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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 26, 2002

Columbus and Cleveland look at partner benefits

Broader measures are considered as Cleveland Heights begins petition battle

by Eric Resnick

As opponents of partner benefits for Cleveland Heights city workers gather signatures to force a vote on them, the cities of Columbus and Cleveland are considering similar benefits for their municipal employees.

After listening to three hours of testimony on April 15, Cleveland Heights city council passed a measure granting health benefits to the same-sex partners of city workers. Opponents, with the help of Cincinnati�s Issue 3 organizers, vowed to collect enough signatures by May 15 to bring it to a referendum.

The city of Columbus, which repealed a new partner benefits ordinance three years ago to avoid a referendum, is now considering a broader measure. It hopes to resolve a civil rights complaint by offering benefits to all members of employees� households, including same-sex domestic partners.

A member of the Cleveland City Council says he will introduce domestic partner benefits legislation soon.

Columbus: All dependents covered

Columbus is hoping that a plan to offer health benefits to all dependent members of city employees� households, including same-sex domestic partners, will bring the city into compliance with its own 1994 civil rights ordinance.

That measure forbids employers from discriminating in the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment by sexual orientation.

A February 23 decision by the Columbus Community Relations Commission held the city in violation of the law because benefits given to heterosexual spouses were not available to same-sex partners of employees.

In December 1998, Columbus became the first Ohio city to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners, but two months later repealed the ordinance to avoid a threatened referendum.

Under the city�s charter, once an ordinance is repealed by referendum, the city cannot address the issue again until the first referendum is repealed by a second one.

Supporters of the 1998 domestic partner ordinance, including the sponsors in council, then-Mayor Greg Lashutka, and gay activists, reluctantly agreed that council needed to repeal the law to leave the door open to take it up again later.

According to spokespeople in the offices of current Mayor Michael Coleman, City Council, and Law Director Janet Jackson, the most likely plan the city will adopt now will be to offer health insurance to all dependent members of employees� households, including domestic partners.

Coleman spokesperson Mike Brown said the plan is in "preliminary stages" and should be ready for introduction "in the next couple of months."

"Research into the possible cost is not finished yet," said Brown.

Council spokesperson Dan Trevas said, "We�re responding to our employees who have asked us to look beyond just domestic partner benefits."

The plan under development is expected to cover grandchildren, dependent parents, minors and students living in the home who may not be the city employee�s biological children; in addition to domestic partners, same-sex and different-sex, with no other access to insurance.

Trevas said community consensus is the goal behind the plan, though he acknowledges that it might be a hard sale to those who oppose same-sex partner benefits for financial reasons.

"The universe of those eligible will be much larger," said Trevas, "but it still shouldn�t be a substantial cost."

Referendum drive expected

Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson said her organization welcomes the proposal, but is taking steps to beat an expected referendum in the fall, regardless of what transpires.

Anderson said the Stonewall board would approve the formation of a separate group able to raise money, campaign, and lobby for political issues at its May meeting.

Stonewall expects those who threatened the 1998 referendum will see the new proposal as a back door approach to same-sex domestic partner benefits and insist that the city solve its dilemma by repealing the sexual orientation part of the 1994 anti-discrimination law.

Attorney Jay Meena, who spearheaded the 1998 referendum threat, has signaled that he thinks either council or the voters should "repeal the part of the [civil rights] ordinance that the Community Relations Commission determined is being violated."

One way or another, we expect that there will be a referendum in the fall," said Anderson.

Cleveland: Same and opposite-sex

Cleveland City Council president Frank Jackson said he expects his city to take up a similar ordinance this year.

"The fact that Cleveland Heights did it sets precedent," said Jackson.

During her campaign for mayor, Jane Campbell said she wanted to see Cleveland offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Council member Nelson Cintron, Jr., representing Ward 14, says he is doing research and will soon introduce an ordinance in Cleveland that will offer benefits to domestic partners of city employees, both same-sex and different-sex.

Cintron says he believes in national health care coverage, and knows that insurance is not easily available to all Americans.

"We need to find ways for cities to become more proactive and cover more people to send a message to the state and federal governments," Cintron said.

Cintron said he has assembled a team including his assistant Bob Woodworth, Stonewall Democrats president Patrick Shepherd, and John James, an assistant to council, to gather information from other cities and private employers who now offer such benefits.

