Cincinnati group may be involved in petition campaign
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland Heights--This inner-ring Cleveland suburb is set to become the first city in Ohio to offer health benefits to its workers’ same-sex partners, if an ordinance passed April 15 survives a threatened repeal referendum.
The measure passed city council by a 6-1 vote on its second and final reading. It had a first reading April 1.
Rev. Jimmie Hicks, the only council member voting against the ordinance, promised before it was passed that it will be put to a public vote.
Columbus passed a similar ordinance in 1998, but repealed it two months later to avoid a referendum. However, Cleveland Heights shows no sign of backing down.
"I see the vote as the beginning of my responsibility," said Mayor Edward Kelley, a strong proponent of the benefits.
"I respect and recognize their right to collect signatures," he added, "but they are going to have to deal with me in the end, and I am not going to let this die."
Kelley said that public responses the following day were running about 5-1 in favor of council’s vote.
"I have had lots of supportive calls, and even a high five in the bagel shop," he said. "I think the majority of people support this, even though, since it doesn’t affect them directly, they have not said much so far."
Over 200 people packed the council chamber, the corridor outside, and a closed-circuit TV screening in the city hall’s atrium for the Monday night meeting.
Three hours of comment was given by 45 citizens. Twenty-two spoke in favor, 23 against the measure. Passion on both sides ran high, and opponents knelt in prayer in the hallway outside.
Issue 3 backer was at meeting
According to Kelley, one of those present who did not speak was Phil Burress. He is executive director of the anti-gay American Family Association of Ohio, and president of the Cincinnati Citizens for Community Values. The latter group led a petition drive to put Issue 3 on the ballot there in 1993. Now Article 12 of the city charter, it bans any ordinance benefiting gays and lesbians.
Burress also wrote a letter to the daily Plain Dealer opposing the benefits. It was clear that opponents had organized and planned a ballot initiative prior to the meeting, because 18 of the 23 who spoke against passage told council the matter should go before the voters.
The group gathering petition signatures calls itself Families First, the same name as a Cincinnati anti-gay political action committee with connections to Burress. Ohio "Defense of Marriage Act" author David Langdon is a member of the group’s board.
However, no official connection between the two groups has been confirmed. No one in either group will discuss it.
There are five people named on a petition to repeal the measure, representing themselves as the Family First Committee. They are Cecil Gamble, Joe Grassy, Bonnie Dolezal, Tracie Moore, and Zoe Tyler. Dolezal, Tyler, and Moore spoke at the council meeting.
Hicks had a petition with the five names on it at the April 15 meeting, although he told the Gay People’s Chronicle that creation of such a group was "up in the air" and uncertain.
Hicks also told the Chronicle that evening, "I will be instrumental, but I will not be a leader" of the petition group. The next day he appeared on WKYC Channel 3 in his ministerial collar, claiming to be the leader of the group.
By April 17 Hicks had completely abandoned his distance from it. "You can disregard what I said" on Monday night. "I am the catalyst."
3,984 signatures by May 15
According to the city charter, petitions signed by 15% of voters registered at the time of the last municipal election must be presented by May 15 to force a repeal vote. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections puts that number at 3,984 signatures, out of a total 26,551 registered voters.
Once petitions are presented to council and validated, the partner benefits ordinance is suspended until it survives an election. Council may repeal the ordinance or put it on the ballot. An election must be held 40 to 90 days after council acts.
There is no time limit for council to act. It could do nothing, which would effectively kill both the referendum and the ordinance.
There has never been a referendum to repeal an ordinance in the city’s 81-year history. Initiatives to add new ordinances are handled differently; the last one of those was a 1970s move to declare Cleveland Heights a nuclear-free zone.
‘God did create Adam and Steve’
As the public comment progressed, the crowd began to thin. By about 10 pm only 60 of the initial 110 were in the council chamber, and only 43 of the initial 100 in the hall and atrium. Applause for the people who spoke indicates that most of those who left early were opponents.
Tyler told the council that she heard on the radio that a lawsuit was being filed to block the law from taking effect. However, when asked by the Chronicle, she could not identify which radio station she heard it on, or give any other details.
