Toledo--A bill enacting health benefits for domestic partners of city employees has been tabled until the new year at the request of the mayor.
The bill was introduced to City Council November 12 by council member Wade Kapszukiewicz. A public hearing set for December 5 was canceled and not yet rescheduled, but Kapszukiewicz remains confident that the bill will pass.
Kapszukiewicz said the delay gives the city auditor more time to study the potential cost of the benefits, which has become a matter of concern to some members of council and the unions representing city workers.
The unions object to the possible cost of the benefits, coming shortly after they narrowly approved a new contract with a one-year wage freeze.
Don Czerniak, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, which represents a third of Toledo�s 3,000 employees, said he has no problem with the idea of benefits for domestic partners, only that proponents of the bill have not determined the true cost.
Czerniak said the city told him it had a budget deficit between $5 and 18 million. His union approved a contract with no raise in 2003 and 2% raises in 2004 and 2005 by a slim 14-vote margin. The other city worker unions have similar situations. A city proposal for workers to pay part of their health insurance was rejected; the city will continue to pay all of it.
Czerniak said Kapszukiewicz met with him three times with estimates of what the domestic partner benefits would cost.
The city currently spends $18.7 million per year on employee health care, and Czerniak said Kapszukiewicz�s figures ranged from $875,000 - 187,000 annually, decreasing each time they met--a point that Kapszukiewicz confirmed.
The cost depends upon how many workers put their domestic partners on the city health plan. In other cities, this has been around one to two percent, corresponding to Kapszukiewicz�s lower figure.
Czerniak said whatever the true figure is, it could be the difference between raises or no raises when they bargain again in three years. Once that is known, he said, the union will likely end its current opposition to the measure.
Log Cabin objects to bill
Czerniak said that the other concern with the bill--whether it should cover both same-sex and opposite sex couples or just same-sex couples--is of no consequence to him.
That point has been raised by the Log Cabin Republicans of Northwest Ohio, a gay group who also says that they were not consulted while the bill was being drafted.
The proposed bill covers both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners.
In a November 21 statement, Log Cabin described the bill introduced by Kapszukiewicz, a Democrat, as �not thought out well enough.� They added that the current proposal creates disincentive for heterosexuals to marry and is more expensive.
The group contends that extending benefits only to same-sex partners who cannot marry is the only �socially and economically prudent way to proceed,� as well as more consistent with Republican philosophy on social issues.
Log Cabin Republicans of Northwest Ohio president Dave Schulz said his group will continue to oppose the current proposal and push for coverage of only same-sex partners, but will ultimately support whichever version goes before the council.
�We�re not going to be obstructionists,� said Schulz, �and we will continue to try to deliver Republican votes.�
Of the city council�s 12 members, three are Republican. Two of the three Republicans, Rob Ludeman and George Sarantou, have publicly campaigned against any domestic partner bill.
Sarantou told the Toledo Blade that marriage is an issue for the state legislature and Congress, not for a city council. He said that after he wrote to 150 houses of worship about the bill he found significant opposition.
Neither Sarantou nor Ludeman returned calls for comment.
No Democrat has publicly opposed the proposal, though Kapszukiewicz said that some have expressed concern privately. This is mostly about cost, he said, not the bill�s philosophy or merit.
Public comment is 50-50 for, against
Kapszukiewicz said amending the bill to cover same-sex couples exclusively �has been discussed, but is not a likelihood,� though he adds that doing so might make the bill easier to pass.
Kapszukiewicz said that it was Mayor Jack Ford who requested that action on the bill be delayed. Ford served on the committee that studied the issue and drafted the bill.
Kapszukiewicz said the postponement should give the city auditor more time to get information from other cities with partner benefits about the measure�s cost.
�Just having a firm number will ease the heartburn [the labor unions] have,� said Kapszukiewicz.
Kapszukiewicz said that there has been �very little input from the public� about the bill, and what is there is �running 50-50 for and against.�
Asked about Sarantou�s letters to churches, Kapszukiewicz responded, �I don�t consider that to be organized. Someone asked their opinion.�
In exchange for delaying action on the bill, Kapszukiewicz said that Ford promised him and openly gay council member Louis Escobar that after the first of the year, he would take a high profile stand for the benefits. Ford told Kapszukiewicz he would use his bully pulpit and political relationships to push for the bill�s passage.
Kapszukiewicz added that having Ford in that role will ensure the bill�s success in the event that he is appointed county commissioner before it passes.
