Youngstown--An Ohio appeals court has ruled that police can hide video cameras in public restrooms without warrants from courts. The decision puts Ohio at odds with U.S. Supreme Court rulings that people in public restrooms have a �reasonable expectation of privacy.�
In a December 18 ruling, the Seventh Ohio District Court of Appeals in Youngstown upheld the public indecency conviction of James Henry of Empire by a Jefferson County jury in October, 2001.
The U.S. Supreme Court has routinely ruled against secret surveillance in public restrooms, locker rooms, jail cells and dressing rooms, saying that such cameras constitute illegal searches and thus violate the Fourth Amendment.
Henry, an openly gay man, was arrested as a result of an investigation conducted by Saline Township Police Chief Kenneth Hayes and Jefferson County Prosecutor Bryan Felmet at an Ohio Department of Transportation rest stop on Ohio 7 near the Ohio River between Toronto and East Liverpool.
During the five-month investigation of sexual activity there, video cameras hidden in light fixtures recorded the action of every man who entered the men�s restroom for shifts of eight hours at a time.
Henry, 47, was one of 13 gay, or suspected to be gay, men who were notified of their arrest by mail in July. One of the men arrested had never been to the rest area, though his car had.
Since two of the cameras monitored the parking lot, police could see if men were accompanied on their visit to the rest area. Police did not arrest men who arrived at the park with women, although in some cases those men walked around the restroom with their genitals exposed.
Henry was in the restroom for a total of 47 seconds on May 9, 2001. The tape shows Henry entering, standing at the urinal, and leaving the restroom.
But at the trial, prosecutors convinced a jury that because Henry stepped back from the urinal before fastening his pants, his conduct could have been interpreted as masturbation by someone walking into the restroom.
Prior to trial, Henry�s attorney, Sam Pate of Steubenville, attempted to suppress the tape on constitutional grounds.
Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Corabi allowed the tape, which then became the only piece of evidence at the trial.
In their unanimous opinion, the three-judge panel said that Henry had �no reasonable expectation of privacy so long as he remained in the common area.�
Chief Hayes had removed the privacy dividers between the urinals in order to give the cameras a clearer view.
Those dividers have since been replaced. But that information did not come out during the trial, and was not known by the appeals court.
Judge Mary DeGenaro wrote the decision for the court. At the August hearing, DeGenaro made it clear to Pate that she would focus on Henry�s conduct at the urinal, not whether or not the cameras constituted an illegal search.
DeGenaro cited a 1987 Fifth District case where two male defendants were arrested in a rest area pit toilet with no door lock having oral sex.
That court also said that the defendants had no right to privacy.
But unlike Henry�s case, where the only witness to any restroom activity was a camera, an Ohio highway patrol officer had observed the men prior to their arrest.
Another legal reference used by the court was a 1982 First District decision where the court allowed University of Cincinnati security officers to look under the short stall doors and through openings between the stall frames to arrest people for sexual activity.
But unlike in Henry�s case, that restroom was marked with a sign reading in bold red letters: �No Loitering--Under Police Surveillance.�
A third case cited as supporting by the court involved cameras hidden behind ventilator screens in a bathroom wall in 1980. In that case, the First Ohio District Court of Appeals ruled the cameras constitutional.
But unlike in Henry�s case, the stalls in that restroom did not have doors and the police taped only suspected offenders for short periods of time.
DeGenaro wrote that since the defendants in those cases had no reasonable expectation of privacy, �we believe that an individual would have even less of an expectation in the common areas of a restroom.�
The judges then agreed with the prosecutor�s argument that Henry �clearly wished to perform his sexual act of masturbation or simulation of masturbation in plain view in the common area of the restroom . . . �
�Even if Henry did expect to keep his actions private, Ohio courts have found society is not prepared to recognize as reasonable an expectation of privacy by persons engaging in behavior in restrooms that goes beyond the intended purposes of the restroom . . .� wrote DeGenaro.