"I want to make sure that when I am ready to present it, that every I is dotted and every T is crossed," Cintron said.

Cintron said he sees domestic partner benefits as a quality of life issue and believes he will have 20 allies for passage among the 21 members of council.

"I think most of the concerns [among the other members] will be financial," said Cintron. "The city is in the middle of a financial crisis."

That concern was echoed by member Michael Polensek, representing Ward 11.

"My initial concern is cost," said Polensek, "My second is what will happen if we open the door to others who are not insured, like children living at home who are not students and over age 18."

Polensek said he does not see this as a "pressing issue" for council and would not want to see a protracted debate on it.

"I�m not sure it has merit at this point," added Polensek, "I�m concerned by the division the issue has caused in Cleveland Heights, and we don�t need that here."

Council members Zachary Reed of Ward 3, Joseph Jones of Ward 1, and Matt Zone of Ward 17 said they support domestic partner benefits in principle, but need to see the specifics and know that they are representing the views of the residents of their wards.

Joe Cimperman of Ward 13 said when compared to civil rights ordinances, domestic partner benefits "is when the pen really gets put to paper."

Cimperman sees the domestic partner benefits debate as "another chapter in dealing with issues of equity and equality that council believes in."

Cimperman said if such an ordinance was introduced today, it would be a close vote, but it would pass. "I don�t see any vicious opposition," said Cimperman.

Longtime council member Fannie Lewis, representing Ward 7 said, "I don�t think I could go for [domestic partner benefits] due to my religious beliefs."

But Lewis also said she would not try to influence others not to support such a bill.

"I haven�t tried to change anyone�s vote in 22 years, and I won�t start now," said Lewis.

Jackson, who also said he supports domestic partner benefits in principle, added, "The better prepared the bill and council are, the better its chances to pass."

Jackson also said he does not want debate on domestic partner benefits to become divisive.

"I won�t allow this to be a battleground," said Jackson, "When it is introduced, there will be hearings and it will move, but not if there are blood and bodies."

National groups are link to Burress

Citizens for Community Values president Phil Burress says national anti-gay organizations refer people seeking help with petition drives to him, which is how he became involved in Cleveland Heights.

Burress is also the chair of the American Family Association of Ohio and involved in nearly every other anti-gay organization operating in southwest Ohio.

Burress formed Citizens for Community Values in 1993 to undo Cincinnati�s newly passed civil rights ordinance that protected gays from discrimination. The "Issue 3" referendum Burress led became Article 12 of the city�s charter, prohibiting city council from ever taking up the issue of equality for gays and lesbians.

"It is because of Issue 3," said Burress. "We were the most successful petition drive ever at the local level, and if you make calls to national pro-family organizations wanting advice, they will refer you to us, especially if you are in Ohio."

Burress said Cleveland Heights residents opposed to the new ordinance contacted him on the recommendation of the national organizations.

Council member Rev. Jimmie Hicks, who was the only vote against the ordinance on April 15, is the leader of the petition drive to repeal it. He said he spoke with Burress, as did Tracie Moore, who is one of the five organizers of the Families First committee, which is gathering signatures.

Burress came to Cleveland Heights the day of the city council meeting, and attended part of the meeting.

"I left after the first couple of speakers," said Burress, "because after a while, all the speakers on both sides say the same things. My wife and I had a long drive back to Cincinnati."

Burress said that the name Families First is coincidence, and not connected to the Cincinnati political action committee of the same name that was formed to lobby for Ohio�s anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

"I know of about 15 other groups that use that name," said Burress, "but there is no connection."

Burress said he began getting calls from Cleveland Heights residents about a week to ten days after the ordinance was introduced April 1.


 

 

Malicki, Bucklew to leave
Cleveland center

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland--After six years as executive director of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, Linda Malicki announced to the board on April 22 that she is stepping down from her post.

Her resignation will become effective as soon as a replacement is found following a candidate search. She is the second long-time staff member to announce her departure.

Bob Bucklew, who has been the director of health and wellness services for three years, has taken a job with the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit of University Hospitals. His last day at the center is April 26.

"Bob started the health outreach program here," the outgoing executive director said. "He brought some very innovative ideas and started a great program that will impact a lot of people at all levels around Cleveland."

