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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 4, 2001

Ohio House considers ‘super’ marriage ban

Bill would also ban out-of-state visitation and partner rights

by Eric Resnick

Columbus—The Ohio House is considering a same-sex marriage ban that some call a "super" ban because it also denies recognition of many rights of non-married couples, both gay and straight, including out-of-state child visitation and domestic partner benefits.

Following a lengthy overnight debate on school funding, Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, introduced his anticipated "Defense of Marriage Act" at 6 am on May 2.

The bill, now known as H.B. 234, is a collaborative effort between the Republican caucus and the Cincinnati Citizens for Community Values.

CCV is the organization that spearheaded the 1993 petition drive to put the anti-gay Issue 3 charter amendment on the ballot.

Seitz’s bill has 40 co-sponsors, 39 Republicans and one Democrat, out of 99 members of the Ohio House. By contrast, the marriage ban introduced and defeated in 1997 had 13 co-sponsors. The 1999 attempt had 11.

Following an April 6 Gay People’s Chronicle analysis of the bill, its author, attorney David Langdon of CCV, who also prepares anti-gay briefs for the Ohio chapter of the American Family Association admitted that the draft version had parts that were "not clear" and the final version would be "tweaked."

According to openly gay Cleveland attorney Tim Downing, who gave the introduced version a quick read, the changes made to the final version "made the bill worse."

"It is less clear and overly broad," said Downing. "And it is inconsistent and vague because the term ‘specific benefits of a legal marriage’ is undefined."

Downing also asserts that the bill is unnecessary to prevent same-sex marriage in Ohio because "the current marriage statute in Ohio could not be clearer."

Current Ohio law only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.

Human Rights Campaign director Elizabeth Birch labeled this bill a "super DOMA," because like those proposed in a few other states, it is an attempt to block all unmarried couples from benefits and rights of legal marriage. These including custody and visitation orders from other states and financial benefits granted in other states.

Birch pointed out that this trend is part of "a more subtle and more clever" strategy of the extreme Christian right.

"They use marriage and the Boy Scouts to attempt to co-mingle gays with children," said Birch. "They sweep these bills in through the potency of the term marriage, which does not poll well for us, and attach it in reality to civil unions and domestic partner benefits, which most Americans support. It is a Trojan horse."

Seitz says the purpose of this bill is to prevent a couple from having a civil union in Vermont and moving to Ohio expecting their union to be recognized.

Neither Ohio nor any other state recognizes the civil unions granted by Vermont.

Downing called the bill "mean-spirited" and said passage of it would land the state in an expensive battle defending its constitutionality.

"Orders from courts outside Ohio dealing with marriage benefits, including visitation rights, will be unenforceable under this bill."

"If the constitutionality of this bill is called into question," said Downing, "a court would first look to see if the sections in it are consistent, and in this case, they are not, because key terms are not defined."

"The taxpayers of Ohio do not need to be caught in that expensive legal battle," added Downing.

The bill has been sent to the Civil and Commercial Law committee which Seitz co-chairs. The committee’s chair, John Willamowski, a Lima Republican, is a co-sponsor.

Republicans Gary Cates of West Chester and Stephen Buehrer of Delta are also co-sponsors. Cates is the House Speaker Pro Tempore. Buehrer is the Assistant House Majority Leader.

The rest of the Republican co-sponsors are Bryan Williams of Akron, Jean Schmidt of Loveland, Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, Tom Niehaus of New Richmond, James Hoops of Napoleon, John Hagan of Marlboro Township, J.Tom Lendrum of Huron, Twyla Roman of Akron, Ron Young of Leroy, Arlene Setzer of Vandalia, Bob Latta of Bowling Green, John Carey of Wellston, Larry Wolpert of Hilliard, Tom Raga of Mason, Larry Flowers of Canal Winchester, Michelle Schneider of Cincinnati, Dennis Stapleton of Washington Courthouse, Tom Brinkman of Cincinnati, Merle Grace Kearns of Springfield, Jamie Callender of Willowick, David Evans of Newark, Jon Husted of Kettering, Diana Fessler of New Carlisle, Patricia Clancy of Cincinnati, Timothy Grendell of Chesterland, Kirk Schuring of Canton, Tim Schaffer of Lancaster, Kevin DeWine of Fairborn, John White of Kettering, Jim Hughes of Columbus, Thom Collier of Mount Vernon, Keith Faber of Celina, Shawn Webster of Millville, Mike Gilb of Findlay, and James Aslanides of Coshocton.