The judges contend that because the video cameras did not see anything that could not be seen by someone walking into the restroom, there was no search.
The judges noted that there is �uneasiness and discomfort� with the idea of video cameras being placed in restrooms, but again, treated Henry�s case as unique by saying, �camera placement in the present case limited the view of the police officers to the common areas of the restroom.�
�We concede that this type of continuous videotaping of a restroom may catch unsuspecting innocent people in the act of doing embarrassing things,� conceded the court, but �the common areas of public restrooms remain just that, common and public.�
�The camera is not an ordinary observer,� he said.
Pate also takes issue with the court�s upholding the unclear language in the state�s public indecency law.
Throughout the trial and this appellate decision, Henry was accused of behavior that �could� or �might� offend someone, though the prosecutors had to concede at trial that no person was offended, because no person saw what the camera saw for 47 seconds.
For that reason, Pate wanted the use of the indecency law to be declared unconstitutional.
�What is proof beyond a reasonable doubt with all this �could have,�� �might have,� and �should have�?� said Pate. �It wasn�t.�
While Judge Joseph Vukovich concurred with DeGenaro and Judge Gene Donofrio, he wrote a second opinion expressing his unease with police putting video cameras in restrooms without a warrant.
�I find it ironic that a sign warns a motorist that they are entering a public area of the roadway where speed limits are enforced by radar, but a motorist using a public restroom at a highway rest area has no warning that their visit might be the subject of video surveillance,� wrote Vukovich. �The fact that the foregoing analysis of this court is correct as a matter of law does little to ameliorate the repugnancy of such a practice.�
�I could come easily to a different conclusion with any change in the facts presented in the appeal,� Vukovich concluded.
Pate maintains that the video cameras violate the Ohio and U.S. constitutions.
He and Henry have 30 days to file an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court, and will decide in January if they will do so.
�We�re still swinging the bat,� said Pate.��
Cannonsburg, Ky.--The Boyd County school board suspended all non-curricular school clubs in the district on December 20 in order to keep a gay-straight alliance from meeting.
Boyd County High School�s decision-making council approved the gay-straight alliance in October, sparking rallies and student walkouts. Attendance at school board and school council meetings has grown since the group began meeting, and picketing was planned for Jan. 3 in opposition to the club.
�It was time to put our foot down,� board member Theresa Cornette said.
The federal Equal Access Act, passed in 1984 to allow Bible-study groups to meet in schools, prohibits the banning of one club while allowing others to meet.
Kaye King, faculty adviser to the alliance, said clubs are an important part of education and the decision will hurt all students.
�I�m very disappointed by what I consider an overreaction by the school board,� she said. King said students in the alliance may be blamed for the decision.
The board vote follows a meeting December 17 of the school council at which it took no action on the recommendation of Superintendent Bill Capehart to suspend nonacademic clubs.
The school councils were created by a 1990 school reform act that allows the parents and students to have a voice in how their school is run. The site-based councils are responsible for the day-to-day business of the schools.
The Boyd board is not the first to ban all clubs to shut down a gay one. The Salt Lake City schools took similar action in 1996, but East High School�s gay-straight alliance continued to meet after hours in a rented classroom. The Salt Lake board rescinded the policy in 2000.
Cannonsburg is near the Ohio River, ten miles from the West Virginia border.
From wire reports
Vince Flores, left, and Darren Mauch bump to the beat during "Elves Work Out," one of two dance numbers performed in the North Coast Men's Chorus' holiday concert, "We Wish You the Merriest.� The group's two shows Dec. 21 and 22 drew more than 1,300 people to Cleveland State University's Waetjen Auditorium, including a sellout crowd of nearly 800 Saturday night. The chorus will now prepare for their "Hearts on Fire" cabaret benefit on February 8 and their next concert, "Everything's Coming Up Sondheim," set for March 29-30. Photo: Eric Unhold
Harrisburg, Pa.--The former lesbian partner of a woman who bore five children during their relationship must pay child support, a state Superior Court panel has ruled.
