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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 1, 2002

 

Civil union isn’t spouse, court rules

Georgia case was used as argument
for Ohio DOMA

by Eric Resnick

Atlanta--A Georgia appeals court has ruled against a lesbian seeking visitation with her biological children in what some are calling the first case testing whether or not Vermont’s civil unions should be recognized by other states.

The court ruled that Susan and Debra Freer’s civil union did not affect a 1998 consent decree between Susan Freer and her ex-husband Darian Burns. They were divorced in 1995.

The decree bars their three sons from overnight visits with a parent living with someone who is not a spouse or relative.

Susan Freer argued that the civil union makes Debra her spouse under the decree. Susan took Debra’s last name in the July 3, 2000 civil union.

Burns told a lower court in August 2000 that Freer was in contempt of the decree because the civil union did not satisfy it, and he was justified in denying the children visitation with their mother.

Freer has not been allowed to see her sons since then. Her last contact with them was by phone on Christmas, 2000.

The lower court found last year that Freer was not in contempt of the decree because she had "a good-faith belief that she was correct" in her assumption that the civil union substituted for marriage.

But the court did not validate the civil union nor rule that it satisfied the decree. Neither party claimed that the decree was unenforceable, and Freer claimed victory.

Burns then appealed the lower court ruling, claiming that the consent decree specifies marriage, and her Vermont civil union is not a marriage.

Judge M. Yvette Miller agreed. "Susan's position, however, has a flawed premise," Miller wrote for the three-judge panel in the January 23 ruling. "She and her female companion were not married in Vermont." The ruling points out that the Vermont civil union law makes a distinction between that and marriage.

Miller added that enforcement of the decree is the "sole issue in this case," meaning that other cases involving Vermont civil unions could have different results in other Georgia cases or other states.

According to Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund staff attorney Greg Nevins, Freer argued during the appeal that preventing her from visiting her sons is not in the best interest of the children.

Nevins said that Georgia law recognizes the best interest of the children above all other visitation conditions and agreements.

"Consent decrees in the context of child visitation are not like commercial contracts," said Nevins. "The best interest of the children must come first."

Lambda filed a friend of the court brief on Freer’s behalf. Briefs filed on Burns’ behalf include one from Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice.

Freer also argued that since the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the state’s sodomy law and guarantees a right to sexual privacy, her relationship is legal and nothing about it should prevent the court from putting the best interest of the children first.

Burns’ attorney Matthew Staver disagreed, saying, "[Burns] doesn’t agree that lesbianism or homosexuality is appropriate to be displayed in an overnight setting in front of his children."

Freer is considering an appeal to Georgia’s supreme court.

Cited by Ohio DOMA sponsor

The case is significant to Ohioans because Rep. Bill Seitz, the Cincinnati Republican sponsor of Ohio’s so-called Defense of Marriage Act, used it to argue that legislators should pass his bill as quickly as possible.

Assuming that Freer would prevail, Seitz said during debate that this case would force Ohio to recognize Vermont civil unions as marriages. He said his bill, making their recognition against the strong public policy of Ohio, would keep that from happening.

Nevins said because of the consent decree Freer and Burns signed, even the Georgia version of Seitz’s bill was "irrelevant" in this case.

Georgia was one of the first states to pass a "defense of marriage" act, and as the court recognized, it deals only with the legality of same-sex marriages. The Georgia DOMA was passed before Vermont granted civil unions and makes no reference to any relationship other than same-sex marriage.

"If you follow [Seitz’s] logic to a conclusion, it doesn’t make sense," Nevins said. "Georgia’s DOMA law was in effect the entire span of this litigation, so why was he ever presuming that [Freer] would win?"

In a written statement January 29, Seitz asserted that Georgia’s DOMA "probably figured significantly in the outcome" of the Freer case.

Seitz wrote, "My point in raising the Georgia case was . . . people are litigating the issue of the impact of Vermont civil unions in other states . . . and states that have passed DOMA are better situated to reject claims such as Fryer [sic] made than states that have not passed DOMA."