The sole Democrat is the 19-year-old first-term member Derrick Seaver of Minster.



High court asked to review Ohio’s
gay-only proposition ban

by Anthony Glassman

Jefferson, Ohio—An Ohio law making it a crime to proposition someone of the same sex may be challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Under Ohio’s "importuning" law, it is a first-degree misdemeanor to solicit a "person of the same sex to engage in sexual activity, knowing that such solicitation was offensive to the other person or being reckless in that regard." The law does not apply to heterosexual situations.

The statute is often used for police stings in parks, where gay men are charged for asking an undercover officer if they are interested in sex.

But Eric R. Thompson was not in a park when he was charged with importuning on July 26, 1999. As he was returning from driving his father to work in Jefferson, he stopped to ask a male jogger if he wanted oral sex. When the jogger said no, Thompson left, but he jogger complained to police.

Thompson’s attorney, Ashtabula County public defender Marie Lane, moved to dismiss the charge, arguing that the law violates federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection under the law. The trial court rejected the motion, and convicted Thompson.

Since Thompson was on parole for an earlier burglary conviction, he was returned to prison and served the rest of his sentence, plus six months for importuning. He was released in January 2001.

Lane appealed the conviction, and the case went to the Ohio Eleventh District Court of Appeals in Portage County. That court upheld the conviction in December 2000, but did so reluctantly.

"What is not clear is why [the law] would only apply to same sex solicitation and not to opposite sex solicitation," the appeals court commented in its ruling. "It is inherently inconsistent for the Ohio legislature to now criminalize homosexual solicitation after it has chosen to decriminalize homosexual conduct between consenting adults."

The legislature decriminalized gay sex when it repealed Ohio’s sodomy law in 1973.

"Further, it is without a doubt that heterosexual solicitation may be equally repugnant, offensive, and inciteful to violence as homosexual solicitation," the court continued.

However, the appeals court found that in two previous cases, the Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the importuning law. One challenge was based on different constitutional arguments, and the other did not provide a published decision, something Lane says renders that case non-binding as a precedent.

The prosecutors in the case argued that the law did not violate equal protection provisions, since any person soliciting a member of the same sex, whether they were gay or not, could be charged under the law.

The appeals court, however, found that the argument did not hold under scrutiny.

"It is somewhat unnerving to find that the ‘pregnant men are treated the same as pregnant women’ rationale is alive and well today," the court wrote, referring to a California case cited in their ruling. The court also noted that, while it viewed the prosecutors as "defending the undefendable," "We appreciate the fact that the prosecution has little choice but to defend."

The appeals court also urged the Ohio Supreme Court to look into the matter and provide a written decision based on the equal protection argument.

Two gay and lesbian groups, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Ohio Human Rights Bar Association, have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case, along with the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The Ashtabula County prosecutor’s office is also pressing for the court to take up the case.

Lane, however, has a more pressing reason for pursuing the case. For her, it is about fairness, and protecting those she loves.

"Honestly, it’s really unfair," she said. "I have a lot of gay friends, and the thought that my dear friend Jimmy could be arrested for this upsets me."

The Ohio Supreme Court has not yet announced whether they will hear the case.

Summit job bias measure has unanimous support

by Eric Resnick

Akron--A question to then-Summit County Council candidate Peter Crossland at an October 2000 Stonewall Akron Candidates Night Out event has led to the introduction of a measure to prohibit discrimination by sexual orientation in county employment.

