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April 12, 2002

 

Can this couple have the same last name?

Jennifer Bicknell and Belinda Priddy, right, with their daughter Sarah Rylen outside the Ohio Supreme Court. Photo: Eric Resnick

 

Ohio Supreme Court hears the case of two women denied a name change

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--Ohio�s highest court heard oral arguments April 10 in the case of a Butler County lesbian couple who were denied a common last name, initially because of a magistrate�s religious beliefs.

Belinda Lou Priddy, 31, and Jennifer Lane Bicknell, 33, of Hamilton, Ohio, are seeking to change both of their last names to Rylen. The new name is made from letters in each of their present last names.

Lower courts have refused to grant the couple�s 1999 request for a name change, saying it would go against Ohio�s public policy against common-law marriage.

Butler County Magistrate Charles L. Pater first heard the case in 2000. He cited "natural law" and "divine edict" in refusing the name change.

"Natural law" is a philosophy that all law is derived from an innate moral sense and traditional moral principles, such as the Ten Commandments. "Divine edict" has no legal definition; it means "God�s law."

After intervention by gay activists, including then-Stonewall Cincinnati executive director Doreen Cudnik, Butler County Probate Judge Randy Rogers reviewed Pater�s decision.

Rogers removed the "divine edict" language, but went farther than Pater in his denial by citing a 1991 Ohio measure ending common-law marriages as evidence that Ohio public policy "promotes legal marriages and withholds official sanction from non-marital cohabitation."

"It is not �reasonable and proper� for a court to change the last name of a woman living with a woman to whom she cannot legally marry, to the same last name as the other woman," Rogers wrote. "Cohabitation is cohabitation, whether it involves a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man."

The 12th District Court of Appeals, in a February, 2001 ruling upholding Rogers� decision, said the women�s civil rights were not violated, and agreed that granting the name changes would contravene Ohio statutes favoring marriage.

The women�s attorney, Scott Knox of Cincinnati, appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which heard the case April 10. Knox is openly gay, and took the case free of charge.

Since the name changes were otherwise uncontested, the anti-gay American Family Association of Ohio filed as a friend of the court, and was granted permission to argue before the appeals court and the Supreme Court.

The AFA was represented by Ohio "Defense of Marriage Act" author David Langdon of Cincinnati. They were the only friend of the court opposing to the name changes.

Friends of the court on behalf of Bicknell and Priddy include the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Ohio Human Rights Bar Association, who filed two separate briefs.

During oral arguments, Knox and Langdon were given 15 minutes each.

Knox went first, explaining that the lower courts did not apply the standards of reasonable and proper cause which govern name changes. In addition to reversing the 12th District�s decision, Knox hopes the court will, with its ruling, create a syllabus giving guidance to probate judges.

Knox said that because Bicknell was pregnant at the time, the lower courts failed to consider a 1999 Ohio Supreme Court ruling governing name changes of minors.

That case, commonly known as Willhite, says that the children�s best interest, not tradition or custom, is to be considered when courts evaluate name changes for children.

Knox was first interrupted by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who asked if the children currently have a different last name than the parents.

Knox said that they do, and pointed to the irony of Priddy�s ability to choose the last name of the child she gave birth to, but not her own.

The couple�s two daughters, both born since the original petition was filed, have been legally given the last name Rylen.

Justice Andrew Douglas interrupted next, saying, "The argument of the other side is that by sanctioning these name changes, we are moving toward same-sex marriage."

"Your honor," said Knox, "It is quite the opposite. When they went in, and the magistrate brought up the idea of marriage, they told him: �We know we can�t marry. We�re not trying to get married.� "

"I think if we look at the probate court--both the magistrate and the judge, what they are really concerned about is putting the stamp of approval of the court on two women raising kids together," said Knox.

Justice Alice Robie Resnick asked Knox if any fraud figured in the denial.