Seitz concluded, "If the Georgia outcome is as you have informed me, then that proves I was correct in that assessment."

Seitz prefaced his statement with, "While I have not read the opinion . . ."

Seitz’s office was told that Georgia’s DOMA was irrelevant to Freer’s case, and Seitz was offered the opportunity to amend his statements, which he did not respond to.

Ohio Freedom to Marry co-chair Dorrie Mills said the Georgia decision was "really sad for these folks and their family."

Mills and her partner Karen Anders were the first Ohio couple to have a civil union in Vermont. Ohio Freedom to Marry has been one of the most visible opponents of Seitz’s bill.

Anders said Seitz’s use of the Georgia case to push his bill is more evidence that he and the bill are "intellectually dishonest."

Seitz’s DOMA passed the Ohio House October 31 along party lines, Republicans favoring, Democrats opposing. It was sent to the Senate, where it has not yet been considered.


 

Stonewall Cincinnati has
a new home in Northside

by Anthony Glassman

Cincinnati—Stonewall Cincinnati has a new home in Northside, having relocated to 4125 Langland St. at the corner of Knowlton.

Their new building also houses Off the Avenue Studios, around the corner from the Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center and very near the Crazy Ladies Center.

The move was precipitated by financial difficulties last year that left the organization $8,000 in debt and without the position of executive director. The new location costs about a quarter of what their old office on Race Street did, including utilities.

"There was a short discussion of whether we should put out to the public the financial difficulties," said board member Mike McCleese, "and the answer was a resounding yes."

McCleese is part of a revamped board that took office in September 2001. A few members of the board, including M. Freeman Durham, Heidi Bruins, Elisheva Kaftal and Jan Scholler, are holdovers from the old board, but are more in tune with the activist direction the new board wishes to take with Stonewall Cincinnati’s activities.

The mostly-new board has reduced the organization’s debt by half through member solicitation, fundraisers, negotiating with debtors and other means. They have also been given a donation to employ an accountant to completely audit the finances from the beginning of 2001. This person will continue to work with the group this year to get the finances in order, allowing board members to pursue education and advocacy outreach. Such outreach will now be, more than ever, the focus of Stonewall Cincinnati’s efforts.

"We’re putting together a new Stonewall Cincinnati with an activist direction," McCleese stressed. "Our goal is to increase membership and as broadly as is possible represent the entire LGBT community."

He noted that there are currently three black board members in an organization that was hesitant last year to take part in the March for Justice protesting the killing of an unarmed African-American teen by Cincinnati police. There is also a board member of Appalachian descent, a group often oppressed in the area.

"Our board is very diverse now, and crosses class, racial and ethnic boundaries," McCleese noted.

There will be an open house for Stonewall Cincinnati’s new home on Sunday, February 17 between 2 and 4 pm. There will also be a general membership meeting on Tuesday, March 26, starting at 6:30 pm at the Off the Avenue building around the corner on Knowlton.

In addition, the group invites interested members of the public to attend board meetings on February 5 and 19 and March 5 and 19 at 6:30 pm at the Off the Avenue building. More information is available by calling Stonewall Cincinnati. Their number, 513-651-2500, remains the same despite the office move.

McCleese is optimistic about the changes in the organization, saying, "One day you’ll turn around and say, ‘Those folks in Cincinnati have it going on.’ "


Darrell Moyers, Dennis McMahon, Stephan Mueller and Alan "Spo" Schwartz, from left, enjoy the warmth before auctioning their clothes to raise money for the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and the Leather Archives and Museum.
Photo by Anthony Glassman

Leather titleists turn out
for first CLAW weekend

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland—Hundreds of people and dozens of titleholders turned out on January 26 for the main event of the inaugural Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend.

The three days of events were designed to bring together the leather community and raise funds for both the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago.

The weekend started with a pub crawl on January 25. The bar hop launched from the Tool Shed, making the rounds through the Leather Stallion, Rockies and M.J.’s Place.