She did, however, echo another sentiment expressed by those who apparently organized prior to the meeting, by accusing council members who support the benefits of deception.
"This was not a campaign issue for any of you," she said.
Tyler said the measure was an affront to "regular, hard-working taxpayers, who live decent, moral lives," which elicited response from gays in the audience, for which the mayor had to call for order.
Most supporters told council that the benefits were an issue of equal pay for equal work, and that issues of church and state should be separate.
Karen Schneiderman told members she is an attorney, an aunt, a friend, and a lesbian, and that she and her partner chose to live in Cleveland Heights because they wanted to live somewhere that would recognize all parts of their existence.
Rev. Robert Ferguson, pastor of the Central Bible Baptist Church in the city, seemed to preach a sermon to the council. He quoted scripture repeatedly, and said, "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
Rev. Donald King of Hope Lutheran Church, also in the city, responded to Ferguson by saying, "God did create Adam and Steve, and I hope you open your minds and your hearts to them, too."
Russell Baron told those assembled, "Comments of religious fervor have no place in Cleveland Heights." Baron is a former school board member and the father of a gay son.
Opposing those who claimed that gays are inherently unhealthy and don’t live as long as heterosexuals, Baron said, "How dare these comments be made about fellow human beings whom they know nothing about!"
Baron pointed out that the same people were saying the world would collapse on Cleveland Heights in 1994 when it passed its gay-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance.
"But it hasn’t," he said.
Rita O’Connor said, "If anybody’s worried about our city being a moral city--we’re not."
O’Connor claimed that there was "not one homosexual couple that wants this coverage or needs it."
"If they want coverage, they can get a job like I did," she added. "I don’t endorse diversity when it comes to homosexuals."
Bruised and bloody
Brian Thomas told those assembled, "It is easier to change one’s religion than to change one’s sexual orientation."
"The last time I experienced this much opposition to something," Thomas said, "I was left bruised and bloody in the street like a dog, continually beaten as they screamed ‘fag,’ ‘bitch’ and ‘queer’ at me."
Thomas then said it was hard to think of coming home to a community that did not welcome him and his partner, and that he paid taxes, too. He held up his city income tax return, due that day.
"We can accept that right now," Kelley interrupted with a chuckle, and Thomas handed the envelope to Finance Director Robert Malone.
‘A campaign issue’
Following public comment, the members of council spoke.
"This was a campaign issue," Hicks said. "The Stonewall Democrats put it on a paper and gave it to us saying this is what you need to do if you want our endorsement."
Hicks also said he objected to benefits being restricted to gay folks, and not also including grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, or workers caring for elderly parents.
"They just don’t have a PAC handing out endorsements in November," said Hicks.
Taking a shot at the bill’s sponsor, council member Nancy Dietrich, Hicks said, "Nancy brought it to us, and said can we give [the Stonewall Democrats] one of the things they want?"
Kelley pointed out that only he and council member Bonnie Caplan were endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats, and that Dietrich had been turned down for their endorsement.
Kelley said the benefits were supported b the AFL-CIO in a letter sent to him by Executive Secretary John Ryan.
Kelley said the measure was about the city’s commitment to integrated, diverse living, not any kind of political payback.
Vice Mayor Kenneth Montlack said the benefits will help same-sex partners who are now at a legal disability when compared to heterosexuals’ compensation.
"Enacting this legislation will not duly burden Cleveland Heights taxpayers," said Montlack, pointing out that it is expected to cost "only $400 per month out of a budget of $39 million."
Dietrich said she isn’t feeling threatened by Hicks’ attempts to put the issue on the ballot, either. "I feel most people are supportive," she said.
"I was surprised by [Hicks’] attempt to say this was a political payback," she added.
Dietrich said the benefits can start as early as 30 days from passage, and people can sign up for them as early as the end of May.
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus--Ohio’s only AIDS Memorial Quilt chapter may shut down soon.
Names Project Central Ohio voted unanimously on January 30 against signing a newly-revamped Letter of Agreement and Chapter Guidelines sent out by the Names Project national headquarters in Atlanta. The group will vote later this month whether to try independent operation or to disband.