Lucas County Commissioner Bill Copeland may retire due to age and health in 2003. Kapszukiewicz is heavily favored to be appointed by the Democratic Party to finish Copeland�s term. If that happens, Ludeman wants to challenge him for the seat in the 2004 election.
Cleveland�Dr. David Smith will assume the position of executive director of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center as of December 9, just over seven months after former director Linda Malicki announced her resignation.
Smith, 54, earned a doctorate in education in 1984 from the State University of New York in Albany. He brings extensive experience with non-profit organizations to the position. This includes stints at the Mobile AIDS Resource Team in Boston, the AIDS Council of New York in Albany, Planned Parenthood and the Connecticut Department of Education.
He spent the last five years as a contracted management consultant, most recently in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while monitoring Ryan White Title I funds for the Broward County Human Services Department. There, his title was quality assurance specialist in the Substance Abuse and Health Care Services Division.
Smith�s studies focused on program development and evaluation, as well as the effects of internalized homophobia. His background as an educator includes courses he taught ranging from psychology to the humanities.
�This position embodies all that I have trained for academically, worked for as a volunteer and wanted as a career,� Smith said. �This job will enable me to work full time in the LGBT communities and bring my gifts to those efforts for equality and freedom from oppression for our members.�
�Quite simply,� he continued, �this is a spiritual commitment for me.�
Center board president Janet Kuster finds Smith�s qualifications impressive.
�David offers the center and Cleveland great experience and vast skills,� she noted. �He is a proven leader and will help take the organization to higher levels of advocacy, programming and service.�
His first priorities as he assumes the mantle of executive director will be to hire development and program specialists for the organization.
The search for a new executive director was originally expected to take around three months, but no successor had been selected by mid-summer. Over 50 candidates applied for the position, but the center�s board and search committee decided to expand the search nationally, reaching out to a wider array of candidates.
�We owe it to our community to find the best executive director we can,� Kuster said at the time. �This is the center�s first leadership change in several years and we�re looking for someone who can carry the organization and the LGBT community forward.�
John Farina, chairman of the search committee, noted that the longer search enabled the committee to make sure they selected the best candidate.
�It was an exhaustive search, nationwide,� said Farina, who was loaned to the center by the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, where he serves as director of public policy. He was responsible for much of the day-to-day financial operations of the organization during the search.
�We looked at 130 r�sum�s, and conducted by phone or in person 20 interviews,� he noted. �The search committee spent six months, countless hours, working on it and we�re very excited about the result.�
Malicki�s term as executive director was one of the longest of any LGBT organization in the state, and was considered unusually long, even on a national level. Her departure brought a tide of praise from her colleagues around the country, and a tribute to her efforts was held in November.
Smith will become the fifth person to hold the post of executive director in the organization�s 28-year history. During its early years, the Gay Education and Awareness Resources Foundation, as it was known then, had no executive director.
Washington, D.C.--The U.S. Supreme Court agreed December 2 to hear a case challenging a Texas law making oral and anal sex between consenting adults of the same sex a crime.
In doing so, the court also agreed to reconsider its widely-criticized 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision giving states the right to pass such laws.
The case is the final appeal of two Houston men, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were convicted of �homosexual conduct� and deviate sexual intercourse following their arrest on September 17, 1998.
Both men pleaded no contest to the charges and paid $200 fines plus $141.25 court costs.
The men were arrested when deputies responded to a false report that an armed man was �going crazy� in Lawrence�s apartment. When they entered the apartment, they found the two men in the bedroom having anal sex.
Most states have repealed similar laws, commonly known as �sodomy laws,� which date back to the mid-1800s. Ohio repealed its sodomy law in 1972 as part of a comprehensive review of the penal code.
But nine states, Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia, have sodomy laws criminalizing private, consensual oral and anal intercourse between all adults, both same-sex and opposite-sex.
Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Puerto Rico criminalize only same-sex oral and anal intercourse.
Some states require that people convicted of sodomy register as sex offenders. Sentences can be up to 20 years in prison.
The Cincinnati anti-gay activist group Citizens for Community Values said last May that they plan to introduce a new Ohio sodomy law similar to the Texas one. The group is responsible for the Defense of Marriage Act that passed the Ohio House in 2001.
Laws used to label gays as criminals
Though few people are actually arrested for sodomy as Lawrence and Garner were, the laws are often used to label gays and lesbians as presumed criminals.