James McCarthy



The resolution was introduced April 23 and is co-sponsored by all 11 members of the council and County Executive James McCarthy.

It passed the council’s Rules Committee April 30, and will be voted on by the entire council May 7.

At the October event, Crossland, a Democrat, was asked why the county didn’t include sexual orientation in its equal employment opportunity statement, and would he work to include it.

Crossland told the audience he would work toward passage of such a measure. He was elected to the council November 7.

Crossland said that proposals to include the sexual orientation language were stalled in previous councils by then County Prosecutor Michael Callahan, a Republican, who said the language was "too vague."

Callahan was defeated by current prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, a Democrat, who, according to Crossland, had no trouble adding the language.

Walsh also attended the Candidates Night Out event.

Following his defeat to Walsh, Callahan was appointed to the county council, and is a co-sponsor of the resolution.

The resolution adds sexual orientation and ancestry to the existing ordinances of the county dealing with discrimination in county jobs and the application process. It does not apply to private employment.

Summit County employees include those of all county agencies, such as the board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities, children services, office workers, the health department, laborers, sheriff’s deputies, court and jail workers.

The resolution is an emergency measure and will be effective as soon as it is passed and signed by McCarthy.

According to Crossland, "I was the one who got it going, but every member supports this."

The resolution is expected to pass the May 7 vote unanimously.

Cuyahoga County and the city of Dayton also include "sexual orientation" in their job bias policies. A 1984 executive order doing the same for state workers was allowed to lapse when Gov. Robert Taft took office.

Akron, the largest city in Summit County, is currently considering an ordinance sponsored by Council President Marco Sommerville to add sexual orientation and gender to the city’s non-discrimination measures covering all employment, housing, and public accommodations.

That ordinance is expected to pass this summer, making Akron the 12th city in Ohio with such a measure.

Neither right nor left now controls the capital, Birch says

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland—The right and the left no longer have the power they once had in Washington, says Human Rights Campaign executive director Elizabeth Birch.

"What has shifted is that the real decision makers in Washington now are in the middle," Birch said. "Every decision has a coalition across party lines, or nothing happens, so we have built our coalitions with moderate Republicans that we have had relationships with."

"That is what the new president will have to contend with, too," she added.

Birch included Ohio GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce of Columbus in that coalition, as well as Democrat Rep. Ted Strickland of Lucasville. Pryce scored 67 percent on HRC’s most recent legislative scorecard. Strickland scored 80 percent.

Although she says she attends fewer dinners since becoming mother to twins, Birch will address the Cleveland fundraising event on Saturday, May 6.

Birch has directed HRC since 1995, and seen many changes in Washington. She shared her thoughts and observations in an April 30 interview, and evaluated the Bush administration on its first hundred days.

Birch noted the recent re-introduction of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act in the Senate. That bill is the language of the former Hate Crime Prevention Act, which adds sexual orientation to the list of groups covered under the federal hate crime law.

"It had 51 sponsors in the Senate at introduction," said Birch, "so that gives you the sense that we remain quite powerful and have been able to effect change."

Commenting on HRC’s growth as it relates to political power, Birch said, "There is a certain threshold when you have grown that much, you have enough cash in your political action committee and in your field and political operations to deliver critical resources and be a factor in a number of elections."

HRC endorsed and contributed to 225 federal candidates in 2000.

Birch said working for HIV and AIDS issues domestically and globally will remain high on HRC’s priorities, even though the demographics of the disease have shifted into other populations.

"There are ten major issues we are working on, and health is one of them," said Birch. "Our gay brothers are still dying of this disease."

Birch acknowledged the shift in influence and power between the national LGBT political organizations since the Bush election. She described Bush’s appointment of openly gay Scott Evertz to the White House office of AIDS policy and the hiring of openly gay Steve Herbitz as a consultant to the Department of Defense as "extraordinarily modest" compared to the more that 150 openly gay appointments by Bill Clinton.