A number of local chapters are opposed to the new agreements on grounds that the national group is too strictly controlling the chapters and is trying to shift their debt onto the chapters.
The separation from the national group leaves the local chapter without the resources formerly available to them. While the local chapter has some Quilt panels, they are not enough to put on large displays, according to facilitator Tom Prince.
Prince and a number of other officials see the lowering of the number of panels that Atlanta will send to chapters, combined with higher fees for displays, as an attempt by the national office to both force out the local chapters and turn the Quilt into a money-making venture.
"I calculated that if we display 30 blocks [8-panel sections of the Quilt] on a year-round basis, the total annual costs for the Quilt, shipping both ways and dues approximates $4,000 annually, and we are a small chapter." Prince said.
Prince believes the national office is using the new fee structure to put the burden of its debt on the local chapters’ shoulders. The debt had left the organization teetering on the brink of collapse a few years ago.
"The chapter agreement was created by 8 to 10 people who came from the chapter network or were former members of chapters," clarified Julie Rhoad, the managing director of the Names Project Foundation. "It had nothing to do with our earlier financial troubles.
According to Rhoad, there had earlier been three levels of membership for chapters; a few years ago, it was reduced to $500 or $1,000 chapter memberships. Under the current system, all chapters’ dues are $500. Under the new rules, chapters only pay shipping for the first ten blocks of quilt panels; the cost of pulling and packaging the Quilt falls to the national office.
Central Ohio is not alone in its opposition to the agreement. There are currently 23 local chapters listed on the Names Project Foundation’s web site; last year they had over 30 local chapters. Chapters in Long Beach, California and Washington D.C. have also disbanded.
Other provisions of the chapter contracts are also causing dispute, including rules on naming chapters. The two choices would be "The Names Project Foundation, [city or location] Chapter," or "The [city or location] Chapter of the Names Project Foundation." Prince noted that would increase the length of chapters’ names.
"You don’t send flowers using ‘Florists’ Transworld Delivery,’ you send flowers by FTD," he commented.
Rhoad commented that the reason for the format was to ensure that the word "chapter" was included.
"We would get calls from people who said, ‘I turned in a panel to your Central Ohio office,’ for instance," she noted. "They turned in the panel to our chapter in Central Ohio. People were becoming confused. The Names Project Foundation is the national organization."
Other arguments tie into a lack of communication between the national office and local chapters. The agreement would require all chapters to clear promotional materials with the larger organization before release. Prince argues that, given the sheer volume of material that would be presented, it would not be cleared in a timely manner, especially material surrounding World AIDS Day.
According to Prince, the national office wants to set up as many displays independent of the local chapters as possible; that way, all of the funds raised from the display will go directly to the national office, instead of being split with the chapter.
"How can we work with an organization that is working against us?" he asked.
"I’m sad that these chapters don’t want to continue working with us," Rhoad said. "The future of this organization and the need of this organization go way beyond one aspect of our programmatic work."
"We need to be that much stronger and better at what we do for the next 15 years," she continued. "There’s going to be some growing pains, but the bigger global issue is HIV and AIDS and the Quilt’s role and how we can use this national treasure to fight the disease, to stop new infections and to give people an outlet for their grief."
Athens, Ohio--Police are looking for whoever painted threats to gay and lesbian students on a wall at Ohio University that’s been used for years as an informal center of anonymous written discussion.
Terry Hogan, the university’s dean of students, said April 12 that messages painted on the graffiti wall included "kill dykes" and "kill queers."
At least one student’s name was mentioned on the wall as a possible target.
The messages were written during Pride Week, an event that highlights lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations on campus.
Earlier, someone altered a Pride Week announcement on the wall, replacing the word pride with shame.
Officials said the university took no action against the alteration because it was considered a legitimate exercise of free speech. After the wall was repainted, someone defaced it again the night of April 10 or the next morning.
Campus police are investigating the vandalism, which Hogan described as "an ignorant attack on our community."
At a rally April 12, University President Robert Glidden said O.U. is committed to diversity.
