No Hawaii same-sex marriage,
But advocates can still seek rights and benefits for same-sex couples
by Denny Sampson
Honolulu-The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that a 1998 state constitutional amendment ended any consideration of same-sex marriage there.
The high court, in a unanimous decision December 9, said that the anti-marriage amendment rendered moot a suit by three same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.
The amendment, which voters approved by a 2 to 1 margin, gave legislators the authority to limit state-recognized marriages to opposite-sex couples. The court upheld an earlier state law which did that.
The three couples filed suit in 1991, saying that denying them marriage licenses violated the Hawaii constitutionís ban on sex discrimination. Courts agreed, including the state supreme court in a 1993 ruling allowing the suit to proceed. But in the December 9 ruling, the high court said the constitution, as amended, now has an exception for same-sex marriage.
However, advocates have not given up.
"This is still a national civil rights movement and no one victory and no one defeat is going to end our advance on equality," said Evan Wolfson, an attorney for the gay and lesbian Lambda Legal Defense Fund who worked on the case. "The public continues to discuss and get used to the idea of gay people marrying. No doubt we will win the freedom to marry. The only question is when.
Wolfson pointed out that the court did not bar seeking the protections, benefits, and responsibilities of civil marriage.
"The court suggests that the amendment only exempts the issuance of marriage licenses from constitutional scrutiny," he said.
"Litigation is going to continue," said Dan Foley, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, "and we think that all rights, short of the issuance of marriage licenses, will be available to same-sex couples in the state of Hawaii. It will now be up to the legislature to act."
The Hawaii case originally brought the issue of same-sex marriage to the publicís attention. Two female couples, Ninia Baehr and Genora Dancel, and Tammy Rodrigues and Antoinette Pregil, and one male couple, Joe Melillo and Patrick Lagon, applied for marriage licenses from the Health Department of Hawaii in 1990. Saying that Hawaiian marriage law allows only a man and a woman to marry, officials denied them the licenses.
The following year, the three couples sued the state for the right to marry. They argued that the state had violated their rights to privacy, due process, and equal protection under the law. They cited Hawaiiís privacy clause, which, as they interpreted it, gave them sexual, marital and reproductive freedom.
In 1991, then-Circuit Court Judge Robert Klein ruled that same-sex couples did not qualify for protection under the stateís privacy or equal protection laws. He also ruled that reserving marriage for a union between a man and a woman is a "rational, legislative effort to advance the general welfare of the community." The couples appealed.
In 1993 the state supreme court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry, unless the state could provide a "compelling reason"óthe strictest legal test--not to permit such marriages, and that the failure to recognize gay marriages is a form of gender discrimination. It then sent the case back to a lower court to decide if there was a "compelling reason."
In 1996, Circuit Court Judge Kevin Chang ruled that the state had failed to show a "compelling reason" to deny same-sex marriages. He ordered the state to grant marriage licenses to the three couples in the suit, but delayed the order pending the stateís appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court. It was that final appeal that the court ruled on December 9.
Afraid that gay and lesbian couples would fly to Hawaii to be married, and that the other 49 states would have to recognize those marriages, state lawmakers nationwide began amending their existing laws against same-sex marriages to deny recognition of ones made in other states. At least 30 statesónot including Ohio--and the U.S. Congress passed these so-called "defense of marriage" acts. Californians will vote on one March 7.
In 1997, legislators in Hawaii authorized a voter ballot on an amendment to the state constitution that would give lawmakers the power to restrict the legal definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In 1998, voters approved the amendment 70% to 30%.
Vermont is now the only state whose supreme court is considering the issue. Three same-sex couples in Vermont sued for the right to marry in 1997. A judge ruled that there is no fundamental right to gay marriage, and dismissed the case. The couples appealed. The Supreme Court of Vermont is expected to rule on the case any day now.
The Hawaii ruling was based on the Hawaiian constitution, so it has no direct bearing on the Vermont ruling
by Eric Resnick
Washington, D.C.--Citing the original intent of the policy "was that people would not be rooted out" or subject to harassment, President Clinton is criticizing the way the military has implemented the policy on gay servicemembers known as "donít ask, donít tell, donít pursue."
In a CBS radio interview December 11, the president said, "What Iíd like to do is focus on making the policy we announced back in 1993 work the way its intended to, because itís out of whack now, and I donít think any serious person could say itís not."
Defense Secretary William Cohen announced December 13 that he has ordered inspectors to conduct a three month investigation of military bases to study the way the policy is implemented.
