by Denny Sampson
Cleveland--The Rev. Marvin McMickle has said he would vote for a federal gay and lesbian civil rights law. McMickle, a prominent Cleveland minister who is running for U.S. Senate, spoke with the Chronicle to clarify homophobic-sounding remarks he made during a television interview.
McMickle, pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church since 1987, was interviewed by Obie Sheldon for a report on gays and the church, which aired on Sunday, December 12 on WKYC-TV Channel 3.
During the interview, McMickle referred to passages from Leviticus which identify "sinful" sexual behaviors, including homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, incest, pedophilia, and having sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period.
Several members of the gay community called the Chronicle after seeing McMickleís television appearance. One caller, who asked to remain anonymous, quoted McMickle:
"He said, ĎThou shalt not lie down with beasts,í implying that homosexuality was like bestiality," the caller said. "It really got me because that was the same line used to justify racism. It worried me because he was just appointed to the Ryan White planning council and he is running for the Senate. I think the gay community needs to know where he stands on gay issues."
"Reverend McMickleís comments were taken out of context," said Sheldon. "The report was about the increasing number of churches that are open and affirming to gays and lesbians. Most churches say that they are open to everyone, with the understanding that most people have engaged in immoral behaviors of some kind. Open and affirming churches say they believe homosexuality is not immoral."
"I was interviewed for 15 minutes," said McMickle. "Only about 15 to 20 seconds of that interview were shown on TV. I would definitely appreciate an opportunity to explain what I meant."
"The question was: Is Antioch Baptist Church open and affirming towards gays?" said McMickle. "It is not a simple question. Are homosexuals welcome at our church? Absolutely. Many of our congregants are homosexual. Are we an affirming church? That is the hard part because Iím not sure what we are supposed to be affirming. That becomes more confusing, open to interpretation, and it can change."
"As a minister," said McMickle, "if you are talking to me about religion and what the scripture tells me, I believe that the norm is a monogamous relationship within the context of marriage. Any sexual behavior outside of marriage I consider sinful. When many Christians take that passage out of Leviticus and aim it directly at homosexuals, they are forgetting about the other sexual sins contained in that passage, like adulterers, fornicators, child molesters, those in incestuous relationships."
"In the New Testament, Paul made sure he didnít let anyone off the hook. He said envy was a sin, for example, and gossip, murder . . ." said McMickle. "When someone comes to me and tells me they are married and they are having an affair, I have to ask ĎWhat do you want me to say?í People have affairs. I understand that. In my congregation, issues of sexual sin are way down the list in importance."
McMickle is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. He will be running against Richard Cordray and Ted Celeste in a primary on March 7, to face incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine in November. McMickle is also a member of the Shaker Heights school board.
"Would I let my religious beliefs dictate how I am going to vote on public policy issues? Absolutely not," said McMickle. "I believe very strongly in the separation of church and state. In fact I wrote a book on the subject. [From Pulpit to Politics: Reflections on the Separation of Church and State.] I have always been very careful to keep my beliefs as a minister separate from the way I would vote as an elected public official."
"When it comes to a law that prohibits discrimination against gay people in terms of housing, employment, public accommodations, yes, I would vote for it. I am not a bigot," said McMickle. "I am as far away from being a Jerry Falwellian minister as the sun is from the moon."
"But when groups want to add on to the civil rights act that the African-American community worked for, I have to ask a question: If you are going to seek refuge from discrimination under our umbrella, are you sure that we arenít protecting racists?" McMickle added. "Itís just important to ask that question-while you are adding your group to our civil rights law, do you have any bigots in your group?"
McMickle was asked, "If you were on the Lakewood City Council considering an ordinance to grant domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples, how would you vote?"
McMickle responded, "First of all, I would never be on a city council. The work that is being done at the local level is a really waste of time because it is going to challenged in the courts and probably get undone anyway. You have to start at the top, at the federal level, to get any real changes made. Thatís why I want to run for the U.S. Congress."
"When I read about the Lakewood ordinance, I get concerned because it sounds as though it is a first step towards redefining marriage," said McMickle. "The Bible defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. I would have to study on the issue of gay marriage real hard before I could vote for something that would change that definition. But should we strike down all of the domestic partnership laws that are on the books now? Of course not."