The Rev. Jan Griesinger, director of the United Campus Ministry, said the hate messages are having "a chilling effect."
"People feel really terrified," she said. "They wonder ‘Who is doing this? Do they have my name?’ People are both furious and angry about it, and also frightened."
The messages apparently were signed by the "James Hall Mafia."
James Hall is a campus dormitory. Hogan said students there were upset by the vandalism and many volunteered to paint over the messages.
The university was criticized earlier this year for how it responded to an incident in which a lesbian student was called an obscene name and assaulted behind a dormitory after leaving a dance sponsored by the gay group Open Doors.
Campus police are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
by Laurie Kellman
Washington, D.C.--Law enforcement authorities believe they solved the nearly six-year-old case of a lesbian couple slain in Shenandoah National Park, based in part on statements a man made while serving time on another charge.
Darrell David Rice of Columbia, Md., was indicted on April 9 for the 1996 slayings of Julianne Williams and Laura Winans, the U.S. Justice Department announced, saying the defendant targeted them because he believed they were gay.
The bodies of Williams, 24, of St. Cloud, Minn., and Winans, 26, of Unity, Maine, were found bound and gagged June 1, 1996, at a creek-side campsite in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, about a half-mile off the Appalachian Trail near Luray, Va. Their throats had been cut.
Already incarcerated at the federal prison in Petersburg, Va., for an attempted abduction in the park, Rice made statements in prison that he intentionally selected women to assault "because they are more vulnerable than men," according to government court documents.
Prosecutors also charged in court papers that Rice "hates gays" and that he said Williams and Winans "deserved to die because they were lesbian."
Federal authorities have jurisdiction in the case because the slayings took place on federal land. They are invoking a 1994 hate crime law that includes sexual orientation for crimes prosecuted on the federal level. Since most violent crimes are charged at the state level, the law has not been used before.
Rice was charged with four counts of capital murder; two conventional charges and two as a hate crime. Attorney General John Ashcroft said that if convicted of any of the charges, Rice could face the death penalty.
"The volatile, poisonous mixture of hatred and violence will not go unchallenged in the American system of justice," said Ashcroft, after meeting with the families of the victims.
The indictment charged Rice with capital murder and with intentionally selecting and murdering the victims "because of the actual or perceived gender or sexual orientation."
The government is prepared to present evidence that "the defendant’s killing of the two women was part of an ongoing plan, scheme or modus operandi to assault, intimidate, injure and kill women because of their gender," according to court filings.
Gay civil rights groups at the time of the killing urged the FBI to examine the possibility of the murders being a hate crime.
Rice has been incarcerated since July 9, 1997, after pleading guilty to verbally and physically assaulting a female bicyclist in the Shenandoah National Park. She avoided being forced into his truck, so he tried to run her over, authorities charged. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on that conviction, according to court filings.
It was there, as investigators tracked down more than 15,000 leads and contacts in the Williams and Winans murders, that Rice made comments relevant to the case.
"Interviews subsequent to his arrest indicated that he may have been involved," Brownlee said.
Rice told authorities the women "deserved to die because they were lesbian whores.''
Similar incidents involving lesbian campers have been reported. In the most famous, Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner were shot in 1988 by a "mountain man" who lived in the woods. Steven Roy Carr said he was enraged when he spied on them kissing and making love in a secluded area off the Appalachian Trail near Gettysburg, Pa. Brenner survived five gunshot wounds, but Wight died of a wound to her liver. Carr is currently serving a life sentence for the attack.
Another female couple was found, also with their throats slashed, near Williamsburg, Va. in 1986. Three other couples, all heterosexual, were killed near the Appalachian Trail between then and the Williams and Winans murders.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Ohio students fall silent
Cincinnati--Students at universities and high schools in Ohio and across the country kept quiet on April 10, observing the sixth annual Day of Silence.
The event is a nationwide youth protest using the silence of students to mirror the silencing of gay men and lesbians through violence and discrimination.
Students at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati had teachers sign forms acknowledging the students’ desires to observe the day, avoiding discipline for not responding to teachers. The school supported the students’ wishes to participate.