"The inspectors will be looking at the climate," said Pentagon spokesperson Kevin Bacon. "They want to see if there is harassment and how it is being handled by the command."
The presidentís comments came three days after a military jury sentenced Army Pfc. Calvin Glover of Fort Campbell, Kentucky to life in prison without possibility of parole December 9 for the murder of Pfc. Barry Winchell.
"I can only hope this last brutal beating death of a gay soldier will give some sobering impetus to a reexamination about how this policy is implemented," added Clinton.
The policy was implemented reluctantly by Clinton in 1993 after the Senate, led by Armed Services Committee Chair Sen. Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia, rejected of his original plan to allow gay service members to serve openly.
"I had a clear a clear signal from Congress that if I implemented my policy, they would reverse it by an overwhelming majority," noted Clinton about his executive order lifting the gay ban.
The presidentís comments came one week after probable US Senate candidate Hillary Clinton told the Empire State Pride Agenda that the policy agreed to by her husband is a "failure." Mrs. Clinton said, "Fitness to serve should be based on an individualís conduct, not sexual orientation."
Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore agrees with Mrs. Clinton. "Donít ask, donít tell hasnít worked. I donít think it has been implemented correctly because it hasnít reached the stated objective," reiterated Gore following his criticism of the policy in an earlier Advocate interview.
Command knew of Winchellís plight
At hearings held this summer over the Winchell murder, witnesses testified that the high command at Ft. Campbell knew that Winchell was facing anti-gay harassment on a daily basis and did nothing about it.
Testimony given December 8 by Staff Sergeant Michael Kleifgan indicates that the Inspector General failed to respond to a complaint he filed about a sergeant who called Winchell a "faggot" and said, "That faggot has a drinking problem. Iím going to teach him a lesson."
Gloverís defense counsel said he was not guilty of premeditated murder and accused Specialist Justin Fisher of instigating the July 5 murder. Specialist Gabriel Tucker, the military police officer who drove Winchell to the hospital, testified that Fisher yelled angrily at the medics, "Let him die." Other soldiers testified that Fisher spread the rumors about Winchell being gay throughout the unit. Winchell and Fisher were roommates.
Glover was found guilty of premeditated murder December 7 as part of a plea agreement for beating Winchell to death with a baseball bat while Winchell slept.
Fisherís court martial hearings began December 13. He is accused of participating as a principal to premeditated murder, acting as an accessory after the fact, making false statements under oath, and obstructing the investigation.
Stacey Sobel, senior staff attorney for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which monitors "donít ask, donít tell, donít pursue," is disappointed that it took such a brutal death to focus attention on the fact that the military policy is a failure, but of that attention, Sobel says, "I hope something good can come out of this."
Sobel added that of all the abuses of the policy this year, "This is the only case where someone got murdered."
Sobel noted that the failure of the policy in protecting gay service members is extensive.
"The commanders knew and didnít stop the harassment. That is not unusual." She added, "Iím glad attention has been drawn to this case, but the failures are not limited to this case. It is happening on every base."
Sobel also said that since the July murder, SLDN has not seen any change in Pentagon behavior.
"There has been no change in what the command is doing. We have seen nothing to indicate change," she added.
Conclusion of a three-part series
by Denny Sampson
It was nearly fifteen years into the AIDS epidemic before there was any real hope of treating the illness. So far, no "magic bullet" for AIDS has been found. However, physicians have found that a combination of several drugs can be an effective weapon against HIV. This drug "cocktail," more than anything else, has dramatically changed the face of AIDS.
Living with the cocktail, 1996-present
At the Sixth International Conference of AIDS in 1996, a new, reportedly effective AIDS treatment was announced. By combining one of three new protease inhibitor drugs with two of the established anti-AIDS drugs based on AZT, the HIV levels in patients had been substantially reduced and their immune systems had been significantly strengthened.
Presenters at the conference told stories of AIDS patients who, before treatment, were emaciated and suffering from intense pain. After receiving the three-drug treatment, they regained their full weight, responded to treatment for opportunistic infections, and felt healthy enough to return to work
"Thanks to the near-miraculous effects of these drugs, doctors believe they may be on their way to converting a fatal disease into a controllable condition like diabetes." wrote Joe Nicholson for the New York Daily News.
In support of the anecdotal evidence from physicians, the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control reveal that the new drugs are clearly prolonging the lives of people with AIDS. In 1995 there were 49,895 AIDS deaths in the United States. Since 1995 there was a steady decrease in AIDS mortality, and in 1998, the number had dropped to 17,171.
However, it seems that the treatmentís effectiveness has limitations.
