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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 22, 1999

France legalizes same-sex unions
by Jeff Woodard
with wire reports
Gay People's Chronicle
October 22, 1999

Paris--Nearly a year after its introduction, a bill to legally recognize same-sex unions in France has passed, making it the largest country in Europe to approve such legislation.

By a vote of 315-249, the National Assembly last week passed a measure creating "civil solidarity pacts," which will include gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples who live together but are not married.

The measure makes France the first Catholic country in Europe to accept same-sex unions.

"This will offer a solution to 5 million people who live as couples without being married," Socialist Prime Minister Elisabeth Guigou told the Agence France-Presse.

"The debate has forced the retreat of homophobia. No one here in Parliament now dares to openly declare himself a homophobe."

Similar legislation exists in several European countries, including Norway, Belgium and Sweden. Hungary and Canada include same-sex couples under their common-law marriage statutes. Laws in Denmark and the Netherlands are even more liberal, with the Netherlands now considering a move to grant complete marriage to same-sex couples.

The French law would allow couples to file joint tax forms after three years of fidelity together; help people bring foreign partners to France; require employers to take couples’ joint vacation plans into account; and make partners accountable for each other’s debts.

Inheritance, housing and social welfare rights are also included.

The newly recognized unions differ symbolically from traditional marriages in that unmarried couples will be required to register at a court instead of a town hall, said the Agence France-Presse.

In addition, the measure simplifies the issue of separation: A partner desiring a split would need only to send a letter to their partner and to the court.

France’s major conservative groups and churches had argued that the right to pay joint taxes should be reserved for married couples. Conservatives also feared that the new measure would undermine family values as well as lead to repeal of laws forbidding gay couples to adopt or have children by artificial insemination.

Socialists, who introduced the bill, said the law is designed to increase protection for couples, regardless of their gender.

In Germany, leading lawmaker Volker Beck welcomed the French government’s action, telling the Associated Press that it would provide "a tailwind for the German discussion" on allowing gays to register partnerships.

German Justice Minister Hertha Daeubler-Gmelin, a Social Democrat, has said she plans to introduce a bill to grant some legal status to same-sex couples.

But she said her bill would not include adoption rights. |


Protests grow as White and Falwell plan joint event
by Dawn E. Leach
Gay People's Chronicle
October 22, 1999

Lynchburg, Va.—In spite of planned protests from both gay and conservative groups, plans are going forward for an October 23 dinner to be shared by 200 members of a conservative Baptist congregation and 200 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally delegates.

The dinner and a forum came about as the result of openly gay minister Rev. Mel White’s ongoing attempts to talk with conservative minister Rev. Jerry Falwell about inflammatory anti-gay rhetoric that Falwell habitually uses in speeches and fundraising letters.

White has been trying for years to meet with Falwell to discuss concerns that this rhetoric may cause violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The event will take place in Lynchburg, in central Virginia, at Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church. The goal is to help the two groups reach a better understanding of the each other’s beliefs, and to lower the intensity of hate speech on both sides.

Three groups plan to protest: Fred Phelps, notorious for his signature motto "God Hates Fags," has applied for a permit to protest along with several members of his family. Citizens Against Moral Deterioration, a Virginia group, plans to bring about 20 people to protest against the meeting.

Bob Kunst, leader of the Oral Majority, a pro-gay group in Miami, has applied for a permit for his group to bring up to 100 protesters. Kunst opposes Falwell’s anti-gay stances and opposes the meeting because he said White’s group does not represent the communities that the Oral Majority represents.

White and Falwell were once friends, and White was the ghostwriter of Falwell’s autobiography If I Should Die Before I Wake. Since then, White came out as a gay man and became involved with gay-affirming ministries.

Beginning in March, White began inviting followers to take eight weeks to study a series of messages he prepared on the principles of nonviolent protest practiced by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. White and his partner Gary Nixon formed an organization dedicated to the idea, which they called Soulforce.

Thousands of people participated in anticipation of using the principles to plan a nonviolent action in Falwell’s hometown of Lynchburg in October. White began a series of open letters to Falwell in June, urging him to host the Soulforce group for a dinner together.

In August, Falwell agreed and made the invitation.

"Mel sincerely wants to lower the rhetoric on both sides," Falwell said. "That is exactly what we want."

However, since then, the Jerry Falwell Ministries web site responded to right-wing criticism of the meeting with a "Definitive Stance on Homosexuality," restating his conviction that the Bible condemns homosexuality. The statement calls homosexuality "debilitating," and an "addictive sin."

