them.

There are two individuals listed on the web site, neither of them connected to Edder. Their companies agreed to provide services in exchange for ad space and money.

Ken Stuczynski of Kentropolis, a web design firm, created the site in exchange for an ad and some monetary payment.

Stuczynski still maintains the web site, which includes the 2000 edition of the Western New York book. He says he will keep it up as long as he can "for the good of the community."

Donna Bugdin of Maximum Graphix was contracted to design the New York books. She said the latest New York book was set and on computer disks ready for the printer when Edder ran out of money.

Bugdin and Stuczynski said Edder had internal problems and unpaid bills they estimated at over $60,000 when the owners, Eddie Hogan and Ernie Reid, began to quarrel. Reid resigned from the company in February and left the area with no forwarding information.

Hogan and his partner Jeffrey Ballanca, who served as the corporation�s office manager and financial assistant, disappeared in April. They are believed to be somewhere in Washington state.

Hogan planned to publish the Western New York book with the money raised selling ads in Cleveland, Budgin said, and hoped those sales would raise enough money to publish the Cleveland book.

Stuczynski said he had concerns with the Cleveland book and getting paid for his work starting in February. "I got nervous because they bit off more than they could chew."

One Cleveland-area business that bought an ad was New Perspectives Counseling Services in Richmond Heights.

"We had no reservations, not one," said owner Kendra Esser.

An Edder representative sold her an ad for $500, which she paid in full March 8.

Esser said she later began to wonder why she had not yet seen a proof of her ad, and attempted to reach Edder.

"I left messages regularly for three to four weeks," she said.

Esser said the loss for her is more than the money. "We lost what we thought was a good advertising outlet."

The New York attorney general has an open investigation of Edder that was initiated by Bugdin and another advertiser. They have not been aggressive with it because books were published in 1999 and 2000, so they do not believe Hogan and Reid intentionally defrauded advertisers.

Since the contracted publication date is August 2001, the Ohio Attorney General cannot investigate fraud yet.

Stuczynski said he would post the names of those who bought Cleveland ads on the web site for free for as long as he could.

This is the second time that Cleveland gay-friendly businesses have been stung by a phone book failure. Out West Publications of Phoenix, Arizona, published directories here and in a dozen other cities in 1997. Under the name Out of Bounds, they accepted thousands of dollars for a 1998 second edition in Cleveland and other cities outside Ohio, then went out of business.

Neither Out West nor Edder is connected with Renaissance House, a New York City company that has published the Gayellow Pages national and regional directories since 1973.


 

Many facets of identity can propel activism, poet says

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland--Poet, author, and educator Roland Sintos Coloma presented the program "Putting Spice in Your Rice" at the Cleveland Lesbian and Gay Service Center as part of the Asian Pacific Heritage Month celebration on May 17.

Asian Pacific Heritage Month is celebrated throughout the United States. The center is sponsoring a series of events in Cleveland, which, according to organizer Karl Kimpko, is the only organized observance in Ohio and the only gay-themed program outside of New York City and the west coast.

The celebration began April 27 with a party and show at Cocktails nightclub in Akron. Programs at the Cleveland center included a gay Asian film festival and a discussion on racism within the LGBT community, co-sponsored by Black and White Men Together.

Coloma, who gave the keynote speech at the 1997 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change conference, read some of his poetry, which is reflective, provocative and erotic.

"It is rooted in feminist of color literature," said Coloma. He is Filipino, and all of his poetry has strong gay Asian themes.

Coloma, who is completeing a Ph.D. at Ohio State University, also spoke about social activism from a race-based and sexuality-based perspective. His message is to do social activism from many perspectives of one�s identity.

Coloma�s poem "Redefining Brotherhood: The challenges of queers of color in white fraternities" is part of the anthology Out on Fraternity Row.

Additional Asian Pacific Heritage Month activities include a screening and discussion of the film Coming Out Coming Home on May 24, and a program on the impact of HIV and AIDS on the Asian Pacific community on May 31.


 

News Briefs

Army rejects wrongful death appeal in Winchell beating

Washington, D.C.�The Army has rejected an appeal from the mother of Pfc. Barry Winchell, who was murdered by fellow soldiers in a July, 1999 gaybashing incident.

Patricia Kutteles filed the $1.8 million wrongful death claim a year ago, contending an anti-gay atmosphere in the Army and a failure of leadership led to the murder of her son at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The Army rejected that claim, and Kutteles appealed to the secretary of the Army. On May 18 she received a letter from Army deputy general counsel Matt Reres, saying the Army stood by its decision.

The appeal was Kutteles� last chance to seek redress under the Military Claims Act, said her attorney Charles Butler,. The act allows service members or civilians to seek reimbursement from the military for injury, death or loss of property.

Kutteles said fellow soldiers believed Winchell, 21, was gay and harassed him for months before he was beaten to death with a baseball bat as he slept in his cot. The Army knew about the harassment but did nothing to stop it, Kutteles alleged.

Pvt. Calvin Glover of Sulphur, Okla., was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Winchell. Spc. Justin Fisher, of Lincoln, Neb., was given a 12�-year sentence for lying to investigators.

 

Judge strikes sodomy law

Minneapolis�Minnesota�s law that prohibits oral and anal sex between consenting adults is unconstitutional, a state district court judge has ruled.

Judge Delila Pierce ruled May 18 that the law, which had been on the books since the 1800s, is unconstitutional because it violates the right of privacy guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution.

Gov. Jesse Ventura agreed with the ruling, his spokesman said.

In 1961, all 50 states had sodomy laws on the books. Thirteen states still have them in force, with three of these applying only to gays and lesbians. Ohio�s law was repealed in 1973.

 

NGLTF names new director

Washington, D.C.�The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has named Lorri L. Jean, former director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, as its new executive director. The announcement was made May 21.

Jean was named to the post following the resignation of Elizabeth Toledo in April, effective May 18. Toledo stepped down to move closer to her ailing mother, among other family considerations.

Jean will be the first NGLTF executive director to work outside of New York or Washington. She will operate out of a new Los Angeles office, which will be completed in the fall.

 

Gay veterans memorial dedicated

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

The first was dedicated in Phoenix on Veterans Day.

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

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

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

 

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