"When they came out with the cocktails, things started looking up," said Richard Starn, volunteer at Davidís House in Toledo. "The cocktails helped a lot, until just recently. We have a lot of very sick people right now, more than we have had since the cocktail came out. More people are in the hospital and in hospice now. For some, the medications have stopped working. The virus continues to mutate, and the drugs stops working. Also, if you miss a dose, it sometimes doesnít work any more. Your body develops resistance to the drugs."
Vicky Brooks, executive director of the AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, said, "We are working with folks on drug adherence and management of a lifestyle where you have to take lots of pills," as many as 50 a day. "It is very intrusive to have to take the medication. Some drugs must be taken with food and some without. Some medications have to be refrigerated.."
"The cost of drugs is Itís like having to buy a brand new car every year and paying for it with cash," said Brooks.
"People wanted a cure, and protease inhibitors made it so in their heads," said Jackie Figler, executive director of Violetís Cupboard in Akron. "
Dr. Michael Lederman, principal investigator at the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at University Hospitals of Cleveland, said, "Research is now indicating that over 50% of patients on antiretrovirals may fail treatment after one year."
A changing PWA population
The demographics of people with AIDS, or PWAs, has made a major shift from the days when there was a predominance of gay, white men.
"There are many straight women of childbearing age who are getting AIDS, and many blacks-both straight and gay," said Figler. "But gay people with AIDS are still coming in all the time."
Starn said, "In Lucas County, most of the new cases are between the ages of 12 and 25. Teenagers think they can take pills and they will be fine, so they donít have to worry about AIDS. Almost all [80%] of the new cases we see are connected to sexual activity, both gay and heterosexual."
Davidís House director of education Mary Jay said, "A very high percentage of new HIV infections are in teens, and 86% of those are female."
Many of the newly-infected PWAs already had severe challenges before they became infected with HIV.
"Some of our clients come in with AIDS, said Susan Butler of Caracole, Inc. in Cincinnati, "but HIV/AIDS is way down on their list of issues they have to deal with. They are bringing with them addiction problems and chronic mental illness."
Violetís Cupboard has had to adjust its programs to fit new clients, Figler said.
"Take the buddy system, for example. Our new clients need a very different kind of buddy-someone who understands substance abuse, medication, and mental illness," she said.
"When the medical community came forth with drugs that prolonged life, we realized we really need to reevaluate our services," said Brooks. "Now we offer back-to-work programs, how to apply for and manage Social Security, how to work part time and not jeopardize their Social Security benefits.
"We decided to add two minority outreach persons and a youth outreach person. We now have a men of color risk prevention specialist. We have doubled our education department," said Brooks.
"AIDS is spreading because we are not being honest with our kids, said Laura Mintz of the AIDS Service Connection in Columbus. "When we teach abstinence as the only way to prevent AIDS, and that sex is only appropriate in marriage, it mystifies sex and it doesnít have an honest basis. Sexuality is all around us. We are all sexual people.
"Our society shows a lack of respect for young people because be believe they canít make decisions before they are 18," said Mintz.
Has the public lost interest in AIDS?
"The drug therapies have lulled people to sleep and given them a false sense of security," said Jay. "When some people hear that AIDS deaths are down, they lose interest or concern."
However, said Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center health outreach coordinator Bob Bucklew, "The absence of a crisis atmosphere alarms the people working in AIDS. They are afraid the money is going to dry up. But the truth is AIDS is not a crisis in the gay community any more. My theory is that the community has been in a state of crisis for the past 20 years, and we canít stay in it forever. HIV/AIDS may be in our community for generations, and there will be deaths. We need to come to grips with that."
Whether AIDS is a crisis in the GLBT community or not, PWAs need as much, if not more, support. Butler said, "People with AIDS need more support now because they are living disabled longer. They got ready to die, they made their peace, and now they are experiencing a Lazarus syndrome, not wanting to get involved in relationships again. The problem now is harder."
The Ďungayingí of AIDS
"Almost 20 years later nobody got over the gay thing," Bucklew said. "Recently there has been a purposeful Ďungayingí of AIDS by bureaucrats and politicians, partly because they are uncomfortable talking about gay sex and partly because they have a fatalistic attitude about it. It is almost as if they are saying Ďyou [gay people] had your shot at it, you had your chance, you should be taking care of yourselves now.í
"Our population is still the most impacted by AIDS, and only 8% of prevention money coming into the area is for the gay community. You know what thatís about," Bucklew added.
Battles for funding
"AIDS is a disease of poverty, said Brooks. "In 1998, 74% of the people we serve make less than $10,000 annually. And we have to compete with other illnesses for funding. We all need more money."