Knox said, "They never went down that route because [the women] cannot fraudulently represent themselves as married, because everyone knows that two women cannot marry in Ohio."

Moyer asked if the women could change their name by way of common law, which would merely require an adoption of the new name, with no court proceedings.

Knox explained that it was in the best interest of the state to be able to keep track of name changes. "That�s what protects against fraud," said Knox.

"To urge people away from the statute makes no sense as a matter of public policy," said Knox.

"These women have really been put into a looking-glass world where they have had to work twice as hard to do what courts usually encourage people to do," said Knox, "and that is to try to act in the best interest of their children."

"These are unopposed name changes, the evidence shows it is reasonable and proper under the Willhite case, there�s no third party interest involved, and there�s no fraud."

Knox told the justices, "This case has been a departure from all other Ohio case law" including another name change case from the 12th District.

Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, considered the most socially conservative justice on the court, was Knox�s most contentious questioner.

Stratton wanted to know how the best interest of the child standard could be applied when the child had not yet been born.

Knox explained that expert testimony was given in the lower courts by a psychologist who said having the same last name was in the best interest of the child from a very early age.

Stratton then asked, "If we were to go your way, would the guidelines also apply to a man and a woman who might defraud by misrepresenting themselves to be married?"

Knox responded, "The probate court certainly has the discretion to determine if there is fraud by them representing themselves to be married. I think the court would have the discretion to determine the facts in the individual cases, but that has no bearing here."

Knox told Stratton that even the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged that the face of the American family is changing.

"And these women," said Knox, "are really acting in loco parentis. They are the ones the child comes home to each day."

Langdon argued that Willhite was inapplicable in this case because it concerned the name change of a minor, not adults, and that the court could not consider the child in this case because, at the time it was filed, there was no child.

In arguing that, Langdon said to the court that "sometimes the rights of the unborn are relevant, and sometimes they are not. In this case, they are not."

Justice Deborah Cook interrupted him to ask if the expectation of a child would determine the name change proper.

Langdon said that all the facts should be considered by a probate court when determining a name change, which led Cook to ask him to tell her what he considers reasonable and proper.

Langdon replied that he didn�t want to limit a probate court by the Supreme Court telling them that the only way to block a name change is to find fraud.

"That would take away all the [probate] courts� discretion," said Langdon.

Langdon then argued that since most name changes are unopposed, the only way the court would find fraud is if the applicant admitted to it, so he fears the courts would become more like a "rubber stamp."

Justice Resnick said the lower courts used "unbridaled discretion" in denying the name changes.

"It seems to me that it is reasonable for this family to have the same name," said Resnick, "and this judge, for whatever reason, denied it. I want you to tell me why that isn�t an arbitrary use of discretion."

Langdon disagreed. "I believe that the probate court decisions and the court of appeals decision are logical in the sense that an ethical byproduct of the statute is that the aura of official sanction is placed on a name if the state grants it."

"I�m disturbed at the court of appeal�s apparent sanction of marriage," said Resnick. "I don�t understand how that whole subject of marriage got in here, when there is no same- sex marriage."

Langdon answered by saying that it is relevant because Ohio has "a strong public policy that favors traditional, solemnized marriage, and withholds any kind of official sanction from non-marital co-habitation."

Langdon�s testimony is a direct contradiction to the testimony he offered the Ohio House of Representatives as reason to pass the anti-gay "defense of marriage" bill he authored. Langdon told legislators that they needed to pass his bill because Ohio doesn�t have a stong public policy favoring traditional marriage, which he thinks DOMA would provide.

Nevertheless, Langdon began reciting statutes he believes support his strong public policy statements, when Justice Paul Pfeifer, in a strong, irritated tone, asked, "Where do you get all that from the Ohio Revised Code?"

"Pardon me," answered Langdon.

"First of all," said Pfeifer, referring to a shared-parenting case Langdon argued against on March 16, "you�re here twice in a month representing the American Family Association, which you say is a non-profit corporation. Do they have a board of directors?"