At Cincinnati Country Day School, 50 of the roughly 280 students observed the Day of Silence. The University of Cincinnati, Xavier University and the University of Northern Kentucky also had observances, joining North Olmsted High School near Cleveland, Cleveland State University, Ohio State University, Ohio University and others throughout the state.
"Usually we equate voice with power," said Jaime McCauley, the LGBT coordinator at the University of Cincinnati’s Women’s Center, "but in this case it’s an example of silence being very power.
Hands ring capitol for rights bill
Lincoln, Neb.--Six hundred fifty people joined hands to form a human chain around the Nebraska capitol on April 10, rallying to support legislation banning anti-gay employment discrimination.
The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Ernie Chambers, was among the speakers at the rally before the human chain was formed. He encouraged those attending to continue their efforts and to be role models for others.
Nebraska Coalition for LGBT Civil Rights organizer Christy Knorr asked people to link hands and join in a period of silence, tying the event in to the National Day of Silence, also held that day.
"This is not just a demonstration for LGBT rights, this is also for basic human rights," Azure Wall, a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told the Daily Nebraskan.
Although backers believed they had the support of a majority of Nebraska lawmakers, the bill was killed by a filibuster on April 16, the final day it could be voted on.
Name change ends ‘green apple bias’
Dayton--Residents of a Union Township street, tired of snide remarks about their addresses, convinced county commissioners on April 9 to change the name of Gay Road to Green Apple Road.
Residents said they were not making a statement against homosexuality. But gay civil rights activists said the residents’ problem with the street name is telling.
"Here are non-gay people who can’t even take the harassment of living on a street called Gay, much less being gay," said Jim McCarthy of Dayton. "Wouldn’t it be nice if the gay and lesbian community could simply petition to have themselves named the ‘green apple community’ and we could eliminate the harassment, intimidation and hatred that we experience on a daily basis."
Betsy Gressler, a spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and former Cincinnatian, said residents "clearly understand the sting of homophobia if they perceive there to be a stigma of living on Gay Road."
Montgomery County commissioners said they approved the name change because there were no objections from residents and Green Apple Road did not conflict with another street name in the county.
240 years for torture robbery
Indianapolis--A judge has found a man guilty of charges that he robbed and tortured two men who prosecutors say were targeted because they were gay.
Jamie C. Carson, the grandson of U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, D-Ind., faces up to 240 years in prison after being convicted April 12 of charges including robbery, criminal deviate conduct and criminal confinement. The Indianapolis man also was convicted of carrying a handgun without a license.
Marion Superior Court Judge Patricia Gifford, who found Carson guilty after a one-day bench trial, set sentencing for May 10.
Prosecutors said the victims were targeted because they were gay. Police said Carson and two accomplices forced the men at gunpoint to perform sex acts on each other during a robbery in the victims’ Indianapolis apartment in 1999.
One man was forced to drink a mixture of bleach and urine, police said. Both men were tied up and burned with a steam iron.
Police say Carson’s fingerprint was found on the steam iron. He has maintained that the evidence was planted by police.
Two other men, Bryant Clark and Joshua Powell, have already pleaded guilty in the case and are scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Ban on 2-mom certificates defeated
Denver--The Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee on April 10 killed a bill that would have banned gay couples from getting court approval to put both their names on birth certificates.
The four Democrats on the committee outvoted the three Republicans to halt the bill, which passed the House last month after hours of committee hearings.
Anti-gay activists charge that the bill is necessary to insure that birth certificates reflect the reality of a child’s conception, while family law attorneys note that there is no requirement that birth certificates be biologically accurate.
Opponents of the bill argued that birth certificates record the two people who are willing to take physical and financial responsibility for the child, and that allowing both parents, regardless of gender, to be recorded on the birth certificate is in the best interests of children.
by Milla Rosenberg
Columbus--After his last album, songwriter Bob Mould, singer with the legendary punk band Hüsker Dü and later with alternative rockers Sugar, took up a new profession: scriptwriting. For professional wrestlers.
Mould went to work for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. There is something wonderfully queer about an openly gay yet introspective musician directing the scene for 350-pound, muscle-bound grapplers.