Last week, after White responded to this message with another open letter, Falwell called on all Christian ministries "to halt any rhetoric that might engender violence against the homosexual community, and vice versa."

"I believe that God hates the sin of every man," Falwell said, "yet he invites us all—equally--through His divine grace, so that we may become ‘new creatures’ in Him."

White said that he feels that the dinner is the first baby step towards changing Falwell’s mind about gays and lesbians.

"We'll give Jerry the time he needs to learn the truth about God's gay children," White replies quietly. "But we'll not stop telling him that truth until he does."

"Our war of words has to end," White said. "Too many innocent people on both sides are being caught in the deadly crossfire." |


Lakewood candidates speak on LGBT issues
by Denny Sampson
Gay People's Chronicle
October 22, 1999

Lakewood, Ohio—Voters in this Cleveland suburb will decide two races of interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on November 2.

In one, openly gay John Farina is seeking a council seat held by incumbent Nancy Roth, who has been an ally of the LGBT community. In another, Dave Wright, who opposes anti-gay discrimination, is seeking to unseat incumbent mayor Madeline Cain, a longtime supporter of LGBT civil rights.

All four spoke recently with a reporter about LGBT issues:

Nancy Roth

Democrat Nancy Roth is running for reelection to her position on Lakewood City Council. She has represented Ward 4, the city’s easternmost section, since 1990.

"I love being on Council," she said. "Working on Council gives me a chance to help people and make a difference."

Roth is currently serving as vice-president of Lakewood City Council. She is the current chair of the Public Works Committee, and is a member of the Finance Committee.

With Councilmember Michael Skindell, she is cosponsor of an ordinance to give benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, which is presently in committee. Roth chaired council’s Housing Committee when it recommended adding sexual orientation to the city’s fair housing ordinance. Council later passed the measure.

Roth’s priorities for another term on Council, if elected, include upgrading infrastructure, Lakewood’s financial stability, improving housing, assuring safety, and encouraging citizen involvement.

"I am very concerned about the sensitivity of the police to domestic violence," said Roth, "with gay couples, as well as heterosexual couples."

"I have proven my support to the gay and lesbian community, and I hope they will remember me when they go to the polls," Roth said.

John Farina

Republican John Farina is challenging incumbent Nancy Roth for her seat on Lakewood City Council. Farina said that, by running as an openly gay Republican candidate, he demonstrates that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is a cross-section of the entire population.

"I’m a Republican because I think the Republican ideology works better," said Farina. "When I say I want government out of my life, it means I want them out of my wallet, I want them out of my business, and I also want them out of my bedroom."

For Farina, a crucial issue in this election is giving Ward 4 more responsive representation on Council. Other issues of high priority include improving the condition of Lakewood streets and taking a more positive approach in working with citizens to maintain and improve Lakewood’s housing and neighborhoods.

"I was instrumental in working with two City Council members to get the anti-discrimination laws for housing updated in Lakewood to include sexual orientation," he said.

If elected, Farina intends to take a leadership role on Council in creating legislation to protect the GLBT community from suffering discrimination by their employers. He intends to actively support domestic partnership legislation in Lakewood, as well.

Farina currently serves as board president of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Community. A former co-producer of The Gay ’90s radio show with Buck Harris, he is a member of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Insight, and the Log Cabin Republicans.

"I believe it is my job to educate my Republican colleagues about gay and lesbian issues," Farina said.

Madeline Cain

Madeline Cain, a Democrat, is running for re-election as mayor of Lakewood. Cain had served seven years as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives before she was elected mayor in 1996.

In her term as mayor, Cain has made safety her top priority, and reports a reduction of juvenile crime that is greater than 25%.

When asked how hate crimes were treated in Lakewood, she said, "I have made sure that the file of every hate crime comes directly to my desk. Then either I, or a member of my staff, contacts the victims to see if they need assistance and to make sure they are aware of the resources available to them."

During her first term, Cain signed the ordinance that made it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in respect to housing and promises to sign the domestic partnership ordinance, as well, if it passes Council and if she is re-elected.

"The gay and lesbian residents are important members of our community, and their sexuality just doesn’t seem to be an issue. They often have the nicest yards on their streets, and many of them form wonderful, supportive relationships with their neighbors, particularly with our elderly. I am very proud of our community," Cain said.

As a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, Cain introduced the first anti-stalking laws following the murder of one of her constituents. Also, during a time when few legislators were willing to speak out, Cain was a strong advocate of legislation that would protect victims of AIDS.