Among his duties was supervision of the Living Room drop-in center for people with HIV and AIDS and coordinating the hotline and peer support volunteer program.

"He�s a great team player, and will be very much missed," she concluded.

"I plan to continue to volunteer for and support the center," Bucklew said. "It�s been a real honor to serve the community."

Malicki will remain in her position for the near future. It is expected to take two to three months to find and train her successor, during which she will continue to function as the executive director.

"Basically, it�s something I�ve been thinking about since last fall," she said. "I�m just tired."

Malicki wants to spend more time with her family, especially her mother. She noted that in her current position it was too difficult to do that, as work-related issues arose which demanded her presence.

Her imminent departure is being felt strongly by her co-workers.

"I�ve enjoyed working with Linda over the past four years," associate director Jan Cline said. "It�s been a growth experience for me."

Malicki�s tenure at the center began in 1988 when she joined the board of directors while also the owner and operator of Another State of Mind, an LGBT bookstore in the near-west suburb of Lakewood.

Leaving for Tennessee in 1989, she returned in 1993 and was hired as administrative assistant for the center by then-executive director Judy Rainbrook.

In 1996, Malicki was appointed to fill the executive director post vacated by Rainbrook, a position she has held since then.

"How much better off Cleveland and all the centers across the country are, because of her dedication, professionalism and leadership," former Stonewall Columbus executive director Jeff Redfield said of Malicki. "She has been a friend and colleague, but more importantly, a mentor."

"I�ve really been very supported in this job, and that�s one of the reasons I�ve been able to last this long," she said, referring to her unusually long stay in the top position.

Former center board member Tim Wilmot noted, "What is most remarkable to me--and perhaps least recognized about Linda�s accomplishments--is how she has also effected social change at the state, regional and national levels."

"I�m very proud of the accomplishments the center has had under my tenure," Malicki said. "It�s a fabulous organization and I hope the community will continue to rally around it to keep things moving forward."


Stonewall Columbus elects a new board president

Group may form a political action committee

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus--Two months after Kate Anderson stepped into the position of executive director of Stonewall Columbus, the board of trustees has a new president and vice president.

Susan White, who has held the post of board president since July 2000, stepped down as of the March 20 board meeting. Rob Berger, her vice president since September, was chosen to succeed her. Chad McCoury was elected vice president.

"Rob was on the slate of candidates," said Leslie Fine, chairperson of the new Communications and Public Relations Committee. "It was a unanimous decision."

White had accepted a partial term as president to groom Berger for the post during his tenure as vice president. It was Berger who facilitated the February changeover from former executive director Jeff Redfield to Anderson�s stewardship.

"Sue has been a great mentor," Berger said. "She is staying on the board; there is a position on the executive board for the past president."

"I�m very excited," he continued. "I�ve been really impressed. In just two months, Kate has shown an amazing amount of energy and leadership. We�ve got a dynamic executive director and a great group of people. I hope I�m up to the task."

Those around Berger believe that he is more than ready for the position.

"Rob will hit the ground running," White said. "He�s going to do a great job."

Despite her faith in Berger�s ability to lead the board, White expressed mixed emotions on stepping down from the post.

"It�s an exciting time for us," she noted. "I�m excited for what�s happening, kind of sad that I won�t be in the throes of it."

According to Berger, he has three goals for his term: expanding the programming offered by Stonewall Columbus; increasing and maintaining the membership base, and giving the organization a political voice.

Berger noted that polls conducted of Stonewall�s membership and the greater LGBT community in Columbus have shown a desire to have Stonewall take a leadership position on political issues. This is something they have been unable to do because they are a non-profit organization.

The board has formed a committee to provide recommendations on accomplishing this goal. This would most likely be through a political action committee, or PAC, associated with, but officially separate from, the larger organization. Stonewall Cincinnati has such an arrangement.

The collaboration between the new executive director and the incoming board officers is already proving fruitful. At the April 20 meeting, two new committees suggested by Anderson were approved by the board. In addition to the Communications and PR Committee, a Social Issues committee was created.

"Everyone is pretty enthused about the work," Fine said.

The emphasis on continuity and cooperation will help the organization meet the needs of the community, the new board president believes.

"Stonewall Columbus is a team effort," Berger said. "It will give me an opportunity to give back to the community and have some personal growth myself."