�These laws are widely used to justify discrimination against gay people in everyday life,� said Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund legal director Ruth Harlow. Lambda represents Lawrence and Garner. �They�re invoked in denying employment to gay people, in refusing custody or visitation for gay parents, and even intimidating gay people out of exercising their First Amendment rights.�
In the case of Lawrence and Garner, an appeal to overturn their convictions was denied by the Texas supreme court. It ruled that the state�s sodomy law �advances a legitimate state interest, namely preserving public morals.�
Arguing against the men�s U.S. Supreme Court appeal, Harris County, Texas assistant district attorney William Delmore said that the court should not interfere with state legislatures� right to enact such laws.
Earlier ruling upheld sodomy laws
The states� right to pass sodomy laws comes from the U.S. high court�s 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision that sexual privacy is not a fundamental right, and that homosexuals have no constitutional right to engage in sodomy.
That 5-4 decision upholding Georgia�s sodomy law--which applied to heterosexuals as well--cited as its legal basis divine law, ancient Roman law on homosexuality, religious traditions, and widespread distaste for gay sex.
Since then, Georgia�s supreme court has struck down the law. Legal scholars continue to hold the case up as an example of a U.S. Supreme Court error.
During an October 18, 1990 speech at the New York University School of Law, retired justice Lewis Powell Jr. was asked by a student if he had ever made a mistake on the bench.
Powell told the students his decision in Bowers v. Hardwick was wrong and that he had regrets about it. His vote had been the fifth and decisive vote for the majority opinion.
A test of equal protection
Three justices that ruled on the 1986 case are still on the high court. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O�Connor sided with the majority, while Justice John Paul Stevens dissented.
Justice Anthony Kennedy is expected to be the decisive vote in the Texas sodomy case.
A Reagan appointee, Kennedy generally sides with conservatives on social issues. However, Kennedy authored the landmark 1997 Romer v. Evans decision, ruling that gays and lesbians as a class could not be denied equal protection under the law due to animus and social constructs.
O�Connor also sided with the majority in that 6-3 decision, which struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment banning gay and lesbian civil rights laws.
The Romer decision will be an important factor in the current case, as Lambda has raised equal protection as one of the key issues to be considered.
According to Lambda supervising attorney Susan Sommer, the equal protection question could not be reviewed in 1986 because Hardwick and his partner were not prosecuted after their arrest.
�In this [Texas] case,� said Sommer, �nobody can make the argument that there was no conviction.�
Sommer said that the Texas law is a good test of equal protection because it criminalizes behavior for homosexuals that heterosexuals are free to engage in.
In filings, Delmore�s response to that claim is that heterosexuals can also engage in homosexual conduct, and when they do, Texas law is applied equally.
Sommer said that if the current court reverses its 1986 decision, the Texas law, as well as all the remaining sodomy laws will fall.
Oral arguments will likely be in March or April and the court will decide the case by the end of June.
Columbus�A proposal to extend health benefits to household members of Columbus city employees was the topic of Stonewall Columbus� first Town Meeting.
The purpose of the November 25 meeting was to discuss the difference between domestic partner benefits and household benefits, as well as the impact of the city�s sexual orientation anti-discrimination ordinance on the decision to provide the benefits.
A four-member panel was on hand to provide information and answer questions about these issues. They were Stonewall executive director Kate Anderson; Mary Jo Hudson, LGBT liaison to Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman�s office; Susan White, former Stonewall board president; and Columbus council member Charleta Tavares.
A group of about 25 LGBT community leaders and members attended the 90 minute meeting, which included a lengthy question and answer session.
Earlier this year, the Columbus civil rights commission ruled that the city discriminated against an employee by not providing health coverage to his gay partner. That decision�s appeal is currently on hold.
In May, city leaders appointed a task force to examine an expanded benefits program with an eventual goal of presenting the mayor�s office with a recommendation. White and Tavares serve on the task force.
Columbus City Council approved domestic partner benefits for city employees four years ago, but they repealed the ordinance two months later to avoid a threatened referendum on it.
This time around, the task force is researching the idea of �household benefits,� a relatively new idea in expanding health care coverage. Household benefits programs currently exist in Atlanta and Rochester, N.Y. These cover unmarried partners and other members of a city worker�s household who don�t normally receive city health coverage.
These benefits could include elderly parents, dependent minors or anyone else living in the household who is dependent, which is the umbrella under which partners of gay and lesbian employees would fit.