She introduced a bill that would prevent discrimination against AIDS patients by nursing homes. That bill caught the attention of the Ohio Department of Health, especially Medicaid, and brought nursing homes under greater scrutiny, according to Cain.

"I was instrumental in putting the players together to open the Caritas Unit at St. Augustine Manor for people with AIDS. I called a meeting and brought together Catholic Charities, the Cleveland Diocese, St. Augustine Manor, and Owen Campbell, who had a certificate of need that would be necessary to open an AIDS unit at St. Augustine Manor. I played a fairly small part in its opening, but that accomplishment has always been special to me."

Dave Wright

Dave Wright is the Republican candidate for mayor of Lakewood, competing with incumbent mayor Madeline Cain. According to his campaign literature, Wright wants to "give control of our local government back to our citizens as opposed to career politicians."

If elected, this would be Wright’s first political office. He has been the owner of a fourth-generation business in Lakewood since 1976. Wright has given community service in such ways as chairing the Board of Building Standards/Architectural Review Board, as a member of the Lakewood YMCA board of directors, and a volunteer for the Lakewood Board of Education’s Task Force on Excellence.

Wright’s priorities as mayor would include being accessible to all citizens with concerns, strengthening safety forces, giving all citizens equal opportunity to benefit from street and neighborhood improvements, and fostering business growth while maintaining Lakewood’s unique character.

When asked how important Lakewood’s gays and lesbians were to his campaign, Wright said, "I can’t really answer that. All of the people in Lakewood are equally important to me. But I can say that I have friends who are gay, and when I see them being mistreated or insulted because of their sexuality, it upsets me very much."

Wright said that he opposes discrimination of any kind based on sexual orientation. He said he would support, in concept, legislation such as the domestic partnership ordinance and anti-discrimination laws for housing and employment that include sexual orientation. |


Drag king conference celebrates collaboration, performance
by Miles Rosenberg
October 22, 1999

Columbus—A search for evidence that the city’s queer community is alive and well would not have to look further than this past weekend’s events. The First International Drag King Extravaganza brought together over 600 people to discuss and perform female-to-male transformation.

Participants came from all over North America, including Toronto, Canada, Michigan, Kentucky, Georgia, and Washington state.

After a night of first-come, first-serve drag at Woody’s Bar on the Ohio State University campus, attendees listened to a Saturday plenary session led by organizers Donna "D.J. Love" Troka, Shani "Maxwell" Scott, and Julie "Jake" Applegate.

The three, all members of the local drag troupe H.I.S. Kings, explained how the conference grew out of both early work with the troupe and a desire to network with other female-to-male performers.

"For the first H.I.S. Kings event, we packed 200 people into a bar that only fit 30 people," Applegate said. "We did not know what to do except plan the next one."

The speakers thanked the local lesbian community as well as OSU’s Student Gender and Sexuality Services, who provided both sponsorship and support. Still, the conference was independently organized and run through volunteer support.

"This was a completely grassroots effort," Troka noted.

After the plenary, at three simultaneous sessions, scholars presented their research on drag king performance in both the past and in contemporary culture. Jean Bobby Noble, a doctoral student at York University, discussed how drag kings in Toronto have used irony and hyperbole in performing forms of masculinity.

Thomas Piontek, assistant professor of English at OSU, discussed the role of the H.I.S. Kings in challenging racial boundaries and encouraging a variety of performances, including women as drag queens. Also, he rejected the stereotype that drag king culture thrives only in New York and San Francisco.

"Drag king culture is burgeoning here in the heartland," he said.

On Saturday night, 25 drag kings from across the country performed choreographed numbers. Some kings drew on popular acts, such as Rage Against the Machine, Prince, and the Backstreet Boys, while other kings performed camp favorites, including Elton John’s "Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

The evening, held at Wall Street Nightclub, was emceed by Lustivious de la Virgion (H.I.S. King Sile Singleton) and Maxwell. Between acts, they kept the crowd riled up.

"We are going to raise the roof," Maxwell said.

On Sunday, OSU’s GLBT student organization hosted a brunch with performance for conference attendees at No Attitude Bar and Grill. Dr. Lesley Ferris, chair of the OSU department of theatre, presented a history of cross-dressing in theatre. Danielle McClelland explored butch/femme roles in a piece titled "The Sweetness," and Jay Sennett and Sarah Bay-Cheng performed Shakespeare and changed gender roles in "The Opposite of Everything is True."

Applegate said that the conference’s success may mean that it will not be one-time event.

"The response was so good that all of us are just completing beaming," she said. "I think this may happen more than once." |

 

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