The couple, identified only by initials in the three-judge panel�s opinion, lived together in Carlisle from the mid-1980s until 1997 and agreed to have children together through artificial insemination.
The partner, identified as H.A.N., stayed at home and cared for the children while the mother returned to work in a civilian job for the Navy.
She did not legally adopt the children.
After the couple split up, H.A.N. successfully sought custody of the children during summers and school breaks but argued that she should not have to pay child support.
A Cumberland County Common Pleas judge ordered H.A.N. to pay back and current child support. H.A.N. appealed to the Superior Court, which upheld the lower court�s order.
�It is clear from the record that H.A.N. acted as a �co-parent� with mother in all areas concerning the children�s conception, care and support,� Judge Joan Orie Melvin wrote in an opinion issued Decmebr 17.
A lawyer for the biological mother, who now lives in California, said the case is one of the first appellate-level decisions requiring a non-biological parent to pay child support to her former lesbian partner.
�It puts lesbian and gay parents on notice that the courts will not tolerate blowing hot and cold when it comes to the assertion of parental rights and the assumption of parental duties,� said the lawyer, Mark Momjian. �Non-biological parents who bring children into this world are going to be held financially accountable for their actions.�
Banning, Calif.--The family of a 15-year-old girl filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Banning Unified School District after a teacher allegedly kicked the girl out of gym class because she is lesbian.
The suit, filed December 17 in U.S. District Court in Riverside, alleges the school district violated state law and the U.S. constitutional rights of the student, Ashly Massey. It seeks changes in school policies to handle harassment of students based on sexual orientation, as well as unspecified monetary damages.
The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of Massey�s family.
Named as defendants in the suit are the Banning district, the superintendent, the principal and then-vice principal of Coombs Middle School, and Karen Gill, the physical education teacher who allegedly threw Massey out of class.
Coombs Middle School Dean of Students Bryan James said the school was aware of the allegation.
�We don�t know this to be true, but if it is true, it�s wrong,� James said.
Massey, who confirmed she is a lesbian, said only a few friends knew her sexual orientation last March when a classmate asked her if she was gay while the students were in a locker room. Massey said another student didn�t wait for her answer, loudly blurting out: �She�s a lesbian!�
The teen claims her gym teacher told her that, �Nobody needs to know that.� That same evening, the teacher allegedly called the girl�s mother and said some of the students felt uncomfortable with Massey being in the locker room, the lawsuit claims.
Although the teacher said Massey never acted inappropriately, the next day the girl was told to report to the principal�s office instead of gym class. Massey sat in the principal�s office during gym period for 1 1/2 weeks, the suit said. The girl claims she was never told why she was barred from class or whether she was being punished.
Roger Wolfertz, deputy general counsel for the California Department of Education, said it appeared that the girl�s rights were violated.
�Just because this person is a disclosed homosexual it would be illegal to kick her out of the class just for that,� he said.
Massey said as word spread about her sexual orientation, she was targeted by classmates who hurled insults at her. Her name was sprayed in hateful graffiti around the school, she said.
About 78 percent of teens report that kids who are gay or thought to be gay are teased and bullied in their schools and communities, according to a new National Mental Health Association survey.
Massey hopes that coming forward and talking about the incident would inspire other youths who feel they are subjected to discrimination.
�I hope other kids see me standing up,� she said, �and maybe they�ll take a stand too. Nobody should have to hide who they are.�
2002 was a year of transitions
Every year has its ups and downs, and only after it has ended can people catch their breath and decide whether the pros outweighed the cons of the last twelve months. In that respect, 2002 was no different than the years that preceded it, even though it brought arrivals and departures on a scale virtually unseen in recent memory.
These ranged from leadership changes and the deaths of icons like Harry Hay and Columbus drag performer Brazon to an Ohio judge refusing marriage to a heterosexual couple and the Supreme Court agreeing to reconsider a 16-year-old decision upholding sodomy laws.