Nationwide Insurance, headquartered in Columbus, has adopted a household benefits program similar to the ones adopted by Rochester and Atlanta.
�The mayor is completely committed to expanding access to health care,� said Hudson. �The mayor has taken a lot of heat from other supporters who don�t want to recognize GLBT families.�
�Our panel has been charged with improving access to health care to households, dependents and inter-dependents of city employees,� said White.
�There are not too many models out there of household benefits,� she continued, �and it is taking longer than expected to get all the data and research done in an accurate and satisfactory manner.�
While White serves on the Finance and Eligibility subcommittee of the task force, Tavares serves on the Public Comment and Opinion sub-committee.
�I have always been committed to end discrimination at every level,� Tavares said, �and with health care access too, we need to increase the numbers being insured. The private sector should do its part and the government employers should do their part as well.�
Anderson went through a few basic facts and figures surrounding domestic partner coverage across the U.S. According to the Human Rights Campaign�s figures, there are currently 179 Fortune 500 companies, 4,026 other companies, 177 colleges and universities, and 140 local governments or quasi-governments, such as school boards, which offer domestic partner benefits in one form or another.
Only one to two percent of eligible employees enroll in such programs. Hudson said that the enrollment figures are so low because of a few factors.
�Firstly, it means that the employee has to come out in order to ask for these benefits,� she said. �Secondly, such benefits are taxable as additional income.�
Likely, the city will require dependents or domestic partners to provide financial records, or other evidence of an established relationship, and require that domestic partners have lived together for a certain period of time to qualify for benefits, none of which are required of heterosexual spouses.
But the benefits comprise a major step toward treating gays and lesbians fairly in the workplace. Whether this actually becomes policy in Columbus remains to be seen.
�There is a very powerful, vocal, well-funded, opposition with no real good reasons against GLBT families being included in increased access to health care,� said Anderson.
Tavares said that the only way to make this a reality was to get people educated about the real issues and to form coalitions between the LGBT community and other groups, even previously adversarial ones.
Anderson concluded the meeting with the idea that the LGBT community needs to prove to the mayor and the city that �we are partners in solving Columbus� problems as opposed to being one of the city�s problems.�
�We know that a city that values diversity benefits culturally and economically,� she said.
Miss Char Donay (Doug Page) joins in a dance with Mr. Leather Akron, Kiehl, and Erika (Drew Harper, right).
The three, all of Akron, danced to a Ricky Martin tune at a Thanksgiving dinner in the Akron Pride Center. Nineteen people enjoyed a turkey and potluck dinner at the center on November 30.
Center social committee chair Terry Bates said that in addition to the fellowship, the value of the annual event was for those with little or no traditional family to have the opportunity to enjoy the holiday with their chosen family.
Kiehl, who has only one name from his days as a child actor, is giving all of his Mr. Leather Akron winnings to the center.
Columbus--Sixty people gathered around the Goodale Park gazebo November 20 to remember people murdered in acts of anti-transgender violence.
They joined groups in 35 other cities nationwide, marking the third annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. The events were intended to raise public awareness of and spark discussion about violence against transgender people.
The Columbus vigil brought out twice as many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and supporters as last years� event, mainly because the weather was better.
The event began with members of the MCC choir leading the crowd in singing a few songs of protest and solidarity, including Bob Dylan�s �Blowing in the Wind� with a special verse written for transgendered folk.
Katheryn Kereluik, whose partner Dawn Kereluik is transgendered, noted that the two of them became victims of transphobic violence. Accompanied by Dawn and two children, Kereluik told of a July 11 incident in which a neighbor and two others beat her and Dawn in their front yard.
The past year has been particularly tragic, with the October 3 death of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo in Newark, California bringing the toll to 26 killings since last year�s Day of Remembrance. The number of victims has doubled in 2002 from the previous year. Kereluik said that much of the increase in victims had to do with greater reporting of hate crimes and not necessarily with an increase in violence.
Kereluik argued that naming the victims was important.
�By our naming them,� she said, �we resurrect them and give their lives meaning. By our naming them, we acquire the power to change and educate the world.�
Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, said that it was important to understand that �LGBT people are attacked not because of who they are but because of the hate and ignorance.�
�When we say that someone was attacked because they are transgendered,� she continued, �we take the blame for what the hateful people are doing. It�s the hate that kills. Let�s put the blame where it belongs, not on the victims or the survivors, but on the perpetrators.�
McCauley also said that she was aware that she was sounding like a �stuck record� by repeating over and over for the past twelve years that, �We need to start speaking out, we need to start letting people know what is happening.�
�In the name of all those who cannot speak for themselves,� she concluded, �let us not be silent.�
Chuck Gurney, openly gay weatherman with WSYX Channel 10, spoke about his ex-partner of ten years in Buffalo, New York, who was the victim of a hate crime.