"Yes they do," answered Langdon.

"Did they authorize your appearance here?"

"Yes they did," answered Langdon.

Pfeifer quoted from Langdon�s brief a section that seems to indicate that homosexual name changes could be considered "showing bad faith and fraudulent purpose, and are likely to deceive others."

"What is bad faith and fraudulent purpose?" asked Pfeifer.

When Langdon couldn�t explain it, Pfeifer asked, "Then why do you say it in the brief? Why are we talking about it?"

"I�m not talking about it," answered Langdon.

"It�s in your brief," said Pfeifer.

"It goes to the standard," said Langdon. "This is a case of first impression, and as a friend of the court, we are stepping in and saying this is what the proper standard should be."

Pfeifer then wanted to know what statute Langdon was using to determine Ohio�s strong public policy in favor of traditional marriage.

Langdon said he was using the [1991] repeal of common law marriage by the legislature.

"So, you think that moral purposes were the driving force behind passage of that bill?" asked Pfeifer.

"Without detailed legislative history," said Langdon, "I don�t know."

"It was to help with title searches, probate matters, and real estate matters," said Pfeifer. "It was a Bar Association bill. Do you draw that the legislature was making moral judgements from a Bar Association bill?"

Justice Douglas said he didn�t agree with Langdon�s interpretation of the law, adding that he learned things about the law from reading Langdon�s brief. Douglas then asked a series of questions going to what the women could already do under common law.

Saying to Langdon that common law would be considered the "back door" to getting things like a new Social Security card, Douglas asked, "If you can do it through the back door, why not be able to do it through the front door?"

Langdon said he agreed with common law, "but the reason I am here today is because when they are asking the court to approve a name change, they are asking the court to approve of their relationship, a relationship that has no legal validity."

Pfeifer interrupted, "Aren�t you asking the court to discriminate against those who engage in a lifestyle that you find obnoxious?"

Langdon replied, "Not at all. Uh, I think that, well yes. Yes I am, in the same way that the General Assembly has discriminated against them by not allowing them to get married."

Later Knox said he was amazed at Langdon�s declaration that sometimes the unborn don�t have rights.

"I wonder if the AFA knows he says those things," said Knox. "But it is also in his brief, so he must have thought about it."

However, both attorneys indicate that if DOMA would be the law in Ohio, it would have a tremendous effect on this case.

"I would have argued it," said Langdon.

"It would have gutted my case," said Knox.

A ruling is expected in three to six months.


 

Showing the flag

Stonewall Cincinnati co-chair Roy Ford, left, shows the rainbow flag on his back to spectators at an April 7 rally in Cincinnati to end police harassment of minorities and racial profiling, as well as the repeal of the city�s anti-gay charter amendment. Speaking at the lectern is Stonewall board member Doreen Cudnik. Photo: Eric Resnick

Stonewall joins Cincinnati rally
to end harassment

Some in the crowd heckled pro-gay speakers

by Eric Resnick

Cincinnati--Speakers at an April 7 march and rally for economic and social justice in Cincinnati called for repeal of the city�s anti-gay charter amendment, among demands for an end to police harassment and racial profiling.

Roughly 2,000 people gathered on Fountain Square on the first anniversary of riots sparked by the police killing of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man. Sixteen speakers addressed the crowd before everyone marched 12 blocks to City Hall.

Organizers of the March for Justice say that despite an April 5 settlement of a racial profiling lawsuit brought against the city and the police by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cincinnati Black United Front, there has been no meaningful change in police practices.

Stonewall Cincinnati joined the Black United Front, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for Justice, the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, and other groups and individuals as organizers and speakers of the march.

In addition to the U.S. Justice Department�s findings of police abuse and racial profiling, Stonewall has tracked incidents of police targeting gay men.

March organizers point to "economic apartheid, political cronyism, and behind-the-scenes domination by powerful corporations" as the root cause of the homophobia, economic classism, and racism they say plagues the city.

