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Top StoryOctober 29, 1999

Falwell apologizes to gays and lesbians
by Denny Sampson
Gay People's Chronicle
October 29, 1999

Lynchburg, Va.--The Rev. Jerry Falwell has apologized for publicly mischaracterizing gay and lesbian people, and promises to monitor his organizations future press releases and fundraiser letters for anti-gay rhetoric.

Falwell made these remarks on October 23 at a conference in Lynchburg where 200 of Falwells Baptist followers met with 200 members of a gay activist group called Soulforce.

Soulforce is a network of volunteers from various faith traditions who are dedicated to working for justice for the GLBT community. Co-founded by the Rev. Dr. Mel White and his life-partner Gary Nixon, Soulforce applies the principles of nonviolence taught by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Soulforce strategy is to appeal to religious leaders who are waging anti-homosexual campaigns, and to use nonviolent dialogue to change their hearts and minds.

Dawn Leach, senior staff writer of the Chronicle, attended the event as one of the 200 Soulforce delegates, under the condition that she would not write about it. However, she is permitted to be an interview subject.

"I was unprepared for how this experience would move me and transform my thinking," Leach said. "It changed the way I see the spiritual warfare between the religious right and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

Soulforce co-founder White is a Christian minister and long-time friend of Falwell. At one time, White was a ghostwriter for fellow evangelicals, including Falwell, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker. However, when White came out publicly in 1993, his colleagues denounced him.

During the historic meeting in Lynchburg, White and Falwell were reunited to give a joint message condemning violence and hate speech on the issue of homosexuality.

"Jerry and I disagree on many things," White said, "but we agree on this: We must work together to help end the rhetoric that leads to anger, fear, and acts of violence."

"Our ultimate goal is not to triumph over Mr. Falwell, let alone to embarrass or silence him," White said. "Our long-range goal is to reconcile with Jerry, to create, in Dr. Kings words, the beloved community where we can live as neighbors with Jerry and his family."

Delegate Andy Lang, a gay Christian and employee of the United Church of Christ communication office in Cleveland, said, "We see Jerry Falwell as the founder of the religious right. This was a chance to break through the wall that separates fundamentalists and members of our community."

However, Falwell himself faced criticism from some of his religious right colleagues, who believe that the Bible prohibits Christians from sharing a meal with "sexually immoral" people. This belief comes from I Corinthians 5:11, "Anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral . . . With such a man do not even eat." The delegates decided not to have any food, only small bottles of water.

Ignoring the shouts of about 40 anti-gay Baptists who demonstrated outside, some saying "God hates fags," the Soulforce delegation filed into a Liberty University auditorium and sat at tables with members of Falwells Thomas Road Baptist Church and students from Falwells Liberty University.

"I'm just so embarrassed by them and embarrassed for them," Amy Csider, 20, a student at Falwell's Liberty University, said of the protesters. "I don't agree with them [homosexuals] and their lifestyle, but I'm totally ashamed of the people protesting who are calling themselves Christians."

However, Falwell did not compromise on his belief that homosexuality is sinful. He said that he had a problem with the gay "free-sex lifestyle," but "it shows I have been doing something wrong when gay people think I hate them."

"Jerry Falwell juxtaposed homosexuality with alcoholism, drug addiction and teen pregnancy and pornography," Lang said. "Obviously to him, these are behaviors that are more or less comparable . . . So, clearly, there are assumptions about the gay and lesbian community that are lodged in Jerry Falwells mind and need to be dislodged. That will take time."

During a Sunday morning worship service October 24, Falwell admonished the congregants to never reject their children for being gay.

Leach said that the next project of Soulforce would be a direct action to prevent the trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech, a Methodist minister who performed a same-sex holy union despite his denominations rule against such ceremonies. A church trial is scheduled for November 17 to determine if Creech is guilty of disobeying church law, and Creech could be defrocked as a result.

"I believe this is a monumental first step, that Jerry Falwells motives are sincere, and that we need to continue to foster relationships that make clear what is helpful and what is harmful" said Leach.

During the weekend, Soulforce delegates gave over $21,500 to Habitat for Humanity, and over $850 and in-kind food donations to a Lynchburg food bank. Delegates also presented members of Falwells group with authentic Hawaiian leis as symbolic gifts of goodwill.

"We want Lynchburg, Jerry Falwell and the nation to know that when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight allies of faith come to town, the town benefits," said Soulforce delegate Gary Mitchener of Cleveland.