Courts were busy
The highest court in the nation announced on Dec. 2 that it would hear a Texas case challenging a law banning oral and anal sex between members of the same sex. The case, the final appeal of Houstoners John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner, may reverse the court�s 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision that upheld states� rights to criminalize sexual activities.
The two men were arrested in Lawrence�s apartment when deputies, responding to a false report about an armed intruder, burst into the home and found the two men having sex.
Meanwhile, the highest court in the Ohio on May 15 struck down the state�s importuning law, which banned same-sex propositions if they were likely to cause offense. The law had been used for years as a mainstay of park sex sting operations.
The Ohio Supreme Court decision came in the case of Eric R. Thompson, who was arrested after offering sex to a jogger while driving home. The Eleventh District Court of Appeals upheld the law in Thompson�s appeal in 2001, but requested Supreme Court clarification of an earlier ruling upholding the law.
The Ohio high court also ruled on July 31 that two women, Belinda Lou Priddy and Jennifer Lane Bicknell, could share a common name, despite lower court rulings and the arguments of anti-gay attorneys that the name change would be tantamount to government recognition of the women�s lesbian relationship.
The couple now live as Jennifer and Belinda Rylen with their daughter Sarah.
Deaths hit home
A number of deaths shocked the gay community here and around the world in 2002. The one that hit hardest close to home was the murder of Gary McMurtry, a popular Central Ohio drag performer better known as Brazon.
On May 17, police believe that stripper Michael Jennings, who Brazon had hired to work some shows at the Eagle, broke into McMurtry�s house carrying a three-foot sword with which he attacked the performer. McMurtry was pronounced dead at Riverside Hospital.
On December 2, Jennings was declared not competent to stand trial, and was sent to receive treatment so he can be tried for the murder.
Brazon�s fellow performer Tara Richmond, the drag persona of Richard L. Henson, died two months later. Early reports indicated that Henson was beaten, but coroners ruled that his July 28 death was the result of a heart attack, and the injuries that led to the rumors of a violent attack were the result of Henson falling in a downtown alley because of the coronary.
On May 6, gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, whose fledgling party was poised to win a large number of seats in the country�s general election, was shot leaving a radio station. An environmental and animal-rights activist was arrested for the crime, and claimed that he was worried that Fortuyn�s policies would damage the country.
Fortuyn was campaigning on an anti-immigration platform, specifically opposed to further immigration from Muslim countries. Fortuyn argued that Muslims coming into the Netherlands did not try to assimilate into the culture of their new country, and he referred to Islam as backward because of its anti-gay beliefs.
Sylvia Rivera, a transgender activist present at the 1969 Stonewall riots, died of cancer on February 19. She was perhaps best known for opening shelters for homeless transgender people in New York City.
The end of October brought two deaths to national attention. Harry Hay, the founder of the early gay rights group the Mattachine Society, died on October 24. He was 90.
A day later, Senator Paul Wellstone and his family died in a plane crash in his native Minnesota. Wellstone was viewed as one of the last true liberals in Congress, and his voting record on LGBT issues was nearly spotless.
Another murder, this one being compared to those of Matthew Shepard and Brandon Teena, rocked the nation in October. Gwen Araujo, a transgendered teenager, was murdered at a party on October 3 when other guests found out she had a penis. Her body was not found for two weeks, until one of the assailants led police to the body.
Bertrand Delano�, who made Paris the largest city with an openly gay mayor in the world when he was elected, was stabbed at a City Hall party on October 6. The attacker, Azedine Berkane, told police he did not like gays or politicians. Delano� returned to work in a few weeks.
Five of six ballot issues win
Senator Wellstone�s death came at a particularly inopportune time, less than two weeks before the election. Republicans swept back into power in the Senate and kept the House of Representatives.
In Ohio, pro-gay gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan was defeated by Republican incumbent Bob Taft.
Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, the most conservative member of the Ohio Supreme Court, won re-election, while pro-gay Tim Black lost his bid to former lieutenant governor Maureen O�Connor.