"But I have to give credit where credit is due, and these appointments are really major steps for the Republican Party," said Birch. "Unlike the right to choose and the environment, the Bush administration has not declared war on gay people."

"But we can judge this administration if it does not move forward," Birch added. "President Bush should not be allowed to rest on the laurels of President Clinton."

"The Log Cabin Republicans have garnered a more important role," said Birch, "but it is important that the Log Cabin Republicans be willing to provide praise or criticism as appropriate. [HRC] always did that with the Clinton administration."

"When we felt they were engaged in good politics and public policy strategies and goals, we praised them," she said. "But when they did things we disagreed with, we criticized harshly. Log Cabin’s actions around John Ashcroft raised some serious concern."

"And, let’s not forget the Unity Coalition," said Birch, "as many of them have access to Bush and relationships to people close to him."

The Unity Coalition is a group of gay and lesbian Republicans working to gain access to the Bush administration through a more inside track that the Log Cabin Republicans. The relationship between the Unity Coalition and Log Cabin has, at times, been tenuous.

Birch said that although HRC has added gender identity to its mission statement, there is no intention to include transgender people in the gay and lesbian Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it is re-introduced.

"There will be no change in the language," said Birch. "That is because we have an ironclad agreement with the sponsors of the bill that it will be voted up or down without amendment."

Birch believes that adding transgender people to the bill at this time would "render it unviable."

"Gender identity issues are still a mystery to members of Congress," Birch added, "and there is a need for deep and sustained education around this issue."

Birch said she would support a separate federal law protecting transgender people in employment.

"It could be called GENDA."

Birch’s message to our movement is that we are lucky to be alive and gay in 2001.

"Even if you look at ten or fifteen years ago, things were very different," said Birch.

"And now our people need to be willing to talk about the impact the progress we have made has had on our lives. People need to get involved, by volunteering or writing checks and being able to translate their personal experiences and stories to policy makers," Birch concluded.

"We need to tell the truth about our lives, and tell it to those who can make a difference."


Students rally for bashed man, hate crime law

by Eric Resnick

Kent, Ohio—Three hundred people came to the Kent State University campus April 27 to protest anti-gay violence.

By the end of the noon rally, the crowd had almost doubled in size to over 500, as the organizers, Pride! Kent and Delta Lambda Phi, assembled to speak out against the gay-bashing of Kent State student Mikell Nagy and the omission of sexual orientation from Ohio’s hate crime law.




Mikell Nagy


The "Stop the Hate" rally was organized by the gay student group and the gay fraternity as a response to the April 20 beating of Nagy in a local restaurant by Brian D. Lydick, 28, of Ravenna, after he called Nagy a faggot.

Nagy, 22, was knocked unconscious in the attack, which occurred at about 3 am after he and several friends came to the restaurant after a Saturday night of dancing. He lost four teeth, and suffered cuts and bruises on his head.

Lydick was arrested by Portage County sheriff’s deputies and arraigned later that day. He was released on bond and faces charges of criminal assault, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Twenty-one speakers delivered messages to the crowd at the rally.

Letters of support for Nagy and the rally were read by students and administrators. They came from U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, State Sen. Eric Fingerhut and Kent State University president Carol Cartwright.

"Kent State will continue to practice zero tolerance for the type of behavior that results in the attacks on anyone because of their beliefs, background or lifestyle," wrote Cartwright.

The attack on Nagy occurred off campus, in the Denny’s restaurant on Ohio 59 in the outskirts of Kent. The attacker is not a Kent State student.

Fingerhut, who has introduced a bill in the Ohio Senate to set up an institute to study bias crimes, echoed the students’ protest on the state of Ohio law.

"We will never eradicate hate in our society," he wrote. "But, we must stand up against crimes perpetrated based on hate. When a victim is selected based upon his or her membership in a group, we have an obligation to heighten the penalty."

Fingerhut’s bill does not change the definition of bias crime to include sexual orientation, but has been opposed by Christian conservatives on the basis that it someday might.