Rodney Powell, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which took part in historic events during the black civil rights movement, said that the event in Lynchburg "created the opportunity for Soulforce to make great leaps in identifying where to go next. It created a rent, a crack in the wall for the two little concessions we got from Jerry Falwell. We can take it from there, and if he is an honorable man, he will recognize the truth." |

UFMCC leader vows city boycott over Issue 3
Top Storyby Doreen Cudnik
Gay People's Chronicle
October 29, 1999

Cincinnati--A weekend of celebration marking the 25th anniversary of an area gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inclusive church took a political turn when the leader of an international religious denomination called the citys anti-gay charter amendment "just plain wrong" and vowed to mount a national boycott of convention business if it is not overturned.

The Rev. Elder Troy D. Perry is an internationally recognized spiritual leader and one of the worlds leading activists for the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual people. He founded the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1968. The denomination has grown to over 44,000 people in over 300 congregations in 16 countries around the world.

During his visit to Cincinnati to celebrate with New Spirit Metropolitan Community Church, the oldest GLBT community organization in the city, Perry made several references to Article XII of the Cincinnati charter, the end result of the Issue 3 battle that prohibits the city from enacting or enforcing any legislation that would give protected class status to gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

At a noon press conference held Saturday, October 23, Perry said he would be speaking on behalf of his denomination to labor unions, womens and minority groups, and "Fortune 500 businesses that give rights to same sex couples."

"Were going to ask them not to come here any more," Perry said. He added that he would also take the issue to the International Olympics Committee "to ask them not to bring the Olympics to this city as long as that law is on the books."

Cincinnati 2012 Inc. is an organization formed to bring the Olympics to the city in 2012. The groups president, Nick Vehr, said in a March 28 Cincinnati Enquirer article that Issue 3 could create problems for Cincinnatis bid to become an Olympic host city.

Perry was involved in a similar boycott during the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia. Opposition from GLBT activists over an anti-gay ordinance in neighboring Cobb County led to some events being moved and the re-routing of the Olympic torch relay so it would not pass through the county.

Perry dismissed the "special rights" argument so often presented by those opposed to equality for gays and lesbians.

"They call what we ask for special rights," Perry said. "I dont want special rights, I want equality."

Other issues addressed by Perry at his Saturday afternoon press conference included the right of gays and lesbians to adopt, to serve openly in the military, and to marry.

Speaking of the upcoming Millenium March on Washington, which the UFMCC is sponsoring along with the Human Rights Campaign, Perry said the April 30, 2000 event will be the first national March on Washington to take place in a national election year.

"Our dream has been to march on the state capitols, which we did last year, then were marching to Washington April 30, 2000, and in November 2000 were marching to the ballot boxes," Perry said. "We believe that our votes count.

"Polls show that in almost every election about 6% of those who vote say theyre gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. That means we can swing a national election, but we have to get out and vote!" Perry said.

The weekend of celebration marking New Spirit MCCs 25th anniversary included a dinner cruise and dance aboard the River Queen on Saturday evening and a worship celebration followed by a social gathering on Sunday evening, where Perry preached to the large crowd gathered at Grace Episcopal Church.

Council member Todd Portune presented a proclamation to Perry on behalf of Mayor Roxanne Qualls and the Cincinnati City Council.

Commenting on Portunes long record of standing up for the GLBT community, Perry said, "Its ironic that the only city in America that has written anti-gay legislation right into the City Charter has an opportunity to elect as their next mayor somebody like Todd."

During his message to the church, Perry again commented on the need to remove the anti-gay, lesbian and bisexual language from the city charter.

"Ive learned that there are two things a city understands, especially politicians," Perry said. "Number one is money. The other thing is voting power. If you dont vote, they dont care. And Im going to add a third thing--no city wants to be embarrassed. And I know this city wants the Olympics. But . . . as long as [Article XII] is on the books, were going to boycott any attempt by the city of Cincinnati to get the Olympics until they change that law!" he said to thunderous applause.

Several community groups were on hand to help celebrate with New Spirit, including the Imperial Sovereign Queen City Court of the Buckeye Empire. The Courts empress and emperor designated New Spirit MCCs pastor, the Rev. Bonnie Daniel, as "Ecclesiastic Council and Protector of the Faith" for the Buckeye Empire.

Daniel said UFMCC churches have provided hope and fellowship to thousands of glbt people who have been ostracized by other religious organizations because of their sexual orientation. Perry added that by simply existing, the Metropolitan Community Church has "started a revolution that has reached into every religious group on earth."

"This debate on gays and lesbians and their place in the church and synagogue and the mosque just wont go away," he said. "More and more gays and lesbians are claiming their spirituality. And by putting a face on what a homosexual is or a lesbian or bisexual or transgender person makes all the difference in the world--it makes people think a lot differently." |

Doreen Cudnik is the executive director of Stonewall Cincinnati

Bushs position on gays is called into question
Top Storyby Eric Resnick
Gay People's Chronicle
October 29, 1999

Washington, D.C.--Did he say it or not? And if he didnt say it, why wont the campaign deny it and put speculation to rest?