�The only reason his perpetrator was caught,� Gurney explained, �was because he reported the crime.�
Referring to lit candles floating in the pond behind the gazebo where the vigil was being held, Gurney asked the crowd to �reflect on the candles in honor of the spirits prematurely extinguished.�
A few members of the crowd came up to the podium and gave testimonials. Well-known drag performer Vivi Velure spoke about the brutal murder of �my friend and fellow drag queen Brazon.�
Brazon, whose given name was Gary McMurty, was murdered in Columbus on May 17 of this year.
The Columbus vigil was organized by BRAVO, the National Organization for Women, Stonewall Columbus, the Ohio State University Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trasngendered Student Services Office, the Crystal Club, TransMission and other concerned community members.
For more information about the National Transgender Day of Remembrance, see www.gender.org/remember/day/.
Business leaders gather to discuss ways to improve
Columbus�Business leaders met at Ohio State University on November 21 to share ideas about improving relations with their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers and workers.
The seminar, hosted by OSU�s Fisher College of Business, explored the state of corporate policies for LGBT employees and consumers. Titled �Marketing Leadership: Capturing the Gay Market,� the program drew about 50 people to sessions held throughout the day.
A morning panel, led by Bob Witeck of Witeck-Combs Communications and Jeff Garber of OpusComm Group, centered on market research of LGBT consumers.
Witeck�s agency works from a panel of about 10,000 gay and lesbian participants. He pointed out that 74 percent of consumers are less likely to buy products from companies that express negative views of lesbians and gays in advertising.
Audience member Lorin Young was impressed with their fact-based approach.
�The key to capturing the gay market is consistency,� he said. �A company cannot simply enter a market and then pull out after one campaign.�
Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, gave the keynote address on equity in the workplace.
�There has never been such a dramatic shift in such a concentrated period of time,� she said.
Tracing this change in corporate practice, she noted that over half of all Fortune 500 companies have a non-discrimination policy for sexual orientation. Over 100 private employers now protect gender identity in their non-discrimination clause.
Still, Birch noted the need for further change. She said that companies that advertise directly to the gay community must have their own house in order.
�At present, Anheuser-Busch has no business advertising to gay people--they do not offer domestic partnership benefits, nor do they have a non-discrimination clause.�
In the afternoon, the program brought executives together from companies which have been out front in pro-LGBT policies, protections, and practices.
Bob Dreissnak, chief financial officer with NCR Corporation�s retail division, said that when his company began to address diversity in the late 1980s, he realized that some of his friends and colleagues were gay.
�I got to know my co-workers, and this broke down barriers,� he said. �Fairness means offering domestic partnership benefits, as NCR does; it means asking someone, �How is your partner doing?� �
Jane Harper, director of Internet technology and operations at IBM, emphasized that executives must be leaders in effecting policy change.
�You�ve got to have someone at the top,� she said. �It was [IBM chair] Lou Gerstner who commissioned eight diversity task forces modeled after our markets.�
IBM was an early proponent--they added sexual orientation to their U.S. non-discrimination policy in 1984. This year, they added gender identity to their global corporate policy.
Donna James, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Nationwide Insurance, added, �We must continue the work that we�ve done to make LGBT people feel safe at the workplace.�
During a later session on sales and marketing, Sarah Siegel, program director of LGBT sales and talent at IBM, said that clients are generally supportive of IBM�s non-discrimination policy and direct marketing in the gay community. Still, she discussed the sometimes difficult balance between diversity and client desires.
�I had one instance when a client was going to back out of a design project because of our sponsorship of an LGBT event,� she said. �I asked the client, �Do you think that there was some homophobia on your part?� �
Sue McManus, the program�s organizer and an employee with Nationwide Insurance, said that the seminar has two main goals: to encourage greater respect for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender as consumers and to show companies that LGBT people are an important market.
�If a couple goes to buy a car or purchase an insurance plan, they deserve to have their relationship acknowledged by the salesperson,� McManus said.