The students voiced their concern that homophobia is part of life at Kent State.

Pride Kent director Michael Collins told the rally about harassing phone calls to the group’s office and the anti-gay epithets sometimes painted on the campus fraternity rock.

"Silly faggots, dicks are for chicks" was posted on the windows of one dormitory, and the words fag and homo are freely used around campus in a disparaging way.

The most controversial action around homophobia on campus occurred prior to Nagy’s attack.

Resident Assistant Helen Cunningham, who is a university employee charged with supervision and sometimes mediation between students in her area, wrote a letter to the campus newspaper, the Daily Kent Stater, that Pride Kent took offense to.

Cunningham wrote that gay Christians are living a "twisted view on what is acceptable in a Christian."

"The truth is that homosexuals are living in sin, like most of the people around them," wrote Cunningham. "Both fornicators and homosexuals are sinning if you read the scriptures."

The letter ran April 13, and prompted Pride Kent to leaflet the campus, questioning Cunningham’s fitness to be a resident assistant.

A Stater editorial April 27 said of Cunningham’s letter, "While more subtle, this attack potentially ostracizes students who should be able to bring their problems to an RA."

The editorial continues by calling for Ohio to add sexual orientation to its hate crime laws saying that currently, "Nagy’s assailant is just another guy in another fight in another college town."

Campus Life director Sheryl Smith added her own remarks after reading Cartwright’s.

"In recent months, we have seen an increase in actions against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. This increase should not surprise us, because nationally, the increase of hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation is at an all time high and increasing."

Smith continued, "We must take action to demand that our state, our counties, and our towns implement hate crime laws that increase penalties imposed for criminal acts motivated by sexual orientation."

Jennifer Chestnut, representing the Jewish students group Hillel, and Kathryn Willis and Carey Hovland, representing United Christian Ministries, joined in the call for the law to change.

"The word faggot could have easily been kike or nigger," said Chestnut. "This is not a gay issue. It is not a Jewish issue. It is not a minority issue. It is a human issue."

"I am tired of hearing Christians say love the sinner but hate the sin," said Willis.

The campus Greek community, represented by Molly Muncey of the Inter-Greek Programming Board, joined the call for Kent State to examine its homophobia.

"The Greek system will not tolerate this outrageous behavior," she said. "We are behind Delta Lambda Phi all the way."

Other students circulated petitions calling for the law to change. The petitions will be sent to the Ohio legislature.

Adam Kumler, representing Kent Interhall Council, added, "We are college students. We are supposed to study by day and party by night. We are not supposed to get messed up by [hatred]."

Alumni Eric Van Sant, one of the rally organizers, urged all in attendance to contact their representatives.

"Go forth from this event with the idea that we will be a force for change and have impact," said Van Sant.

Nagy closed the remarks pleading, "Let this make you an advocate. Fight the good fight."

"It is nice to see this many people pay attention," said Delta Lambda Phi member Allan Freudeman. "People are finally starting to pay attention. Until now, there has been a lot of apathy for Pride Kent and Delta Lambda Phi."

According to Collins, the university has alredy begun to examine some of its policies as a result of the attack on Nagy.

"They have asked us to join a committee looking at how we train RAs, and there have been some changes to the harassment reporting policies," he said.

Nagy is receiving assistance from Victim Assistance of Akron and plans to sue his attacker for damages.

Nagy praised the deputies for the way they handled his case.

"They were the first to suggest it was a hate crime," he said.

Nagy was also moved by the display of support at the rally, calling it a "phenomenal response," but he hopes people continue to work for progress and justice.

"After the sensationalism of this dies down," said Nagy, "we can only hope that our infuriation and outrage for these acts of hate doesn’t die with it."|


News Briefs

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


Suit asks Georgia to honor civil union

Atlanta—Two women have filed suit to have their Vermont-issued civil union recognized in Georgia.

Susan Freer, one of the women, said that the suit was spurred by a visitation agreement with her ex-husband that will not allow visitations with a parent who is cohabiting with someone other than a family member or legal spouse.