 


Fusion kicks off season by shutting out South Bend

by Heather Gmucs

South Bend, Ind.--The women�s professional football season kicked off April 20, with the Cleveland Fusion trouncing the South Bend Golden Hawks 39-0.

The Fusion went into the game holding fast against the larger women on the Golden Hawks, despite first-game jitters that kept the game scoreless for the entire first quarter.

After that, conditioning won out as the Fusion netted 140 yards rushing and 180 yards passing, compared to the Golden Hawks� 83 total yards.

"We just devoured them," said defensive end Sherry Heart. "The first quarter we were a little nervous, but once we got our game on, we totally took over."

The first women�s pro football league formed in the 1960s. Cleveland�s team in that league, the Brewers, ended their run in 1983.

The Cleveland Fusion and the new league are still in their infancy. The staff and the women are reaching into their own pockets to pay costs associated with playing on their teams. Players compete for the thrill of the sport rather than the salaries.

"The biggest thing we need are corporate sponsors to help with the cost of equipment, bus rental for away games, and for the cost of the field that we are playing on," says Fusion president Kelly Antal.

The team�s next game is against the veteran Detroit Danger, a May 4 away game. The Danger will be a bigger challenge, having played last year, but Antal is not intimidated.

"[The Fusion is] going over game films," she said of their preparations for the challenge. "We�re not going to cut back on any practicing. We know this is a tough team to go up against."

While women�s professional sports are not generally as highly regarded as men�s, the Fusion staff believes that the league is sound.

"At first I was a little bit skeptical [about women�s professional football], but once I got my hands dirty with it, I thought this is actually pretty cool . . . this is totally viable," said Fusion marketing director Tino Roncone. "We couldn�t have expected that we would have gotten the kind of support that we got this year."

The league emerged into controversy last year when a player from the Philadelphia Liberty Belles came out with an offhand "Of course, I�m a lesbian" comment in an interview in Sports Illustrated for Women. League owner Catherine Masters was furious, not wanting the league "to be known around the world as a bunch of dykes."

Sexual orientation often comes up in reference to professional women�s athletics. The Fusion players and staff, however, believe the question is a non-issue.

"It is a decision that I leave up to each player and one that I do not regulate nor feel I have a right to," Antal said. She scoffed at Masters� urging that team owners be present at player interviews to regulate what makes it to the media.

Heart said, "Everybody is very respectful of each other. The only issues in the locker room are how hard we�re hitting each other in practice."

Expansion plans are already underway for a team to play in Columbus in the 2003 season.

With professional women�s football in Cleveland, this summer is going to be one of the hottest. Fans can join the team for away game road trips by signing up for a seat on the team fan bus. Ticket prices, player stats, and other info is available online at http://www.clevelandfusion.com or calling 440-816-1457.

The team�s first home game will be on May 18, when they host the Southwest Michigan Jaguars at Bedford Stadium.


 

Centers conference highlights
health care, voter turnout

by Milla Rosenberg

Columbus-Stonewall Columbus hosted the Eastern Midwest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Centers Conference on April 19 and 20. About thirty adults and twenty youth attended the all-day meetings held at Kaleidoscope Youth Coalition.

Centers in eight cities were represented. These include four in Ohio, Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron and Athens, home to Ohio University. Also present were people from centers in New York City; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Terry Burch of the National Association of LGBT Community Centers gave a plenary talk the first day on "Tobacco 101." Ohio�s recent Tobacco Youth Prevention and Control Foundation study showed the state ranks third in the nation for adult tobacco use.

Burch�s tobacco prevention work is funded by the Centers for Disease Control.

"Our research shows that our community smokes twice as much as the heterosexual community," he said.

Leah Hackleman, director of programs at the Ohio Association of Non-Profits, shared tips on getting grants with the participants. She suggested that LGBT people may get involved in grantmaking in ways not immediately connected to the community.

"In an ideal world, your mission and your funder�s mission will be the same," she said. "But some foundations, like the Columbus Foundation, are interested in investing in certain neighborhoods. If your members live there, they can get involved."

Carmen Vazquez, director of public policy at the New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center, wrapped up the day with a presentation on voter mobilization. Pointing out that control of the House of Representatives turned on only 5,000 votes, she noted that every vote counts, and legislators know it.

"When you vote or you advocate on an issue, legislators begin to see us as people," she said. "It�s not like they are doing you a favor by granting you an audience. It�s their job to serve you."