�Companies appeal to consumers in many different ways,� she said. �We are a niche as much as any group in society.�
McManus chairs the corporate sponsor committee for the Human Rights Campaign�s Columbus chapter.
�We had wanted to do an educational forum for business professionals for about a year.�
The seminar grew out of meetings at the Columbus Metropolitan Club. McManus attended a panel on domestic partnership and heard Donna James speak.
�She was so informative, and the turnout was amazing,� McManus said. �And I realized: People are hungry for this information in a business setting.�
McManus wrote a proposal and collaborated with Leslie Fine, associate professor of marketing at Ohio State University. Together, they secured the financial support of Nationwide and ten other companies, several of which are on the Fortune 500.
McManus added that many executives are simply not exposed to either gay people or gay culture.
�We wanted to address: What is the role of the company in social reform? What can employers do to ensure fairness?� she said.
Columbus--A new Ohio political action committee, formed to fight the Defense of Marriage Act and any future anti-gay bills in the state legislature, had its first major fundraiser November 25.
Ohioans for Growth and Equality is planning additional events through January in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Youngstown, and Dayton.
The group is trying to raise enough money to hire a full-time lobbying firm to monitor the activity of the Ohio legislature, said acting vice-chair Mark Krausz of Columbus. The lobby firm would also give legislative strategy advice, and represent the interests of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Following nearly a year of study and planning, an interim board was selected May 18, marking the official formation of the group.
According to Krausz, membership has since grown enough for members to elect more permanent officers in January.
Krausz said 38 people who came to K2U on High St. for the kickoff fundraiser. The event raised enough money that, with a $5,000 grant they received from the Human Rights Campaign and several smaller donations, they now have $25,000.
This is half of the $50,000 �first phase� budget, said Krause, who is also the group�s finance chair.
The first phase is selecting and hiring a lobbying firm. Krausz said that once a firm is hired, it will still be about six weeks until the PAC has a visible presence at the Statehouse.
�It will take that long for the lobbyist to learn from us about what we need,� said Krausz. �That is, unless there is any anti-gay action. Then we will ramp up very quickly.�
The Ohio DOMA bill, which passed the House last year, has been stalled in the Senate. If no further action is taken, it will die when the legislative session ends this month. It is expected to be reintroduced when the new legislature convenes in January.
The bill seeks to make same-sex marriages and all civil unions against the strong public policy of the state and prohibit local governments from recognizing any non-marital cohabitation for the purpose of granting employee benefits.
Columbus--The jet lag has worn off and baggage has been stashed away, but the 30-plus members of Team Columbus won�t forget their experiences at the Gay Games VI, held November 2-9 in Sydney, Australia. The collection of swimmers, bodybuilders, runners, tennis players, bowlers, golfers and hockey players earned 35 medals and broke nine Gay Games records.
One athlete whose suitcase was heavy with hardware as he left Sydney was swimmer Joe Reinhardt, who earned five gold medals in individual events and three medals (two gold, one silver) in relays, turning in seven record-breaking performances in the process.
Reinhardt was proud of the gold medal he and fellow relay swimmers Julia Applegate, Liv Gjestvang, and Grant Wilson earned in the 200-meter mixed freestyle relay. Reinhardt clocked an impressive 24.1 seconds in his leg of the race.
�It�s euphoric to have team members work together and accomplish such goals,� said Reinhardt of their record-breaking swim.
Other records in individual and relay swimming events�either Gay Games or International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics records�fell at the hands of Applegate, Gjestvang, Rick Leyshon, and Christy Visintine. A number of other swimmers earned medals, including Monic Cunningham, Sophie Dryer, Doug Evans, Heidi Madsen, Michael Mizenko, and Wilson.
Swimmers were not the only athletes to collect hardware for Team Columbus. Competing in his first bodybuilding contest, Troy Swinehart took home a bronze medal for his efforts.
�I was impressed with what our community could achieve,� Swinehart said. �I was awestruck by the level of competitiveness and athletes� willingness to assist and support their opponents.� He looks forward to additional competitions in 2004 and 2006 for Gay Games VII.
Medals in other sports went to bowlers Jeff Short and Brad Sevenich (winners of five and two medals respectively) and ice hockey players Colette Haley and Dottie Dorn, who earned a gold medal playing with a Boston team.
The eight days of competition kicked off with a festive opening ceremony that featured singers k.d. lang and Jimmy Sommerville performing before an audience of 30,000 people. Team Columbus marched into the football stadium with other teams from the United States, which accounted for one-third of the Gay Games competitors.