Freer’s ex-husband has forbidden her to see the children, citing her relationship with Debra Jean Freer, whose name she adopted.

Freer’s attorney points to the women’s civil union as evidence that the two women are in a marital relationship, not just cohabiting.

According to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, states are not required to recognize same-sex unions from other states, although they could if the state chose to. Vermont is the only state that currently has a marital equivalent for gay and lesbian couples.


City funds workers’ sex changes

San Francisco—The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 on April 30 to provide coverage for city employees’ sex changes.

The new policy would allow employees to claim up to $50,000 for the entire process, including counseling, hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.

Mayor Willie Brown is expected to sign the policy change, which should take effect July 1. It would make San Francisco the first city in the nation to fund city workers’ gender reassignments. The cost of male-to-female surgery is around $37,000, while female-to-male surgery runs about $77,000.

Supervisor Tony Hall criticized the move, claiming that it gave preferential treatment to transgendered people while ignoring others who are unhappy with their bodies but cannot afford surgery. Other supervisors, however, dismissed Hall’s claim, saying that gender identity disorder is a medically-recognized condition affecting millions of people across the country.


Gay Hispanic man to lead ACLU

New York City—A New York public interest attorney was named May 1 to lead the American Civil Liberties Union, becoming the first Hispanic and openly gay man to do so.

Anthony D. Romero, 35, currently serves as a director of the Ford Foundation’s program for human rights and international cooperation, overseeing $90 million in grants.

As the ACLU’s executive director, he said he will work to make the civil rights organization more prominent in local communities. He said the ACLU will continue to focus on defending religious liberty, reproductive freedom and the rights of women, minorities and gays.

Romero will take over in September for Ira Glasser, who is retiring after 23 years in the post.


Chicago gives $2.25M for gay center

Chicago—The city will give a $2.25 million subsidy to building a gay and lesbian community center, complete with a gymnasium and performing arts space.

Horizons Community Services will build the $22 million center on North Halsted Street, the heart of the city’s "gay ghetto."

The city will buy a lot containing a former maintenance garage for $5 million, then sell it to Horizon for $2.75 million.

The new center is planned to be up to 50,000 square feet, and include a gym, a theater, a technology center and a 180-car parking structure.


Colorado job rights bill dies

Denver—A Colorado House committee on April 26 killed a bill that would have prohibited employment discrimination against LGBT people.

The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted 6-5 to kill Senate Bill 154. It was at least the fifth time such a measure was killed.

The bill would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics for which discrimination is prohibited under employment laws.

Religious organizations acting as employers would have been exempt. The measure, passed by the state senate last week, also would have prohibited discrimination based on an employee’s decision to display religious symbols in his or her work area.


Tone down HIV drug ads, FDA says

Washington, D.C.—The U.S. government is warning manufacturers of drugs used in the treatment of AIDS not to imply too much in their advertising.

The Food and Drug Administration acted April 27 after it determined that some advertisements, particularly on the West Coast, seemed to imply that with modern treatment, people did not need to worry about AIDS.

Ads have shown healthy-looking, muscular men climbing mountains, with a caption saying that they have HIV but are still enjoying life.

The agency’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications said it reviewed these direct-to-consumer ads and concluded that "many do not adequately convey that these drugs neither cure HIV infection not reduce its transmission."

The images also ignore the drugs’ sometimes debilitating side effects.

The advertising needs to be changed within 90 days, the FDA said, noting that promoting the drugs without displaying their limitations, and using images not representative of HIV patients, is in violation of the federal Food and Drug Act.


Business returns to Erie-area inn

North East, Pa.—The South Shore Inn is doing better, thanks to news coverage of a local pastor’s attempt to stifle business at the lesbian-owned restaurant.

The Rev. Patrick Kennedy, an assistant pastor at First Baptist Church of North East, 15 miles east of Erie, Pa., had announced from the pulpit that people should keep their children away from the teen dances held at the South Shore because the owners are lesbians.