The Antioch Baptist Church houses the Antioch Baptist Resource Center, home of the Agape program, a free anonymous AIDS testing and outreach program. The Agape program was established to create awareness in the African-American community, and to improve the quality of life of people infected with HIV by offering testing, prevention education, case management, treatment referring, counseling and support.
On a tour of the Agape program facilities, McMickle said, "We are open Monday through Thursday, 1-7 pm, and it is perfectly OK to walk in. No appointment is necessary. We have a relationship with the Antioch Clinic AIDS Partnership that allows us to get the AIDS medication for free. We even have a nursery downstairs so there is no excuse for not coming in if you need it."
Partners in the Agape Program with Antioch Baptist Church include the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, American Red Cross. Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Agouron Pharmaceuticals.
McMickle is a member of the Ryan White Title I HIV Health Services Planning Council for Cuyahoga County. The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland recently honored McMickle with a "Voices Against the Silence Award."
"You wonít find this anywhere else in America," said McMickle. "I travel across the country to talk to other churches about starting programs like this. So far, no one else has been interested. I tell them: You have to get past Leviticus."
As McMickle described the functions of various rooms for the Agape program, he said, "Look at all this. Do I seem like I am a bigot?"
ordinance falls to
by Eric Resnick
Dayton--City commissioners set aside an amendment to add sexual orientation to Daytonís non-discrimination ordinance December 22. Three commissioners, who said they supported the measure, voted against it to avoid a referendum.
As an alternative, the commission passed a non-binding resolution stating their opposition to all discrimination.
The resolution, which mentions discrimination by sexual orientation, was passed at the commissionís December 22 meeting. The resolution carries no weight of law.
The amendment to the cityís non-discrimination ordinance, proposed by openly lesbian commissioner Mary Wiseman, added sexual orientation and source of income to the current measure.
Mayor Mike Turner, who opposed the amendment, used parliamentary rules to delay it at the commissionís December 15 meeting, giving Christian right opponents time to mobilize opposition.
A bill must have two public readings prior to vote for passage. The commissioners voted 4-1 to remove the bill from the calendar before it received its first reading.
Commissioners Dean Lovelace, Idotha "Bootsie" Neal, and Lloyd Lewis had earlier told Wiseman and the Dayton Daily News that they supported her amendment and would vote for it.
After the vote to pull it from the calendar, all three told the Gay Peopleís Chronicle they still supported the amendment.
However, the Christian right threatened to repeal the amendment by referendum and began circulating petitions, which scared the commissioners.
"The non-binding resolution was the best we can do at this time," said Lovelace. "I didnít want to cause a rift in this community by having the Christian right trying to overturn what we did."
The opposition was led by ministers of two large, mostly white churches located in Vandalia, a northern suburb not governed by the Dayton commission, and by African-American churches in Dayton. Pastors of the Living Word Church and the Christian Life Center of Vandalia declined to speak with the Chronicle.
Rev. Darrell Ward, of the primarily African-American Omega Baptist Church, said he agrees with the need to protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination, but felt this ordinance was too broad.
"I struggle with what the scriptures teach about homosexuality," he said. "The problem with this particular ordinance was that it gave no room to disagree from the religious perspective."
Ward was unaware that Wiseman was planning to offer an exemption for religious institutions.
"We instructed our members not to sign some of the other petitions that contained hateful language and not to applaud the people who spoke against the ordinance for biblical reasons at the commission meeting," said Ward.
Ward was asked by commissioners Wiseman and Lovelace to participate in the dialogue needed to educate the religious community and come up with inclusive language that could be passed. He has agreed.
Lovelace sees the non-binding resolution as the opportunity for the commission to lead the community discussion toward passage of a law protecting gays and lesbians.
"This was a way for us to take a public position, do community education, and build bridges to the black ministers," he said.
"The non-binding resolution is a nice gesture, but a hollow gesture," said Wiseman. "No one has explained how we can say discrimination is wrong and not put forth any justice when it happens."
Wiseman vows to move forward with the issue, despite this setback.