This creative range does not just describe Mould’s career path; it defines his music. On April 7, he performed at PromoWest Pavilion as part of the "Carnival of Light and Sound" tour. Displaying remarkable versatility, he moved from electronica to ballads to indie rock with ease.
For almost two hours, Mould pounded out new material from his album Modulate and mined his extensive catalogue of punk and acoustic gems. He played before a crowd of about 1,000 fans.
Looking fit and trim in a black T-shirt and jeans, Mould opened with "180 Rain," the first cut from Modulate. Behind him sat two large video screens, which ran a continuous montage of images and stock footage, matching the lyrics and themes of each song.
During the first tune, when Mould asked "Are you happy now?" a leatherman action figure, spinning on a toy turntable, appeared with happy splayed across its chest.
Mould’s camp sensibility also emerged during the second song, "The Receipt." Images of New York harbor dissolved into a shot of a green highway sign that read "Meat Market, Exit 4." The double entendre was not lost on this fan.
Drawing upon sharp and subtle imagery, the song "Lost Zoloft" became a powerful critique of the beauty industry and its effects on lesbians and gays. The screens showed a young woman putting on makeup and smiling brightly, followed quickly by the same girl with a black eye, looking despondent.
Soon, a parallel image appeared of a tanned gay man peeling latex off of his face. The subsequent image showed the man being seduced by his double, now marked by a gloomy expression.
Although Mould has not lost his critical eye, he performed with joy and agility. His voice sounded sharp on the Hüsker Dü classic "Hardly Getting Over It," and when he broke out "Brasilia Crossed With Trenton," he soloed, extended the ending, and strummed beautifully.
Mixing old and new, he played "Celebrated Summer," pounded workmanlike through the new tunes "Slay/Sway" and "Sound On Sound," and sung his heart out on the Sugar track "Your Favorite Thing."
Mould appeared pleased with the audience, and he rewarded them with four encores. Crooning the break on "Too Far Down," he belted out "Ooo-eee." When he followed with "If I Can’t Change Your Mind," the crowd went absolutely wild.
He rounded out the show with the seminal "Makes No Sense at All," and he played a soaring version of "Man on the Moon."
Mould’s time away from recording was well-spent--for a man who has been rocking for over twenty years, he has not lost a step.
Mould returns and re-tools
Reviewed by Milla Rosenberg
Bob Mould has never sounded happier.
Reflecting his creative work and time spent in New York City, the new album Modulate, released on his own label, Granary Music, combines electronica, synth-pop, and new wave with Mould’s raw, legendary guitar power.
This is best expressed in the brief "Hornery," with the wash of metallic guitar recorded in what sounds like a steel mill. The piece segues into "Come on Strong," a bubbly tune about an overeager guy who needs to tone down his pick-up move ("Back off, it’s all wrong").
Mould’s voice sounds gentle and melodic, as he asks, "Do you realize how fragile life is?"
On "Trade," a mid-tempo track, Mould mixes melancholy and hopeful. "Today’s the first day of the rest of your life/Today’s the last day for the weak," Mould sings to a lover, sounding protective yet carefree.
Although the album is filled with upbeat tunes and vocals, Mould’s razor wit and political insight still comes through. On "Lost Zoloft," over video-game blips and haunting tones, he croons about "gay panic" and the perils of cruising in the city: "You think you know the animal until you strike a nerve/A latent homosex becomes so violent when provoked and now obscured."
Fans of earlier Mould material will love the new single, "Sound on Sound." A brilliant, rocking track, Mould writes about a married couple and the conventionality that has drained the passion from their relationship. Cleverly, Mould examines his own role as observer at the song’s conclusion: "I frame the picture neatly, you appear to wear the crown/You’re so great to have around."
And "Slay/Sway" rocks out, a powerful, expansive anthem that recounts Mould’s experience growing up and witnessing an assault on a young teen boy.
This year brings two more Mould records: the just released Long Playing Grooves, which continues to experiment with ambient music, and Body of Song, which is more like his classic solo album, Workbook. Modulate is an exciting departure for Mould--bridging several genres, he has never sounded more at home.
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