Republicans remained in control of the Ohio House, gaining a seat to bring their margin to 62-37. In the Ohio Senate, Republicans will now lead Democrats 22 to 11.
Gone from the Senate will be president Richard Finan, who was forced to leave by term limits. Finan used his position in both 1999 and 2001 to keep the �Defense of Marriage Act� from coming to the Senate floor after passing the House.
Five out of six ballot issues across the nation upheld gay and lesbian civil rights, with voters in Miami, Fla., Ypsilanti, Mich., Westbrook, Maine and Tacoma, Wash., upholding their existing anti-discrimination statutes. Voters in Sarasota, Fla., added a gay-inclusive civil rights measure into the city charter.
The one referendum loss was the passage of a �Defense of Marriage� amendment into the Nevada state constitution.
33 candidates elected
Nationwide, 33 LGBT candidates were elected to major offices, including the reelections of Barney Frank, Jim Kolbe and Tammy Baldwin to Congress. Arizona�s House of Representatives got the first openly gay Native American with the election of Jack Jackson, Jr.
Out of four gubernatorial candidates that went on record favoring civil unions, including Tim Hagan, only Jennifer Granholm of Michigan was victorious.
The year began with the departure of Dayton City Council member Mary Wiseman, the first open lesbian elected to office in an Ohio major city. While Wiseman described the doomed battle to bring gay civil rights protections to Dayton as a deciding factor in her retirement, her family was the prime motivation in her decision.
Local groups change leadership
On April 22, Linda Malickiannounced her plans to resign as executive director of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, also to spend more time with her family. The ensuing seven-month national search brought David Smith, an educator and activist, from Florida to fill the position.
Stonewall Columbus filled its vacant executive director position on February 28, with Kate Anderson taking the post left vacant with the resignation of Jeff Redfield.
Stonewall Cincinnati saw perhaps the greatest amount of flux in its leadership over the course of the last year. After a February 11 press conference in which Stonewall board members announced their solidarity with the leaders of a boycott of Cincinnati, four members of the board of Stonewall�s political arm resigned.
Seven months later, board co-chairs Heidi Bruins and Roy Ford, as well as board member Mike McCleese, were voted out of office at the Sept. 10 membership meeting, amid allegations that they had misrepresented the organization�s stance on the Cincinnati boycott and ignored members� wishes to keep the organization focused on LGBT issues.
David�s House Compassion, northwest Ohio�s only independent AIDS service organization, also had a leadership change. The board fired executive director Skeeter Hunt on October 1, elevating director of client services Julie Embree and director of grants and fundraising Heather Stombaugh to the roles of co-interim directors during the search for a replacement, which is expected to take at least six months.
Events on hiatus
Three major events were missing in 2002. The Ohio Lesbian Festival and Out in Akron both canceled plans to hold events this past year due to limited financial and volunteer resources. The Ohio Lesbian Festival will return next year, but the fate of Out in Akron is still unknown. Organizers said that they may simply help other organizations tailor events to the LGBT community.
Another event missing from the calendar was the Dayton AIDS Walk. Its organizers, AIDS Foundation Miami Valley, became the AIDS Resource Center of Ohio, now covering 21 counties in the western half of the state.
The organization nixed its traditional AIDS walk in favor of a masquerade ball and an art and antique auction.
Another institution that underwent a transformation was the Crazy Ladies� Center in Cincinnati, which closed in January and reopened later in the year as the Greater Cincinnati Women�s Resource Center.
Professionals support adoption
Three national professional bodies came out in favor of gay and second-parent adoptions in 2002. The American Academy of Pediatrics� February report focused primarily on gaining legal protections for the partners of legal or biological parents of children, but committee chairman Dr. Joseph Hagan Jr. said that it could also apply to gay couples wanting to jointly adopt a child.
An American Psychoanalytic Association�s position paper, released during their May 10-19 annual meeting, said that the best interests of the child, not the sexual orientation of the adults, should be the deciding factor in any case involving custody or adoption of a child.