Vazquez recounted elections in San Francisco, where lesbian city council member Margarita Lopez won her primary by 288 votes; and where a superior court judge won by 188 votes.

Some attendees had concerns about the community center�s role in partisanship. Vazquez made clear that non-profit centers cannot endorse candidates, but they can register people to vote and host candidates on both sides of the aisle. Last summer, the New York center hosted 300 people for the mayoral race--all but one candidate visited the center.

"We are three percent of the vote, anywhere. How many people live in Columbus?" Vazquez asked. When an audience member replied, "About a million," she said, "I guarantee you, about nine percent of the vote here is queer."

Vazquez said that if centers host candidates, it is important for them to ask them broad questions to ensure balance and fairness.

On Saturday morning, Amy Vail of Impact Safety Programs presented a workshop for teens on setting boundaries and staying safe. In the afternoon, Ray Irion of Southeast Recovery and Mental Health spoke about the resurgence of substance abuse in the GLBT community.

Stonewall Columbus program coordinator Angie Wellman said that one of the main goals of the conference was for people working in the community to network and learn.

"We shared some new approaches," Wellman said.

Wellman found the presentation on substance abuse very useful.

"He spoke to the need for adequate services, and that we be aware of the issue," she said. "It also reminded us of the importance of holding some chem-free events."

While the conference is held annually, the networking among organizations is largely informal. Most of the dialogue and planning will take place over e-mail.


Federal job bias act would
dent Issue 3, town hall told

by Doreen Cudnik

Cincinnati-Roughly thirty people turned out for an April 20 town hall meeting at St. John�s Unitarian Church to learn more about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The federal legislation, currently in Sen. Ted Kennedy�s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was first introduced in 1993 and re-introduced in June 1999. The measure would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this year. It would then move to the House of Representatives, where it is currently eight votes short of passage.

Bill Bridges, chairman of the Cincinnati Political Committee of the Human Rights Campaign, hosted the third in a series of informational meetings about ENDA. Bridges spoke about a recent meeting with the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which he said was fairly conservative paper.

"I won�t say that they�ll write an editorial supporting ENDA," Bridges said, "but they now have a better understanding of our issues and the need for gays and lesbians to have equal protection under the law."

Bridges encouraged those present to write letters to lawmakers like Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinivich, who have not supported ENDA.

Votes change when legislators hear from their constituents, said HRC state legislative manager and legal counsel Kylar Broadus, who attended the forum.

"One of the things we have to do is figure out just how many of us are voters, because it�s way over ten percent," Broadus said. "Legislators are figuring that out and telling me that the previously quoted 10 to 12% is a very conservative number."

Broadus added that recent polls showed 83% of Americans support ENDA.

There is a measure of irony in Broadus championing ENDA: as a transgender man, the legislation as currently written would not protect him. Broadus surprised some in the audience when he identified himself as transgender, and engaged the group in a bit of "transgender education 101" before discussing the fine points of what ENDA does and what it does not do.

Simply put, Broadus said, ENDA�s sponsors are "not for adding trans people. But will HRC do the right thing? I certainly think so or I wouldn�t be here."

Broadus encouraged other transgender people like himself to "move past their anger at not being included" and work with HRC and local organizations to educate legislators, "because many of them have no idea what �gender identity� is. We have a lot of work to do."

Among the points discussed during the evening was how passage of ENDA would affect Article 12 of the Cincinnati City Charter. Passed as Issue 3 in 1993, the amendment bars the city from passing LGBT-inclusive civil rights protections.

Bridges has said that ENDA�s passage would override a significant portion of Article 12, making the local ordinance easier to repeal. A group called Citizens to Restore Fairness has formed in Cincinnati to work on the repeal of Article 12.

Broadus said that Article 12 needs to be repealed regardless of whether or not ENDA passes, adding that HRC would "definitely support any local work to get rid of it, because it�s just ridiculous."

ENDA was to be voted on in Senator Kennedy�s committee on Wednesday, April 23. A vote is expected in the full Senate this fall.


News Briefs

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

Student sues man who bashed him in Kent restaurant

Ravenna, Ohio--Mikell Nagy, a former Kent State University student, filed a civil suit on April 18 against a man convicted of assaulting him in a restaurant last year.