These questions swirl around Republican presidential front runner George W. Bushs alleged statement to 15 Christian Republicans that he "would not knowingly appoint a practicing homosexual as an ambassador or department head, nor dismiss someone who was discovered to be a homosexual after being named to a position," if he is elected president.

Bush met with the members of the Madison Project, a group of elite, conservative major fundraisers for the Republican Party. Those present included religious right leader D. James Kennedy and anti-gay former U.S. Sen. William Armstrong.

George W. BushBush campaign spokesperson Scott McClellan confirmed that the October 5 meeting took place.

The statement surfaced in a column by conservative commentator Cal Thomas, who served as the press secretary of Rev. Jerry Falwells now-defunct Moral Majority.

Thomas reported in the October 6 Washington Times that he learned of Bushs comments from Armstrong.

McClellan reiterated Bushs position that he would hire any qualified person that shared his conservative philosophy.

"[Sexual orientation] is not a question he asks," said McClelland.

This is consistent with Bushs April 9 comment to the New York Times: "As a general statement, if someone can do a job, and a job that hes qualified for, that person ought to be allowed to do his job."

Bush made the comment in response to a question about Senate Republicans refusal at the time to confirm openly gay Clinton appointee James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg.

But McClellan refused two opportunities to either confirm or deny that Bush made the latest alleged statements to the Madison Project.

"This is a matter of great concern," said Kevin Ivers, public affairs director of the Log Cabin Republicans. Ivers indicated that gay Republicans have expressed concern over working for Bush over this, but is willing to reserve judgement until the truth comes out. "I would prefer to get to the bottom of this issue," he said.

Ivers said Log Cabin has also inquired as to whether or not the statement was made and has also not been given an answer by the campaign.

"But," said Ivers, "It has not been a big story. It hasnt broken into the big press yet."

Ivers said Log Cabin will wait to see what Bush does and what he says before issuing an endorsement. "Its a long campaign. We will wait to the end of the process to endorse."

But Ivers is concerned that Bush says different things to suit different audiences, the most prominent criticism Log Cabin has for President Clinton. "He looks Clintonesque," said Ivers.

The Bush record on gays is mixed, but leaning anti-gay.

He says he would accept money from gay groups and promised his campaign will meet with the Log Cabin club. He criticized Texas Republicans in 1998 for harsh attacks against Log Cabin at the state Republican convention.

As governor, Bush said he would veto any attempt to repeal the Texas sodomy law, opposes adding sexual orientation protection to the state hate crime laws, and voiced discontent with the recent New Jersey Supreme Courts decision requiring the Boy Scouts to admit gays. Bush also went on the record opposing the rights of gay people to adopt children during debate in the Texas legislature. |

Anti-violence reception promotes national dialogue
Top Storyby Miles Rosenberg
October 29, 1999

Columbus—The historic Kelton House, 586 E. Town Street, was the site of an October 23 reception for the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which held a conference throughout the week.

Delegates from ten cities, including San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Boston, and El Paso, Texas, attended workshops during the week and then mingled at a Saturday night reception. Columbus attendees included Stonewall Columbus executive director Jeff Redfield, education and volunteer coordinator Kim Dill, and Columbus city council member Maryellen OShaughnessy.

Gloria McCauley, executive director of Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization or BRAVO, explained that the gay and lesbian coalition has mapped out the country in order torespond to hate crimes in areas lacking GLBT community resources.

Bravo Group"If a crime takes place in Bloomington, Indiana, members from Detroit, Chicago and Columbus can mobilize," she said. "But we only come in with the local communitys approval."

The coalition has been particularly effective in providing support during the Matthew Shepard murder trial. Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation in Detroit, flew in for the conference from Laramie, Wyoming, where is serving as lead advocate for the Shepard family.

Montgomery praised the work of McCauley and BRAVO board president Chris Cozad, both of whom helped form the national coalition in mid-1995.

"They are the divas of activism," he said. "The national movement would be seriously retarded without their efforts."

McCauley said that Montgomery has been active in national efforts since 1989, when the coalition first started to meet and dialogue informally. Each year, the group conducts a conference call to discuss current statistics on hate crimes and also holds their annual meeting.

"It is such an opportunity for resource sharing," McCauley said.

"We vary so much by resources and region that we learn a lot from one another."

On October 23, delegates listened to an anti-oppression workshop by Papussa Melina, the director of a county-wide womens center in Cancun Mexico. Melina discussed how to provide support for LGBT people of color who are affected by violence.

McCauley hopes to create awareness about anti-violence efforts, even if that means that groups like BRAVO are someday unnecessary.

"I would love to put myself out of a job," she said.


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