Among the published missions of the March for Justice is equality for gays and lesbians.

Stonewall has also joined the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati in calling for an economic boycott of the city by tourists and conventions until 30 demands are met. These include the repeal of Article 12 of the city�s charter, which bans any civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.

Coalition for a Just Cincinnati chair Amanda Mayes told the crowd at the rally that the boycott would not end until Article 12 was repealed.

Stonewall�s decision last year to join the broader community reform groups led to rifts, resignations, public criticism, and loss of financial support from some Stonewall members who believe the group�s concerns should be limited to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

Stonewall co-chair Roy Ford and board member Doreen Cudnik, who addressed the marchers, hope that the decision to join the coalition will help heal wounds the gay and African-American communities inflicted on each other during the 1994 referendum that passed Article 12.

Pastors of African-American churches were among the most visible campaigners for Article 12, then known as Issue 3. Critics of Stonewall�s decision to join their current efforts against racism argue that while many of the pastors have changed their minds and now speak for repeal of the anti-gay amendment, they have not challenged their congregations to become more accepting of GLBT people.

Ford, who is African-American said, "There are some homophobic black people just like there are some racist gay people. It�s just the way it is."

Though the crowd had already heard several speakers call for the repeal of Article 12, including black ministers, Cudnik and Ford were heckled by about 20 marchers as they spoke. All of the hecklers within view of this reporter�s position near the speakers� platform were African-American, and were among those who marched to Fountain Square with Rev. Damon Lynch III.

Lynch is the pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church, a large, mostly African-American church in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. He is also a plaintiff in the suit against the city and an organizer of the Black United Front.

One of the hecklers, Bernadette Johnson, identified herself as a member of Lynch�s church and confirmed that she marched to the square with him. The affiliation of the others is unknown.

The overwhelming majority of the marchers welcomed Ford and Cudnik�s speeches.

The heckling began when Cudnik and Ford were introduced by Miami University professor Dan LaBotz, who told the crowd that the struggle for justice includes equality for gays and lesbians.

"No, it doesn�t!" shouted Johnson, which prompted others to shout Bible verses and anti-gay epithets, including "Gays are freaks" and "Go back to Sodom and Gomorrah."

Cudnik remained unfazed, and quoted the Hebrew prophet Micah. "What does God require of us? To do justice, to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

She criticized police for the March 8 arrest of Jimmy Lee Bird, who, after being gaybashed in downtown Cincinnati, was put in jail instead of being taken to a hospital.

"To so many who have been denied justice for too long, whether it is because of the color of our skin or the gender of the person we love, we know that the long road to justice is not a sprint, but rather a marathon," said Cudnik.

The hecklers again began to shout when Ford told the crowd that part of justice was for families of color to acknowledge their gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members.

"Never!" shouted one man.

"Transgender, too?" shouted another. "Keep those faggots and freaks away from here!"

Rev. Lynch said he saw some of the heckling himself and called it "unfortunate."

"My gut reaction is anyone that was doing this is wrong," said Lynch, adding, "This was a march for justice, and we stand together for justice, which means that everyone�s rights need to be affirmed and respected."

Lynch said he knows Johnson, and she is not a member of his church and she does not work for him, as she had also claimed.

"And I took no active stance on the passage of Issue 3 in 1994," said Lynch. "In fact, there are really three of us who are pastors who are involved in this effort--me, Rev. J.W. Jones, and Rev. Stephen Scott--and none of us were active in the passage of Issue 3, and anyone who was, isn�t part of what we are doing now."

Lynch says that historically homosexuality has been seen as a sin, and members of churches are following what they have been taught.

"But nobody deserves to be mistreated or denied protection from bias and abuse," said Lynch, "and that is what I tell my congregation."


One man raped, others abducted in
Short North attacks

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus--A gay man was robbed and raped in the latest of a string of attacks on gay men in the Short North area.