Team Columbus was formed for athletes participating in the Gay Games to organize and travel together to the games. This was the first Gay Games for most members of Team Columbus. The 2006 games will be a bit closer to home, in Montreal, Quebec.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
J.R. Warren�s parents settle lawsuit
Morgantown, W. Va.�After nearly two and a half years, Brenda and Arthur Warren have found what their lawyer calls closure. Satisfied they have cleared the name of their murdered son, they are settling a wrongful-death suit against his teenage killers.
J.R. Warren, a 26-year-old gay black man from Grant Town, was beaten and then crushed under a Camaro in July 2000 by two teens. Both are now behind bars, one serving a minimum of 15 years for first-degree murder.
The Warrens filed the civil action in June, upset that in defending themselves, the killers had portrayed their son as a sexual predator.
Family attorney Paul T. Farrell would not disclose the amount of the financial settlement with the insurance companies and the four defendants, except to call it substantial.
The suit named Jared Matthew Wilson and David Allen Parker, the admitted killers, as well as a 15-year-old witness who helped conceal evidence and Parker�s father William, who later filed for bankruptcy.
Wilson and David Parker ran over Warren while he was still conscious in a failed attempt to disguise the beating as a hit-and-run, abandoning his body in a gravel pullout about two miles from the Warren home.
At the time of the killing, authorities said Parker initiated the attack in a drug- and alcohol-fueled rage, brought on by his belief that Warren had told others of a long-standing sexual relationship the two had shared.
Superintendent upholds GSA
Cannonsburg, Ky.�Boyd County school Superintendent Bill Capehart upheld a decision by a local high school to allow a gay-straight alliance to meet on campus.
Capehart said the governing council at Boyd County High School made the right decision based on state and federal law.
�Therefore, there is no option but to reaffirm and uphold the decision,� he wrote in a letter to two ministers who oppose the club.
Twice before the council had rejected the request, but changed its decision after a letter from the ACLU said the rejection violated the federal Equal Access Act, which says all extra-curricular clubs must be treated alike.
Capehart said the group that has been meeting at the high school is not recruiting students or discussing sexual practices, and he wants to see myths dispelled.
The two ministers organized a November 10 rally against the GSA that brought 2,000 to a church parking lot, and 400 students skipped school on Nov 4 to protest the group.
Pennsylvania adds gays to hate law
Harrisburg, Pa.�A week after the legislature passed it, Gov. Mark S. Schweiker signed a law on Dec. 3 making Pennsylvania the 28th state to include sexual orientation in its hate crime law.
It marks the first time sexual orientation and gender identity have been recognized as protected minority classes in Pennsylvania.
The current ethnic intimidation law hands out longer jail terms and higher fines for crimes motivated by hatred against victims because of race, color, religion or national origin.
The bill Schweiker approved adds �actual or perceived� ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
Belgium closer to same-sex marriage
Brussels, Belgium�The Senate on Nov. 28 voted 46 to 15 to allow same-sex couples to marry. The measure must now pass the lower house of parliament.
The law, if passed, would not allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt a child, nor would it allow one member of the couple to adopt the other�s child.
If it passes the lower house, Belgium would join the Netherlands as the only two nations allowing full same-sex marriage. Ten other nations, mostly in Europe, have domestic partner laws.
New York rights bill may not pass
Albany, New York�The future of the state�s gay and lesbian non-discrimination legislation may be more in doubt than originally thought.
After stalling the bill for close to a decade, GOP Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has agreed to let the legislation come to the floor for a vote in exchange for gay and lesbian support for Gov. George Pataki�s re-election.
Bruno called a special session of the senate Dec. 17 to vote on the bill, which had enough votes to pass.
Unfortunately, Senate Minority Leader David Paterson said he might not support the legislation because it doesn�t include gender identity.
Sen. Thomas Duane has introduced an amended proposal that includes gender identity. But if the amended version replaces the original one, it will destroy the bill�s chances of being passed duiring the lame-duck final session. The Assembly, which already passed the original bill, will not reconvene.
Gay civil rights legislation has been introduced to the New York legislature every year for the last three decades; Bruno�s deal marks the closest it has come to bicameral passage in that time.
A plethora of gift ideas to light anyones menorah
It�s finally here. After a year (roughly) of waiting, the world finds itself in the midst of the most important eight days of the calendar: Hanukkah.