An April 22 article in the Erie Times-News said restaurant owners Patricia Graham and Danielle Hazen were struggling to make ends meet after business dropped off. It sparked hundreds of calls, all of them positive, and a flurry of reservations ranging from intimate meals to massive banquets.

Kennedy and the church refused to comment on how many calls or letters they received about to the article. Other local churches, however, had strong responses. One church made reservations for an "open table" fellowship dinner at the South Shore.

Response has been so good that the restaurant has been reopened five days a week. A month ago they were only open for the teen dances.


Typhoid fever is now an STD

Cincinnati—Health officials say they have documented the nation’s first sexually transmitted outbreak of typhoid fever, a rare disease usually spread through tainted food and water.

A Cincinnati man passed typhoid to seven other men in the city who had sex with him last summer, federal researchers said April 25. The disease is treatable with antibiotics, but is occasionally fatal for victims who do not seek treatment.

Typhoid is most often transmitted by swallowing food and water contaminated with human feces, which harbors a type of salmonella that causes the disease. But health officials found that none of the Cincinnati men shared food or drink.

The disease likely circulated by oral-anal contact among the men, said Megan Reller, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC labeled typhoid a sexually transmitted disease for the first time at a conference in Atlanta last week, urging infected patients to stop all sexual contact until they are clear of the disease.

Typhoid is marked by high fever, weakness, headache and, in some cases, flat, red spots on the skin. About 400 cases are reported annually in the United States, four-fifths of them traced to overseas travel.

The disease is preventable by a vaccine recommended to Americans who visit developing nations.

CDC investigators said the Cincinnati man caught typhoid during a visit to Puerto Rico in May.

Anne E. DeChant takes a role in ’The Vagina Monologues’

by Janet Macoska

Anne E. DeChant is Cleveland’a—and the GLBT community’s--own folk-pop-rock chanteuse. As a singer and songwriter, she won local and regional acclaim, first as founder and driving force behind the successful group Odd Girl Out, then as a dynamic solo performer.

Those who have witnessed Anne E’s powerfully theatrical stage presentation should not be surprised at the news that she will appear in The Vagina Monologues during its month-long run at Cleveland Music Hall’s Little Theater in May.

DeChant will take the stage alongside veteran stage actresses Starla Benford and Sherri Lee Parker during the week of May 7-13.

The Vagina Monologues, written by feminist Eve Ensler, is a series of stories, based on more than 200 interviews, in which women talk about the most secret part of their bodies. Ensler drew on conversations with women who were young and old, black and white, American and foreign, gay and straight, rich and poor. Their stories have humor, poignancy, and heartbreak, and reflect the lives of very real women.

Recently, this writer sat down DeChant to discuss her transition into theater, as well as her musical career.

Janet Macoska: People know you as a musical performer. Do you have any anxieties about taking on this type of theatrical production?

Anne E. DeChant: It’s actually pretty natural. I started in children’s theater, did some theater in high school, and then in college. I started with a theater focus, so it’s not as far off as people would think.

Q. Has it entered your mind that acting might be another avenue you might want to entertain?

A. If this led to something more, I would try to balance it. I can grow from the experience of working with these talented professionals. I wouldn’t turn down acting opportunities, but not at the expense of my band or my music. That’s too valuable to me.

Q. Did the vocabulary or subject matter of The Vagina Monologues create any trepidation in you as you thought about performing this in public?

A. Not for me personally, but knowing that maybe my mom or my sister might be in the audience does. Knowing that there may be discomfort on their part makes me a little nervous.

I was raised Catholic, but I was always a little bit feisty. Then I went to a liberal college with a liberal program and a liberal atmosphere. My mom sensed that I needed that. Because of that, this material isn’t a problem for me.

There are repressed women who speak within these monologues. There is a 72-year-old woman who has never had an orgasm, and you know that is absolutely true. I’m just speaking truth, and I’m comfortable with that.