Police believe the same attacker is committing the crimes, which have occurred over the past four weeks. The most recent was April 7.

The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, a lesbian-gay group, has also received unconfirmed reports of other attacks. All of the incidents occurred at night in the Short North, a ten-block-long area around High Street north of downtown which has many gay businesses.

In the April 7 incident, a gay man was approached in Union Station Video Café�s parking lot by a man wielding a knife who forced him into his car. The attacker forced him to drive to an ATM and withdraw money, after which the perpetrator raped him. The attack occurred just before 1 am.

The man called police after the attacker escaped. Officers took a report and brought him to Grant Hospital. He sustained no additional injuries.

At least two other gay men have been abducted at knife-point since the attacks began. Most of the incidents occurred in or near the two large parking lots in the area.

The perpetrator was described in separate reports as an African-American male in his early to mid 20s, around 5� 9" tall. One victim described the man as having a scruffy mustache and goatee, but BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley noted that it is simple for someone to change their facial hair. The man was also described as having a crew cut.

"Frankly," said McCauley, "this guy needs to be taken off the streets and the police are working pretty darn hard to do it."

McCauley noted that BRAVO was receiving other reports of men being accosted or attacked in the area as well, although police at press time only had a report for the latest incident.

Police are working closely with BRAVO to catch the perpetrator. Sgt. Earl Smith, the public information officer of the Columbus Police Department, noted that one of the most important resources that police need is information.

"Obviously, not all crimes are reported, and that�s one of the problems for us," Smith said. "You are never obligated to make a report as a victim. Overall, though, it�s in the community�s best interest to talk to investigators."

"One person�s little bit of extra information can make the difference to us," Smith concluded.

Smith acknowledged that, historically, there have been tensions between the police department and the gay community in most major cities.

"It�s not just a matter of the community not trusting the police, but also an issue about the comfort level of police dealing with the gay community," he noted. "I will tell you with confidence that we try to address all crimes regardless of such issues. We want to have a good relationship with the gay community."

Smith said that filing a police report about a crime or suspicious activity is the most helpful, but, mindful of that tension, reporting the incident to BRAVO is a good alternative.

"Give Gloria specifics, dates, times, descriptions," he urged. "Let someone know specifically what happened."

BRAVO and other anti-violence organizations stress that, even in gay-friendly neighborhoods, attacks can and do take place. One major recommendation is to walk in groups to and from cars and buildings, to avoid excessive drinking which would impair the ability to keep an eye on the surrounding area, and to always be very aware of the surroundings.

Anyone with information on these or other crimes against the LGBT community is asked to call the Columbus police at 614-645-4545; or call BRAVO at 614-268-9622 or 800-862-7286.


Reaction is light to Cleveland Heights partner benefits

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland Heights--With a vote on the issue expected April 15, the city council has gotten very little response to its proposal to grant health insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees.

According to Mayor Ed Kelley, however, the vast majority of the response to the ordinance has been positive.

"I�ve received probably in the neighborhood of 25 calls, letters or people stopping me in the street," he said, "and it�s probably about 75% favorable.

According to Kelley, he has gotten more public comments on the issue than have other members of the council. In the last few days, he said, he had gotten around ten letters, one of which was against the ordinance. Kelley said he plans to share those letters with the other council members over the weekend.

There were a few different reasons expressed to him for opposition to the measure.

"Some of them are against it on moral grounds," Kelley said. "This is not their accepted behavior. Or they think it should be extended to heterosexual couples and grandparents, so it�s not just anti-gay. That�s just a little bit of it."

Councilmember Nancy Dietrich, who was out of town on vacation when the ordinance was introduced April 1, is one of the prime movers behind the measure.

"We knew I was going on vacation, but the choice was then to put it off for two weeks," she said of her absence during the introduction. "I really wanted to read it [into the record]."

She will get her chance at the next council meeting when she does the second reading, which accompanies the vote on the measure.