On October 15, the American Academy of Family Physicians approved a resolution supporting gay and lesbian adoption, following similar resolutions by the Ohio and New York chapters of the organization.
Thirty-one years after it was introduced, New York passed a gay and lesbian civil rights law, becoming the 13th state to do so. Closer to home, Erie County, Pennsylvania, Charleston, W.Va., and Cleveland Heights all passed pro-gay legislation.
Charleston became the first West Virginia city to add sexual orientation to its hate crime ordinance on February 4, with a 23-3 vote in city council passing the legislation, which adds 30 days and $500 fines for crimes specifically targeting protected classes.
Three weeks later, Erie County passed an ordinance adding sexual orientation to anti-discrimination statutes in the northwest Pennsylvania county. The six-to-one vote ensured that county executive Rick Schenker, former executive director of the Pennsylvania Christian Coalition, could not veto the measure
Cleveland Heights passed an ordinance granting health benefits to same-sex partners of city employees on April 15, igniting a petition drive to repeal the measure. When petitioners fell short of enough signatures, they sued to reduce the number required.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of Cleveland Heights. Opponents of the measure have promised further efforts to repeal it, while backers vowed to defend it against all challenges.
Two �same-sex� marriages
Transgender issues were front and center in 2002, with Ohio�s policies on gender reassignment taking the spotlight.
On July 31, a lesbian couple were legally married in a civil ceremony presided over by a Franklin County probate court judge. Dawn Kereluik and Katheryn Neudecker tied the knot three weeks after a brutal anti-gay attack in front of their home.
Dawn Kereluik was born biologically male. Under Ohio law, she cannot change her birth certificate to reflect her current physical gender. She brought her birth certificate to prove that she was born male, and the judge married them despite their status as a same-sex couple.
On the other side of the issue, Jacob Nash and Erin Barr, a heterosexual couple, have been repeatedly denied a marriage license because Nash was born female. Nash, a Massachusetts native, underwent gender reassignment surgery and had his Massachusetts birth certificate changed to reflect his current biological gender. But Trumbull County magistrate Thomas Norton refused to accept it. Judge Thomas Swift has repeatedly refused to allow the couple to marry, despite having allowed Nash�s name change when he moved to Ohio.
Arguments have been made that Swift�s refusal to accept the Massachusetts birth certificate violates the full faith and credit clause of the United State Constitution. Nash and Barr are contemplating filing a federal civil rights suit against Swift.
First Pride, first mayor
Ohioans turned out in droves to show their pride in June.
Dayton had their first Pride parade on June 1, followed by a kickoff celebration in Courthouse Square that brought around 1,000 people. The following week, Cincinnati Pride brought 1,500 people to Hoffner Park on Saturday for the first night of the Pride festival, and 5,000 people turned out on June 9 for the parade and the second part of the festival.
Heavy rain early in the day didn�t dampen spirits at Cleveland Pride on June 15. Mayor Jane Campbell made history as the first mayor of Cleveland to participate in the rally and parade, as the rainbow flag flew over City Hall. As the rain stopped and the sun came out, the crowd at the festival in Voinovich Park grew to roughly 6,000 people.
The June 29 Columbus Pride Holiday drew an estimated 45,000 revelers, although no official count was released by the city. 4,230 people were counted marching in the parade.
While people of color were present at all four city-specific Pride celebrations, August 1-4 brought the spotlight directly to the African American same-gender-loving community with the sixth Black Unity Celebration. Coinciding with the 2002 African American Men United Against AIDS regional conference, BlackOut Unlimited replaced the traditional Exchange health information festival with an MSM Leadership Conference.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Massachusetts to consider both marriage and civil union
Boston, Mass.--The Massachusetts legislature will, in one way or another, discuss the issue of lesbian and gay partners in the next legislative session, thanks to three separate bills being introduced.