Okay, by the time this article comes out, Hanukkah will be almost over, but there are still a couple of days to buy presents, and readers with a particular sadistic sense of humor can always call the gifts given to the goyim on December 25 �Hanukkah presents� as an act of Semitic protest.
From web sites for queer Jews to films that would make your mother leave the room, there�s something for everyone available this Festival of the Lights.
In terms of film, Woody Allen collides rather violently with Kiss Me, Guido in Ariztical Entertainment�s Hit and Runway.
Hetero hunk Alex, who works in his family�s restaurant in New York, is also an aspiring screenwriter. He gets a break, though, when his cousin shops out one of his ideas to a studio. The Hollywood bigwigs like the action film�s concept, but want it turned into a comedy.
Enter Elliot, the neurotic nebbish, a character undoubtedly modeled after the Lord of the Nebbishes, Woody Allen. He is an accomplished playwright who can help Alex tweak his script.
The problem is, can straight Alex and gay Elliot co-exist long enough to finish the script? Can they agree on anything?
After film, there�s music. How about a double-dose of good Yiddish boys?
First off, there�s Skott Freedman�s Anything Worth Mentioning, the bisexual singer/songwriter/pianist/activist�s third album. He�s played Pride festivals, he�s made the college circuit talking about biphobia. Now see him shirtless in the liner notes.
Mellow, with an occasional touch of funky, and a voice sometimes reminiscent of Barenaked Ladies, Freedman is an accomplished musician, definitely nearing the top of his craft and gaining much-deserved international attention.
Now, for someone already at the top of the game, and continuing in a piano vibe, look no further than Rhino Records� The Michael Feinstein Anthology, 43 songs from the master of the ivory-tickling showtune.
Among these are eight previously unreleased tracks, including one with Liza Minelli, as well as two songs with Rosemary Clooney.
A brief warning, though. You had better like Gershwin.
Of course, if a certain gift recipient would prefer quiet interrupted only by the soft swishing of pages turning, two new anthologies might be the perfect present to leave under the Hanukkah bush, er, menorah. One doesn�t really leave Hanukkah presents anywhere, does one?
First, there is Queer Jews (Routledge, $19.95), edited by Caryn Aviv and David Schneer. Looking at the entire spectrum of queer Jewish experience, with submissions by gay men, bisexuals, lesbians and transgendered people of every stripe, the book does a marvelous job of gathering a veritable cornucopia of treatises.
Some of the pieces are very personal, like a Jewish lesbian discussing why she chose to have her newborn son circumcised, while others examine issues in a highly academic light, like Oscar Wolfman�s �Remaking Family: Canadian Jews, Sexuality and Relationships,� which examines the intersection of identities in our neighbors to the north.
On the other hand, Found Tribe (Sherman Asher, $15.95), edited by Lawrence Schimel, tells only the first-person. It is the coming-out stories of seventeen gay Jewish men, Schimel included. While giving voice to men ranging widely in age, it does just cover men, leaving it a bit more one-sided than Queer Jews, but for men it should be just as satisfying.
For those who like fiction, there�s always Blood in My Hairspray by Ohioan Steven Schreibman.
Damian Shtup, top-notch hairdresser, finds himself being stalked after a Mafia don�s wife goes belly-up in his posh salon. Can the stylist and a sexy cop unravel the intricate web of deadly deceit before Shtup winds up needing more than mousse to solve his problems?
The best part is, if you read this quickly, you can get over to Body Language in Cleveland and get the author to sign it to the recipient. He�ll be there from 2 pm to 4 pm on Saturday, December 7. For more information, call 216-2513330.
Finally, the internet has brought forth just what those aforementioned queer Jews have been waiting for: Jewcy, at www.jewcy.com.
�Being Jewcy is a lifestyle,� explains co-founder Jason Saft. �It�s pro-Manischevitz, pro-Jewfro. It�s knishes with a knasty attitude.�
It�s also cute. A personal favorite is the Jewcy �rock �n� roll� T-shirt, which says �Jewcy� on the front and �Shalom, Motherfuckers� on the back.
Well, come on. Gene Simmons is Jewish, and if he can get away with stuff like that, why can�t gay Jews? Of course, perhaps the cutest part of it all is the Hebrew letter shin, c, in place of the �w.�
One tiny little warning: these are not the new-jack, baggy T-shirts they�re selling here. These are the old-school, kinda stretchy, hug-the-curves T-shirts. Thank God I asked Saft for an extra large, or I would look like a stuffed kischke.
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