"I think that we�ll have a slew of people," she said of the upcoming meeting.

"I have not been inundated, I must say," Dietrich said of the reaction to the ordinance. "I probably only had ten people getting in touch with me just for this, and of course there are people who are praising this, including the Heights Interfaith Council, who are being very encouraging to us, which is wonderful."

"I think the criticisms really fall into three categories," she continued. "There are the people who object to it for religious reasons, but we really are based on a system where church and state are separate. I don�t think of this as a religious issue; it�s an equality issue, a matter of treating all of our city employees equally."

"The second one is that people are afraid it will be too expensive, that it will cost too many taxpayer dollars," she said. "I think it will be about a penny per household."

Dietrich pointed to University Hospitals, which has 6,000 employees but only six who have applied for domestic partner benefits. Under federal law, partner insurance benefits are taxable, so many people insure themselves under their own employers� plans instead of on their partners� benefits.

She also reiterated that, in response to the third complaint that it benefits same-sex couples but not unmarried heterosexual couples, "It�s a choice. It�s one of the things that, by choosing not to get married, you give up if you�re a heterosexual couple. If you want to share each other�s benefits, you can get married."

The domestic partner benefits came, in part, out of the visioning process for Cleveland Heights. In 2000 and 2001, an advisory board sought citizen input to charts the direction the people believe the city should move.

"There was a huge thrust celebrating diversity and talking about creating an inclusive community, and what a challenge it to create an inclusive community, and how Cleveland Heights is so good at meeting that challenge, and this is just one more way of doing that," Dietrich concluded.

 


 

News Briefs

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

Suit: Horse lovers were duped into signing marriage ban

Boston, Mass--Backers of a ballot question banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption said March 26 that the company they hired to gather signatures tricked voters into signing a petition to outlaw gay marriage.

The marriage ban succeeded, and the measure will be on the ballot in September. The horsemeat measure ended up with 54,526 certified signatures, 2,574 less than needed.

The Save Our Horses Committee filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court asking the court to rule the question would have gathered the needed signatures if not for what they described as a "bait and switch."

In their lawsuit, the committee says that Ballot Access Company told signature gathers to trick people who wanted to sign the horse petition into signing the marriage question.

Both Save Our Horses and the group backing the marriage question hired Ballot Access. The two groups are not affiliated.

According to the lawsuit, the signature gathers were told to carry a clipboard with a horse logo on top, but with marriage signature sheets underneath.

"They were instructed that when a voter indicated an intent to sign [the horse petition] they should partially lift the top pages and have the voter sign on the [marriage petition] instead," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says the company encouraged the alleged bait-and-switch because it was getting paid more per signature from the backers of the marriage question than the supporters of the horse question.

Backers of the marriage question, which would change the state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, have said the signatures they gathered were valid.

 

Most civil unions are women

Burlington, Vt.--Vermont�s civil unions law is being used more by female couples than by males, statistics show.

From July 1, 2000, the first day that licenses were granted to same-sex couples, through Jan. 4, 2002, 3,471 licenses for civil unions were issued.

Of those, 1,180 were given to male couples and 2,291 were to female couples, said Bill Apao, director of public health statistics at the Vermont Department of Health.

That means about two-thirds of the unions - which confer many of the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples - were between women.

Esther Rothblum, a psychology professor at the University of Vermont and editor of the national Journal of Lesbian Studies, is conducting a survey of all couples that received civil unions in the first year of the law.

One reason more women may opt for a legal certification of their union, she said, is that more lesbian couples have children.

The gender ratio in broken civil unions is roughly the same. Of four dissolutions reported in Vermont, three involved female couples. The only official male breakup so far was being finalized in court proceedings late last week.

 

Man beaten, tortured by cousin

Ft. Wayne, Ind.--Police have arrested a man on charges that he tortured his disabled cousin for 12 hours on March 30, after finding him in bed with another man.