Bills to allow full gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partner benefits for state employees are being sponsored in the state legislature, in what lawmakers are calling a three-tiered system. If marriage fails, try for civil unions, and if that fails, go for public workers� partner benefits.
The civil marriage bill simply says, �Any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender.� If passed, it would entitle same-sex married couples to all state and federal benefits allowed to heterosexual married couples.
The civil union bill, like Vermont�s, would grant only state benefits.
Lawmaker sees support for gay unions
Hartford, Conn.--A top state lawmaker said December 16 he believes the Connecticut Assembly next year will take another step toward providing legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
�I think something will happen,� said Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the Assembly�s Judiciary Committee. He did not provide specifics.
�One way or another the legislature will debate this,� he said after a December 16 public hearing on the matter. �There�s no question public opinion is shifting.�
Lawlor, who backs same-sex marriage, headed the hearing that drew fewer than a dozen committee members.
Legislation banning recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states is also expected to be introduced.
Four other states, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin, are expected to see bills in the next legislative session to expand the rights of gay and lesbian couples either through actual same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Massachusetts will also likely see a �Defense of Marriage� bill to outlaw recognition of same-sex marriage, as will Texas and Ohio.
One suit settled in dog-mauling case
San Francisco--The partner and mother of Diane Whipple have settled their wrongful death suits against the owners of the apartment building where she died.
Whipple was killed in the hallway of her apartment building by a Presa-Canario mastiff, a 100-pound fighting dog.
Sharon Smith and Penny Whipple Kelly, Whipple�s partner and mother, will get an undisclosed amount of money in the settlement, it was revealed Dec. 19.
The lawsuits charged that the building�s owners, Rudolph and Annette Koppl, and Marina Green Properties, the management company that ran the building, were negligent in Whipple�s death by allowing Robert Noel and Marjorie Knoller to keep large, dangerous dogs in their apartment.
The dogs� owners, both attorneys, had ties with white supremacists that breed fighting dogs. The suit also said that the defendants were liable for damages because there was no building manager on the premises.
Smith will donate her portion of the settlement to an athletic foundation and to other non-profit organizations, according to her attorney, Michael Cardoza.
Both Smith and Kelly still have suits pending against Noel and Knoller, who are currently serving their sentences for manslaughter in the case.
Noel and Knoller also have an appeal underway to invalidate Smith�s suit, since under California law at the time she was not considered a spouse and thus cannot file a wrongful death suit. Superior Court Judge A. James Robertson II ruled that Smith�s suit could go forward despite the lack of official recognition of their relationship.
After Whipple�s death, California passed a law to expand the rights of same-sex domestic partners, including the right to file a wrongful death suit.
Paris mayor stab suspect unfit for trial
Paris--Psychiatrists examining the man accused of stabbing the mayor of Paris in October have found him unfit to stand trial, judicial sources said December 20.
The judge overseeing the case, Colette Oper, has requested a second opinion, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The suspect, Azedine Berkane, is accused of attacking openly gay Mayor Bertrand Delanoe at a public, all-night party at City Hall. Officials say he told investigators he knifed the mayor because he disliked gays.
The two psychiatrists who examined Berkane said he suffers from �a mental illness in the form of a chronic delirium,� the sources said. They called Berkane a danger to himself and others and recommended he be placed in a high-security psychiatric hospital.
Judges may be barred from Scouts
Sacramento, Calif.--The California Supreme Court is considering prohibiting state judges from being members of the Boy Scouts because of its refusal to admit gays, the chief justice announced December 19.
The move comes months after San Francisco�s judges and others cut ties with the organization for the same reason. The San Francisco Bar Association and other groups recently asked the high court to revamp the rules.
California judicial canons, controlled by the Supreme Court, already demand that judges divest themselves from groups that discriminate against women and minorities. Rules adopted seven years ago also forbid membership in organizations that discriminate against lesbians and gays, but make exception for �nonprofit youth organizations.�
U.S. view of condoms changes
Washington, D.C.--A government fact sheet that had long promoted condoms as �highly effective� in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases now offers a more neutral summary of the pros and cons of condom use.