Nagy�s suit also named the Denny�s restaurant chain and three other patrons at the restaurant as defendants in the suit.

After an evening at a nightclub on April 20, 2001, Nagy and a group of friends were waiting to be seated at Denny�s on Ohio 59, on the border between Kent and Franklin Township. Another patron, Brian D. Lydick of Ravenna, called Nagy a "faggot." The two then exchanged words and Lydick hit Nagy, knocking him unconscious.

The jury split in Lydick�s first trial, but he then accepted a plea agreement rather than go to through a second trial. He was sentenced to ten days in jail and fined $200, compared to the possibility of six months and $1,000 if he had been convicted by a jury.

The suit, filed in the Portage County Court of Common Pleas, asks for $25,000 in damages from Denny�s for failing to provide security for restaurant patrons, and $25,000 from Lydick and the other three men for medical bills, lost income and emotional and physical pain and suffering.

Nagy has transferred to Cleveland State University. The Denny�s where the incident occurred is now closed.

Council votes to keep frat out

Kent, Ohio--The Kent State University Inter-Fraternity Council on April 22 voted down an application by Delta Lambda Phi, a national fraternity for gay, bisexual and progressive men, to join the council.

Of the 15 fraternities voting on the council, three abstained, four voted to admit Delta Lambda Phi, and eight voted against them.

Eric Van Sant, the advisor for the fraternity, said the school�s Campus Life office had been pressuring them to apply for associate membership on the council.

As a group with dues and an exclusive membership, the fraternity cannot be a student organization under university rules. But it can�t operate as a fraternity without council membership.

With the vote going against it, the future of Delta Lambda Phi on the Kent State University campus is in question.

"We�ve spoken to our national office and still want to be on the IFC," Van Sant said. "We are currently working with Campus Life to see how that�s going to happen."

Van Sant also spoke to Dean of Students Greg Jarvie, who assured him that despite the exclusive membership and dues structure, the organization will remain on campus, although in what specific capacity is not yet known.

Delta Lambda Phi�s Ohio University chapter in Athens is a member of its school�s inter-fraternity council, and members of that chapter are expected to speak to fraternity council officials at Kent State about the organization�s inclusion.

Prisoner sold as sex slave

Wichita Falls, Texas--A black, gay Texas prison inmate was raped repeatedly and sold as a sexual slave by other prisoners, says a suit filed April 18 by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Texas prison system.

The suit, filed on behalf of Roderick Keith Johnson, alleges that until he was transferred to another prison this month, Johnson "was subjected to a system of gang-run sexual slavery" over 18 months in the Allred Unit, just northwest of Wichita Falls.

"Prison officials were well aware of his plight, but refused to conduct any meaningful investigation of his complaints and refused his repeated pleas to be housed in safekeeping," said the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita Falls.

"Prison officials knew that gangs made Roderick Johnson their sex slave and did nothing to help him," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU�s National Prison Project. "Our lawsuit shows that Texas prison officials think black men can�t be victims and believe gay men always want sex--so they threw our client to the wolves."

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Todd said the agency had not seen the suit but was aware of complaints from Johnson.

TG man sues �Sally Jessy� show

Medina, Ohio--Michael A. Shields, a transgendered Medina County man, filed suit April 23 against the Sally Jessy Raphael Show and its production company, accusing them of fraud, invasion of privacy and breach of contract.

According to the suit, a booking agent for the show promised Shields that his identity would be protected in the episode, as well as allowing him to view the show before it aired and helping pay for sex reassignment surgery.

Shields charges that, while they paid for his ticket to the taping in New York on Dec. 7, 1999, the producers did not make good on their promises to pay for pre-surgical counseling or the surgery itself, and also did not pay for a return flight.

Shields was brought to the attention of the show�s bookers by his aunt, who saw an ad on the show asking viewers to call in if they knew someone who was "living a lie," according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

A friend of the family later saw an ad for an episode dealing with transsexuals where Shields was clearly visible. When Shields called to complain, the producers pulled the show from the Cleveland market, but it was still broadcast in other areas, including Florida, where Shields� grandparents saw it.

At the time of the taping, Shields was 17.

Texas sodomy law upheld

Dallas--The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the state, let stand an appeals court ruling affirming the constitutionality of the state�s gay-only sodomy law on April 17.