Part of John Runner�s brain had to be removed during emergency surgery after the attack.

A court document alleges that Maurice A. Ellis, Runner�s cousin and roommate, found Runner in bed with a man March 29 and an argument ensued.

Ellis hit and kicked Runner to unconsciousness, then burned his chest and head with bacon grease, according to the affidavit.

The torture started nearly three hours after the argument began and continued for 12 hours, ending the next afternoon, investigators said.

Runner is in critical condition at a local hospital. He has been unable to work for several years because he cannot use his left hand and walks with a limp.

 

Couples exempt from land tax

Rockville, Md.--The Montgomery County Council has unanimously approved a plan to give same-sex couples the same real estate tax break that married heterosexual couples receive.

The bill, which passed April 2, would allow one domestic partner to transfer property into the other�s name without paying a real estate tax levied when property changes hands.

Spouses, former spouses and close relatives of property owners are also exempted from the tax.

In order to qualify, same-sex couples must prove that they share a close personal relationship, are responsible for each other�s welfare, have shared the same legal residence for at least one year and that their finances are intertwined.

County Executive Douglas Duncan is likely to sign the measure and it would take effect immediately thereafter.

The transfer tax is one percent of the value of all residential improved property over $70,000. A couple would save $1,750 on the transfer of a $175,000 home.

Montgomery is the fourth jurisdiction in the nation to grant real estate transfer tax breaks to gay and lesbian residents. Philadelphia, Sacramento and Oakland, Calif, are the others.

The main lobbying effort for the Montgomery County bill was not by gay civil rights organizations, but by the Greater Capital Association of Realtors.

 

Gay man won�t run for vice-governor

Boston, Mass.--Openly gay former Melrose Mayor Patrick Guerriero, acting Gov. Jane Swift�s hand-picked running mate, withdrew from the lieutenant governor�s race April 2 and endorsed Republican Party Chairwoman Kerry Murphy Healey.

Guerriero had been in limbo since Swift withdrew last month, just before Salt Lake Olympic chief Mitt Romney, whose candidacy was rumored for weeks, officially announced it.

His withdrawal cleared the way for Healey to enter the race.

Swift, who chose Guerriero from her own staff to be her running mate, said she was sorry to hear of his withdrawal.

"I�m a huge Patrick Guerriero fan. I was yesterday, I will be tomorrow," Swift said.

Guerriero faced an uphill climb from the start, having to compete with Swift�s negative poll ratings, a fund-raising war chest dwarfed by his multimillionaire opponent Rappaport, and a lack of recognition around the state.

 

Ban on same-sex benefits passes

Montgomery, Ala.--A state House committee has approved a bill that would prevent same-sex partners from receiving state benefits.

The House Ways and Means-General Fund committee approved the bill on a voice vote. The sponsor, Rep. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said the state would provide health insurance and other benefits for gay employees, but would not provide the benefits for same-sex partners.

Beason said he does not know of any employees who have requested benefits for same-sex partners, but became concerned when he heard that a college in the state had considered offering such benefits.

"I just want to stop this before it comes up," Beason said.

 

Governor orders help for 9-11 partner

Sacramento, Calif.--Gov. Gray Davis issued an executive order April 4 designed to assist the domestic partner of a victim of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The congressionally-appointed special master administering the federal Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund should consider California law, which includes rights for domestic partners in its wrongful death and victim compensation program regulations, Davis said.

He noted an estimated 156 California families were affected by the attacks, which destroyed four California-bound passenger jets.

However, only one California domestic partner is known to be affected, said Davis spokesman Byron Tucker: the partner of a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Twenty-one other victims of the attacks, living in other states, had same-sex partners.

 

Key West not always a safe haven

Key West, Fla.--Of the five hate crimes reported to Key West police in the past 14 months, four involved anti-gay sentiments and assaults on gay men. Two of them resulted in immediate arrests.