"I am disappointed that the politics of divisiveness won the day in Dayton instead of the politics of inclusion," she said. "If the commissioners arenít comfortable voting with their conscience on a matter of civil rights, then we need to work with them so they are."
Wiseman said by the time she could have offered the religious exemption, the political climate was such that any reference to sexual orientation was unacceptable. She denounces the criticism that she was unprepared to offer this bill.
"We didnít prepare for battle because we were told it wasnít necessary," she said "I had four of five votes."
Lewis admitted that his decision was driven by "fear of referendum and other things," but insisted he has been a "friend of the gay community."
Wiseman responded, "That will be for the gay community to decide. This is the first time any of them had an opportunity to vote on anything for the gay community. They say nice things and take money. They like the worker bees, but back down when itís time to vote. The gay community will need to decide whether or not thatís friendship."
Wiseman said she is most disappointed by the silence of the progressive community and the silence of her colleagues.
"This commission sat through two three-hour meetings with opponents spewing blatant and disrespectful homophobia, saying we were the same as bestiality and pedophilia and worse," said Wiseman. "Not once did any of my colleagues show me any professional friendship as a lesbian. My colleagues were oblivious to the mean-spiritedness and the pain of my hearing it and met it with deafening silence."
Though disappointed, Wiseman says she will continue to stand up for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
"Part of why Iím in public service is to look out for those not empowered to look out for themselves. I am going to keep standing up."
by Eric Resnick
ColumbusóTwo Ohio legislators say they will introduce a bill to deny recognition of same-sex marriages when the legislature opens in January.
State Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) announced December 28 that he and State Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) would simultaneously introduce bills in the Ohio House and Senate that would "reassert that marriages between a man and a woman would be the only legally recognized marriages in Ohio, and would further declare that same sex marriages are against the public policy of the state."
According to Susan Wittstock, spokesperson for Hottingerís office, there is no final draft yet and nothing will be introduced until the week of January 10.
Hottinger and Jordan are currently seeking co-sponsors for the legislation they will call the "Defense of Marriage Act," or DOMA.
Hottinger introduced a similar bill in the Ohio House in 1997, which died in committee.
"When we debated this bill last session, many of my colleagues said the time wasnít right for this bill because no real threat existed," Hottinger said. "With the recent ruling in Vermont and the rising number of domestic partner benefits cases in our own state, there is no better time to address this issue."
Ohio presently outlaws same-sex marriages. Hottinger and Jordanís bill would deny recognition of ones made in other states. Thirty states and Congress have passed such "defense of marriage" acts in the last three years; Californians will vote on one March 7.
Conservative activists are now using the measures to challenge local domestic partner ordinances and policies, such as one now being considered by the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood.
Jordan said, "Plain and simple, we need this language in place right now to protect families from the non-traditional values others may try to bring into our state. This bill does nothing more than reaffirm that marriage between a man and a woman is the cornerstone of the most basic unit in our society, the family."
Hottinger said that according to a 1934 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Loughran v Loughran, a state must honor the marriage licenses of other states unless they are "declared void by statute" of that state.
by Eric Resnick
Washington, D.C.--In response to President Clinton calling the military "donít ask, donít tell, donít pursue" policy "out of whack," Pentagon officials have again issued directives to try to teach commanders to better implement it.
At a December 23 press briefing, spokesperson Kenneth Bacon said Defense Secretary William Cohen believes the policy should be expanded to include "donít harass" and that the department is taking action to stress that point.
According to Bacon, the matter was again raised December 18 by undersecretary of defense for personnel Rudy de Leon and acting general counsel Douglas Dworkin. In their memorandum, the services were given until January 17 to submit revised training guidelines for field personnel. These guidelines are to include policies on investigations.
Bacon admitted that it has not been clear to commanders that a service memberís complaint about being harassed for alleged homosexuality is not grounds for investigating the person making the complaint.
"Instead, it should be a basis for investigating the harassers," said Bacon.
Investigating people who complain of harassment has been a common violation of "donít ask" since its enactment in 1993, according to reports by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
On March 24, 1997, Undersecretary of Defense Edwin Dorn issued a guidance for investigating threats against service members based on alleged homosexuality. Dornís memo instructed commanders to investigate the perpetrators of anti-gay harassment, not those who report it.