Q. There were a series of questions, humorous and serious, that Eve Ensler asked the women she interviewed. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of those?

A. Go ahead.

Q. Okay: "If your vagina were to speak, what would it say"?

A. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Q. "If your vagina were to wear clothes, what would it wear?"

A. Jeans. No shoes. And a really tight spaghetti-strap black top.

Q. Describe how the world would change for you if violence against women did not exist.

A. A whole lot less worry for myself, my mother, my sisters, my nieces. To illustrate: After a gig at three in the morning when I’m going back to my truck, I wouldn’t need an escort. It’s just about the comments some men make or how they intrude on your space and think it’s okay.

Q. All women have to deal with these issues from the day they are born, but being a lesbian adds a whole other layer to that.

A. To be honest with you, I’ve honestly never had anyone say anything derogatory to me in a public place. However, I can’t hold my girlfriend’s hand in public, walking down the street, and I wish we could do that.

Q. Let’s talk about your music a bit. You had a couple of important things happen last year. You released your second solo CD, Something of the Soul, and through the help of a corporate sponsorship with Crooked River Beer, you were able to quit your day job and begin working full time on your musical career.

A. Correct. I’d been a teacher in day care, and moved around a lot, but mostly worked with six- to ten-year-olds. I’m missing it more now. As a consequence, I’m always over at my sister’s to see my nieces and nephews.

For so long, though, I did both. Worked my day job, got done at six, then got in my truck to go to a gig. For so long I wanted to just focus on the music, so it’s a really good thing, but I also know that if I’m to do anything different or more, it will be combining the two.

In fact, I’m looking into grant money right now for a program where I would go to high schools to speak about what I do as a musician. I’ve already done some of that, and I’m amazed at the favorable response.

Q. There has been a major change in your band, with guitarist Victoria Fliegel leaving.

A. She left about three or four months ago. Victoria reached a point where she didn’t feel comfortable being out on the limb, which you always are as an artist and being self-employed. She felt more comfortable going back to a day job where she knew that she would have a 401-K and that financial security. It was too much of a risk for her, and I understand that.

Q. So you needed to find a new guitarist. Who did you go looking for?

A. I was afraid to replace a woman with a man, because I thought there was a certain appeal to having a female lead guitarist, so we searched for that.

We hired a woman from New York, and I announced it to our fans, we got her an apartment, and two days before she was supposed to be here she decided not to do it. She didn’t want to have a long-distance relationship and it was too much for her.

In the meantime, I’d been working with a local guitarist, Bobby Pyles, on writing some songs, and he was going to cover some shows for Victoria.

Q. How did you know he was "it"?

A. Because we started to write together, and he got it. He knows when to embellish and when to lay off. We just clicked.

Q. What differences do you notice now that Bobby is in the band?

A. Bobby is very prolific as a writer, so we’re going to be churning out material together. I get no sense of hesitation that had to be there when Victoria was there, because she was always struggling with the issue of whether or not she should be in the band.

There is no doubt or hesitation with Bobby. He expresses his joy onstage. He’s having so much fun.

I also know that there will be a whole segment of the community that will pick up on us because of him. Here you have a tall, cute guy who’s so sweet, and that’s another appeal.

Q. Is he straight or gay?

A. Don’t ask me that.

Q. By another segment of the community, you mean . . .

A. The guys. The women too. There is something about Bobby that is really appealing.

Q. This will enter into all your future musical efforts as well. All your future songwriting will change too.

A. Vic and I, in the time we were together, didn’t write one song together.

Q. You wrote separately?

A. She didn’t write at all. She used to write all the time in the past, but she didn’t write in this project. I need that. I need to have someone with me doing that.

Q. One last question: What is currently in your CD player right now?

A. Neil Diamond. We’re doing a cover of "Forever in Blue Jeans," so I’m learning that. I love his older acoustic stuff. It’s so good. "Sweet Caroline," "Red Red Wine," those are great songs. He’s got the gift.



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