Key West, where tolerance, acceptance and diversity have been incorporated in the city�s official "One Human Family" philosophy, is a major vacation destination for gay tourists.

But is Key West living up to its own philosophy?

"No, it�s not. We have a ways to go," said Ginny Haller, former editor of the gay Celebrate! newspaper. "But in looking at the rest of the country, Key West is so far ahead, and I am proud to live here."

She compared the usually progressive attitude of Key West to places like Alabama, where a judge last month, during a custody battle involving a lesbian mother, told a courtroom filled with people that "gays and lesbians are an inherent evil against which children must be protected."

Such sentiments do exist here, and seem more prevalent in the 600 and 700 blocks of Duval Street, said Dennis Beaver, president of the Key West Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

"I should feel free to walk up and down Duval Street, but that block tends to have more name callers and aggressively violent behavior," Beaver said. "I think our One Human Family is like every other family, and every family has its share of problems and people who cause those problems."


 

A picture worth
1,000 Stevies

Filmmakers seek help getting
their latest on the screen

by Anthony Glassman

Edge of 17 presented a not-so-tender look at coming of age as a young gay man in Sandusky, Ohio in the early �80s. The 1998 film got wide acclaim and has become a must-see for gay North Coasters.

Now, the people who gave that film to the world are back with Gypsy 83, and are seeking help to release the film.

Gypsy 83 stars Sara Rue (WB�s Popular) as Gypsy Vale, an overweight Goth girl obsessed with Stevie Nicks, and Kett Turton (WB�s Dead Last) as Clive Webb, the gay Goth boy who tries to fulfill his quest for true love. He goes to New York with Gypsy to attend the "Night of 1,000 Stevies," the Nicks equivalent of Wigstock.

They start their trip in Sandusky, traveling in a �79 Trans Am through northeast Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York until they reach Gotham.

Along the way, Gypsy meets Bambi LeBleau (Karen Black), a lounge singer who is both a kindred spirit to Gypsy and a dark omen of what she might become. Later on, Clive finally consummates his longing for other men with delicious fraternity boy Troy (Paulo Costanzo, Road Trip, 40 Days and 40 Nights), although Clive�s dreams of perfect romance are not fulfilled in the tryst.

Whose ever are? The film should be worth it solely for a gay sex scene involving Paulo Costanzo.

Finally arriving in New York, they face the end of their journey, and the beginning of their adult lives.

Here�s where the filmmakers need help: The sound track originally had a lot of Stevie Nicks songs, and the filmmakers were in talks with her people to get clearance for them. However, Nicks� management though that the material might damage her reputation and refused to allow her songs to be used. Only one Stevie Nicks song remains, because someone else owns the rights to it.

The other songs were replaced with ones by �80s goth staples The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, among others. Most of the clearances are bought and paid for, but a few remain to be settled. The company that bought the distribution rights for Gypsy 83 won�t pay them off, and that�s where the audience comes in.

The filmmakers, including Ohio natives Todd Stephens, the writer, director and co-producer; Karen Jaroneski, co-producer; director of photography Gina DeGirolamo and production designer Nancy Arons, are screening Gypsy 83 in Sandusky and Cleveland one night each. This will raise the funds to pay off the remaining music clearances so it can be released.

So, in exchange for paying $10 in advance, $12 day of show, patrons get to have a hand in releasing a film by a local-boy-done-good and will see the movie before it gets released. Pretty nifty.

Gypsy 83 will be shown on Saturday, April 20 at 8 pm at the Sandusky State Theatre, 107 Columbus Drive, Sandusky. Call 419-626-1950 or toll-free 877-378-2150 for tickets and information.

The film will then have two showings at the Cedar-Lee Theater at 2163 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights on Sunday, April 21. Showings are at 5 pm and 7:30 pm, and tickets are available in advance by calling 440-717-4696.

Come out and enjoy what should be a delightful film before the rest of the world can, and know that you�re supporting the arts all at the same time.

 

 

 

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