Bucklew said, "Not all of our battles our over. We have to decide whether the medical system can continue to support people with AIDS. Do we have the political will to make that commitment?"
"For example," Bucklew added, "the AIDS drug assistance program is run by the Ohio Department of Health, and it helps people who are not eligible for Medicaid, or who donít have adequate private insurance. Insufficient funds have been set aside for this program for the next fiscal year. We need to make sure the moneys are put in. We canít keep fighting these battles every two years."
"It is tougher to get funding," Figler said. "Agencies need to know how to diversify their funding base. Our biggest challenge now is to keep AIDS agencies going. The service needs today are more complicated. Our clients are living longer, but not better. And AIDS agencies across the nation are closing."
A changing virus
How has the face of AIDS changed? The virus itself has changed. A textbook example of evolution by natural selection, HIV has mutated, forming at least ten different subtypes and developing strains resistant to the most effective drugs science has yet to offer. Unless researchers can develop new drugs that work against the virus, there will soon be no effective treatment for AIDS once again.
The populations that HIV infects have changed. No longer restricted to gay white men and a few other high-risk groups, HIV now as a matter of course infects women, heterosexuals, African Americans and teenagers, among many others, broadening its selection of hosts.
What remains the same is Americaís reluctance to face the reality of the disease, from its first appearance 20 years ago to the limits of protease inhibitors today.
Columbus--The Ohio delegation to next summerís Democratic National Convention will include at least five members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
Ohio Democratic Party chair David Leland announced December 8 that the party has officially added LGBT representation as part of its affirmative action mix.
The Ohio party will send a total of 170 delegates to the 2000 convention, to be held in Las Vegas in August.
At the last convention in 1996, one delegate, Lynn Greer of Columbus, was identified as a lesbian. Greer made the pitch to the Ohio party to increase gay representation.
"New York and California went before us, so that made it easier to say itís the right thing to do," she added. The change was adopted without opposition.
The change reflects the increased presence of the LGBT community in mainstream Democratic politics in Ohio. Mary Wiseman and Louis Escobar, both Democrats, serve as openly gay members of the Dayton and Toledo city councils. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people were prominent in support of key 1998 Democratic candidates including Lee Fisher and Mary Boyle, and in 1999, were a force in electing Michael Coleman mayor of Columbus.
According to Leland, this change is "a reflection that there is a large, vocal, involved and deserving-of-representation gay, lesbian, bisexual community in the state of Ohio."
In addition to the five slots for gay delegates, the party is now reserving six slots for young Democrats, two for Asian-Americans, three for Hispanics, and 36 for African-Americans. The party has had a long-standing policy that the delegates be split evenly between men and women.
"Itís simple. We want the delegation to look like Ohio," said Ohio Democratic Party communication director Ann Charles Watts. "Weíre very proud to have a diverse delegation."
Republicans are dismissing the Democratsí plan as nothing more than a "quota system."
Ohio Republican Party Communications Director Gary Abernathy says, "It is philosophical. Republicans and Democrats have a difference on quotas in general. We think this is not the best way to select delegates."
Watts responded, "These are goals, not quotas, and we will strive to meet these goals."
Abernathy doesnít know if there has been any gay representation among Ohio Republican delegates. "I wouldnít know. Itís not something we make an issue of," he said.
Abernathy said the Ohio Republican Party has no plans to seek gay delegates.
"We donít consider gays and lesbians to be minorities," said Abernathy. "They are not like African-Americans and Hispanics."
In addition to Ohio, New York, and California, the party is making an effort to recruit gay delegates in Iowa, Georgia, and Rhode Island.
Ammiano loses bid to become first gay big-city mayor
San Francisco-Supervisor Tom Ammanio failed to defeat incumbent Mayor Willie Brown in a keenly watched runoff election for mayor of San Francisco on December 14.
With 95 percent of the precincts reporting, Brown had 115,299 votes, or 60 percent, to 77,663 votes, or 40 percent, for Ammiano.
"I am not conceding the war. I am conceding the battle," said Ammiano, who would have become the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. "My voice may be high, my orientation may be gay, my politics may be left, but we are right. We moved San Francisco forward."
Ammiano, a former schoolteacher and standup comic, will continue as president of the cityís Board of Supervisors. He said he would run again for mayor in four years.
The runoff election resulted from a strong showing Ammiano made in a four-way mayoral election in November. After beginning a write-in campaign only three weeks earlier, he won 25% of the vote.