The Dorn memo was never distributed. Following the fourth of SLDNís "Conduct Unbecoming" reports on the militaryís treatment of gays, the Pentagon recommended that it be issued again in April 1998 with a stronger ban on harassment. That recommendation was not carried out until August 1999.
The latest directive asks services to incorporate the language in their training of the troops to make it clear that "harassment on the basis of sex is wrong, just as itís wrong on the basis of race and religion."
Currently, military officers train fifteen weeks at a an institute called the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, at which they learn how to carry out the militaryís affirmative actions and stop harassment on the basis of race, religion, creed, and gender. The training has never included implementation of the "donít ask" policy.
SLDN attorney Stacey Sobel welcomes the Pentagonís actions with caution.
"In April 1998, they issued a study claiming everything was fine. This makes it look like they have just discovered some new issue, and itís not so."
Atlanta--Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker apologized for his tirade against immigrants and gays, saying his emotions made him say things he didn't mean.
"Even though it might appear otherwise from what I've said, I am not a racist," the 25- year-old Rocker said in a statement on December 22. "I should not have said what I did because it is not what I believe in my heart."
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Rocker said he would retire before he would play for a New York team.
Rocker said, "Imagine having to take the 7 train to [Shea Stadium] looking like you're in Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing."
"The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners," he went on. "You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English . . . How the hell did they get in this country?"
During the interview, while driving in Atlanta, he said of another driver, "Look! Look at this idiot. I guarantee you she's a Japanese woman. How bad are Asian women at driving?"
He also called an overweight African American teammate "a fat monkey."
Rocker retracted those remarks, which were published in the Christmas week issue of Sports Illustrated.
"I want everybody to understand that my emotions fuel my competitive desire," Rocker said. "They are a source of energy for me. However, I have let my emotions get the best of my judgment."
About 15 activists protested outside Turner Field, urging the Braves to fire Rocker for the comments,
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a fervent Yankees fan, was upset by Rocker's comments.
"Something should be done about this so that Mr. Rocker is held accountable for his vicious and bigoted remarks," Giuliani said. "I think it's a terrible attitude. It's a problem. I think the Braves actually have a responsibility to do something about this."
Civic groups and a member of the Atlanta City Council delivered a letter to Braves owner Ted Turner and general manager John Schuerholz demanding Rocker's immediate firing.
"We would have hoped there would have been a more scathing condemnation of these comments," said Councilman Derrick Boazman. "This was more than just rhetoric. This was hate."
There was no answer at Turner's office in Atlanta on Thursday, December 23, and his publicist did not return a telephone call.
Braves general manager John Schuerholz spoke with Rocker for ten minutes on December 22 and said he planned to meet with him after the holidays "to discuss what actions the organization will take."
"The viewpoints attributed to John Rocker in no way reflect the views of the Atlanta Braves organization," Schuerholz said. "He works for us, but in no way do the comments, attitude and feelings represent those of the Atlanta Braves."
"I sure hope I don't get a Rocker jersey for Christmas now. And I asked for one," said Terri Watson, a shopper at the Braves Clubhouse store. "If he can't come up with a good explanation for why he's a bigot and a racist, he needs to change his views and do some soul-searching."
Michael Langford, president of the United Youth-Adult Conference, said "There may be some room for redemption, but not as an Atlanta Brave. We encourage him to enter his resignation right now and go into an early retirement."
Hall of Famer Hank Aaron joined in the criticism of Rocherís remarks. Aaron said he was "very sick and disgusted about the whole situation" and questioned how Rocker could continue in baseball.
"I have no place in my heart for people who feel that way," Aaron, who is the Braves' senior vice president, told syndicated radio host Jay Mariotti.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called Rocker's remarks "inappropriate and offensive." He said Rocker's comments are being reviewed and "appropriate action" will be taken.
There is precedent for using disciplinary action to curtail bigoted remarks in professional baseball. Former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was suspended from baseball for the 1993 season for her use of racial and ethnic slurs.
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