Congressional Democrats charge that politics are trumping science.
Health and Human Services Department officials say the revisions are consistent with the science. They deny any political interference.
On the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention�s web site, the condom fact sheet had said that refraining from sex was the best way to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The recently posted version now says condoms �can reduce the risk of STD transmission.� It adds: �However, no protective method is 100 percent effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD.�
The pop art of Michael Owens
Pop art, which became a household name with the multicolor canvasses of Andy Warhol, seeks to elevate the mundane to a more lofty status. Warhol made Campbell�s soup cans into high art--his works are found in many of the world�s major museums and they fetch fancy bids, often in the millions.
Jeff Koons, still working as one of the most prolific and controversial pop artists, has elevated pornography to high art in some of his works. And Ohio-born Roy Lichtenstein turned comic book images into museum-worthy art by creating fanciful, florid, and flamboyant works that deify the world of cartoons.
Columbus artist Michael Owens is in part a pop artist in the tradition of Lichtenstein. In a recent series, currently on display at the Coffee Table in Columbus� Short North district, Owens has created a dazzling array of paintings based on the romance comics started in the 1940s.
Owens� pieces are extremely colorful, masterfully executed and eye-catching at every level. Most importantly, he is able to infuse into his canvasses a healthy dose of wry and rollicking humor. It is a common sight at the Coffee Table these days to see patrons laughing out loud while taking in the dozen or so paintings.
Owens takes these retro romance comics and infuses them with a very, very modern sensibility. The issues of falling in love, searching frantically for that perfect connection and the pain of unrequited love are all present in Owens� works. They were the mainstay of the romance comics of that bygone era. But then Owens does something smart and zany--he says things via his comics that could never have been said in that perfect era of white picket fences, homemade apple pie and white, heterosexual, nuclear familial bliss.
In one, a blond hunk looks directly into the longing eyes of his new boyfriend and says, �I�ll level with you, Steve, I have said it to a thousand guys. But I never meant it before.�
In another, a beaming mother serving coffee, the ultimate embodiment of 1950s cloying suburbia, says to another befuddled looking woman in the frame: �Why, between designing clothing, dance lessons and baking scones, my Mark doesn�t have time for girls!�
In a third, a red headed woman is passionately lip-locked with a dashing male brunette somewhere in the deep of night. The caption to this torrid frame reads: �Then he kissed me! And I knew why I never had time for any boy. I was a teen lesbian.�
Owens has studied his source material well. He replicates the art techniques and the overall mise en scene of those retro comics with uncanny accuracy and dazzling skill. The colors are masterfully used to create not only a sense of nostalgia but also add to the punchy humor in all his pieces. Every stroke is carefully recreated and the text too evokes the cool yet torrid milieu of those artifacts of romantic pulp fiction.
What is truly brilliant about Owens� canvasses is that within a single frame and with minimal text and caricatures he is able to tell entire stories via each painting. With great simplicity, Owens creates an entire world with one piece and even though the characters utter one sentence we get a glimpse of a larger story, an entire history of these characters.
Owens, a veteran of Desert Storm and a native of Colorado, arrived in Columbus as a straight, married man. He came out of the closet later in life and his comic book art reflects those experiences of being on both sides of the fence. While this series of his is extremely popular, Owens also specializes in nudes and abstract art. He also has his fingers in several other pies--he co-owns Vintage Art and Antiques and Metropolis in Clintonville, he is a freelance designer, and he also co-owns Fuse, a modern art gallery.
The current show titled �Love, Lust and Lies� will be up at the Coffee Table, 731 North High Street, through the end of December. All the works are for sale and range in price from $300 to $500. If you haven�t already seen this work, you must. If you already have, you are sure to keep enjoying them upon subsequent and multiple viewings. Those comics may have died out in the 1970s but Owens has resurrected them with a brilliance, artistry, humor and panache that even the originals would be jealous of.
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