The court refused to take up the issue, in effect upholding the 14th District Court of Appeals in Houston.

The appeal stemmed from an incident in 1998 when deputies, responding to a false report of an armed intruder in an apartment, entered the residence and arrested John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner, who were having sex. They were kept in jail overnight and charged with a Class C misdemeanor.

They pleaded no contest, but later appealed with the help of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in their favor, but prosecutors requested a ruling by all nine judges.

By the time the case came before the entire appeals court, the state�s Republican Party had gotten the two judges who voted against the statute defeated in the election, despite the fact that both were Republicans themselves.

Lambda is now pursuing an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, although the high court�s 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick ruling upheld the rights of states to have sodomy laws.

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

 


Evenings Out

Trembling before g-ys

by Anthony Glassman

The religious right has a favorite Bible passage. It�s from the Old Testament, which some would say is inapplicable when discussing Christian law, but that is an argument for another day. It�s been translated and re-translated and mistranslated, but that is also an argument for another day.

"A man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they have both done an abomination: they shall be put to death, their blood is on them," supposedly reads Leviticus 10:13.

However, even if Christian fundamentalists accepted the argument that Levitical law doesn�t apply to Christians, there is still a group to whom it does apply: Jews. Especially the Orthodox Jews.

Of course, being egalitarian, we Jews don�t leave out our lesbian sisters.

"For women to rub against each other in the position of sexual intercourse is forbidden . . . It is fitting for the court to administer lashes for this transgression," reads Even HaEzer 20:2, from the Shulchan Aruch, a 16th century compendium of Jewish law.

Placed against this backdrop, what becomes of gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews? Do they give up their gayness, give up their Judaism, live double lives, go slowly insane?

As the documentary Trembling Before G-d illustrates, a little from column A, a little from columns B and C and D.

This film by Sandi Simcha DuBowski examines from virtually every angle the trials of being queer in so constricting a world. He interviews the gay men and lesbians who have left Orthodoxy, as well as those hiding their sexual orientation or trying to reconcile their religious beliefs with their psychosexual imperatives.

He also interviews a plethora of rabbis and psychological professionals representing the complete spectrum of opinion on the matter. These range from Steven Greenberg, the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi in the world--and a Columbus native--to a doctor who prescribes anti-androgen drugs to suppress his patients� sex drives so they won�t be motivated to have sex with other men.

The people in the film range geographically from New York to London, Jerusalem to Los Angeles, representing a range of the Jewish diaspora as it struggles to maintain its coherence in an era where more and more of its children leave to lead more secular lives.

Trembling Before G-d played at the 2001 Cleveland International Film Festival, as well as the Sundance Film Festival, and won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival. Now, however, it is finally being released theatrically.

Incidentally, the hyphen in the film�s title follows Jewish law, which proscribes writing the name of the deity except in religious texts. You can substitute letters, but you can�t write the name unless it�s in a prayer book or a Bible or some scholarly text.

Sandi Simcha DuBowski and Rabbi Greenberg, among others involved with the film, will be touring the state to coincide with the opening of the film in different cities, and there will be speaking engagements and related events. For instance, in Cleveland, there will be a discussion with the audience following an 11 am screening of the movie at Shaker Square Cinemas on Sunday, May 12. This will feature a brunch as a benefit for the Chevrei Tikva synagogue.

The film will open in Columbus on May 8, Cleveland on May 10 and Dayton on May 17, although a firm date has not yet been set for Cincinnati. It is, however, expected to open there in the middle of May.

For Jews, this film can be a painful reminder of a past left behind, a case of "There but for the grace of God." Or, it can be a call to arms, a reminder that there are people who desperately need a sympathetic ear, a shoulder on which to cry.

For the goyim (non-Jews), it is a bridge, an illustration of the parallels between religious extremists in different religions. It is also an illumination into the very private, almost secretive world of Orthodox Jews. The Amish are fairly tolerant of visitors, but four thousand years of pogroms and Holocausts have left the Hasids, as they are also called, a little wary of strangers.

Of course, there is also something a little ironic in the thought that a people persecuted for thousands of years would turn around and cling so desperately to their persecution of others.

Trembling is an extremely moving, insightful film, well worth the cost of admission now that it will play across Ohio. Just don�t go on Saturday--that�s the Sabbath.

 

 

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