"You have no idea how relieved I am," Brown told hundreds of supporters at Fishermanís Wharf, wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with still da mayor in gold letters.
Brown hasnít lost an election since 1964, when he reached the state assembly by campaigning as an antidevelopment crusader. He served 31 years, including 14Ĺ as speaker, the longest tenure of anyone in the legislatureís most powerful post.
Forced out by term limits that voters imposed largely in reaction to his imperial tenure, Brown was elected San Franciscoís first black mayor in 1995.
Brown outspent Ammiano ten to one.
Mom wins Brandon Teena lawsuit
Falls City, Nebraska-A Nebraska District Court judge has found Richardson County negligent in the death of a transgender man whose murder inspired two films.
The December 7 judgment orders Richardson County to pay $17,360 in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the manís mother.
Teena Brandon, 21, who lived as a male and was known as Brandon Teena, was murdered December 31, 1993, by two men he told authorities had beaten and raped him six days earlier. The men later testified that they killed Teena to silence his accusations about the rape.
Teenaís mother, JoAnn Brandon, sued the county and former Sheriff Charles Laux, claiming that they had been negligent when they failed to arrest John Lotter and Marvin "Tom" Nissen immediately after Teena reported the Christmas Day crimes.
JoAnn Brandonís attorney, Herbert Friedman, said that the award was "so insignificant that it tends to trivialize the whole matter," and that she will probably file an appeal, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
The judge did not find that authorities should have made arrests more quickly. However, he ruled that the county should have provided protective custody for Teena after the rape.
The judge awarded $80,000 to JoAnn Brandon, of which Richardson County must pay 14 percent plus funeral expenses. Nissen and Lotter were ordered to pay 85 percent. However, their ability to pay is limited, as Lotter is on death row and Nissen is sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Teena and two others.
The judge found Brandon Teena 1 percent responsible for his own death, subtracting $62 from a $6,223 award for funeral expenses.
In his ruling, the judge said Laux "should apologize to Teenaís family, her friends and to his community" for referring to him as an "it" while interviewing him in the rape investigation.
Williams says he started temple fires
Redding, Calif.--One of two brothers charged with killing a gay couple told a television reporter he started fires at three Sacramento area synagogues last June.
Reporter Jon Baird of KOVR-TV said December 8 that Benjamin Matthew Williams called him from the Shasta County Jail on Sunday, December 5.
Williams and his brother, James Tyler Williams, are charged with murder in the deaths of Gary Matson, 50, and Winfield Mowder, 40. The couple was found shot to death on July 1 at their home in Happy Valley, near Redding.
Benjamin Williams told a newspaper last month that he shot Matson and Mowder because he believed their homosexuality violated God's law.
Benjamin Williams, 31, told Baird how he blended the ingredients used to start the synagogue fires from oil and gasoline.
Baird asked him if he had run to all three synagogues, where fires started within 35 minutes in the middle of the night.
"Why would you assume that I have to run to three different locations?" he said, pausing. "I was part of an organization that was involved in that."
Altogether, the fires caused more than $1 million in damage at the Congregation B'nai Israel near downtown Sacramento, the Congregation Beth Shalom in suburban Carmichael and the Knesset Israel Torah Center in northeastern Sacramento County.
The Williams brothers have not been charged in the synagogue fires.
Charges dropped in Mugabe Ďarrestí
London--A gay civil rights campaigner who tried to carry out a citizenís arrest of Zimbabweís president during a protest in London will not be tried on charges.
The Crown Prosecution Service said December 10 that it had dropped all charges against Peter Tatchell, 47, because of insufficient evidence.
During a hearing at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court, the Crown also dropped charges against Chris Morris, 20, and Alistair Williams, 31, who had been accused of public order offenses.
Tatchell and members of the gay activist group Outrage! had approached the limousine of visiting President Robert Mugabe during a protest Oct. 30 over the alleged torture of two Zimbabwean journalists.
Mugabe has made numerous anti-gay statements in the last few years, calling gays "lower than pigs or dogs," and saying they should be rounded up and jailed.
During the protest, Tatchell said he told the African leader: "President Mugabe, you are under arrest for torture. Torture is a crime under international law."
Mugabe blamed what he called Englandís tolerance of homosexuality for the attack, and has said Zimbabwe is better than England when it comes to human rights.
"It is a vindication of a citizenís arrest on President Mugabe on charges of torture," Tatchell said. "If Mugabe returned to Britain we will arrest him again."
HOME | CURRENT
STORIES | PERSONALS |
DISTRIBUTION POINTS | CHARLIE'S