The festivities continued with a reception on Saturday at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center at 3:30 pm with 40 to 50 people, followed by dinner at Bounce, from which the bar donated 20% of the bill to CLAW.

That night, the Tool Shed, its downstairs bar Crossover and the adjoining Man’s World were filled to capacity. There was entertainment, raffles, silent and live auctions and speeches from a number of leather title holders, including Alan "Spo" Schwartz, International Mr. Deaf Leather 2001, Stephan Mueller, the reigning International Mr. Leather and Joni Perry, International Ms. Leather.

They all spoke of the unity of the leather community and its dedication to serving the larger LGBT community and AIDS service organizations.

Mueller also served as DJ for the festivities, with Mr. Cleveland Leather 2001 Dennis McMahon, also a Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center board member, and Greg Ammell, co-owner of the Tool Shed and Laws Leather, functioning as emcees for the evening.

Stephen Scott, Mr. South Plains Leather 2001 and a board member with the Leather Archives and Museum, spoke eloquently on the need to preserve history, to listen to elders and mentors to maintain the continuity from past to future.

Among the other titleholders present were Paul O’Rourke, Mr. Detroit Eagle 2001; Rebecca Harbert and Mark "Sir Garr" Garza, Ms. and Mr. Upper Ohio Valley Leather 2002; Mark Rosenberg, Mr. Cell Block Leatherman 2001; Bob Miller, Mr. Western Michigan 2001 and Darrell Moyers, Mr. D.C. Eagle 2001. A number of other Ohio titleholders were also there, including Randy Austin, Tom Brooks and Frank Perko.

In addition to silent auction items such as weekend stays at inns, CDs, books, framed artwork and leather items, there was also a live auction in which McMahon, Mueller, Perry and Moyers auctioned their leather clothing to the audience.

The Leather Archives and Museum brought a mobile unit to the event, presenting a pictorial history of the leather community and its dedication to community service.

The following day, around 100 people gathered for a CLAW brunch at Bounce.

"I think the Cleveland leather community is getting stronger," said, Lesbian-Gay Center assistant executive director Jan Cline. "The region is supporting the Cleveland community, and it’s great to see the community emerging on its own."

Ammell said, "We’re really grateful at the level of support and are looking forward to doing it again next year."

CLAW is donating $3,000 to the center, while the archives will get $1,000.

The leather community only has a month to relax, though, with Mr. Cleveland Leather 2002 being held on February 23. Bob Miller, Mr. Leather Western Michigan 2001, will be one of the judges, and was impressed with the outpouring of support for CLAW.

"We are very happy with how everything turned out," he said, having helped organize the event.

"We are as happy with the number of thank-you letters we have to write as with the money raised," he admitted. "Around 100 businesses and people helped, and that’s the most gratifying part."

Mueller said that it was the most entertaining event he had attended since winning IML last May. He compared the Saturday night event at the Tool Shed to going to a dance club with friends.

Dennis McMahon was amazed at the success of his venture.

"We had four international titleholders, and Cleveland’s never had one before, and they all got naked onstage to raise money for charity," he said. "People are talking about Cleveland’s leather community now. People are going to want to come to Cleveland for this event because we had such a good time for charity."

"Any time I needed anything, people would step up and say, I can do that. It’s a really warm, fuzzy feeling," he continued. "It’s what the leather community is supposed to be about, pulling together and helping each other and raising money for a good cause."


Victim sues police who
arrested him with basher

by Eric Resnick

Cincinnati--The city of Cincinnati and two of its police officers are facing a federal lawsuit by a gay man who claims he was wrongly arrested and denied his rights after he was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime.

Jason Spears, 26, a gay man, filed suit in the Southern Ohio District Federal Court March 2, 2001 over an incident that occurred March 3, 1999.

Judge S. Arthur Spiegel has just scheduled the final pre-trial conference for February 28, and for a 5-day trial to begin May 13.

Spears alleges that two police officers, Michael Bell and Ryan Jones, wrongly arrested him after using undue force including mace in his face when they responded to an emergency call made by Spears reporting that he had been the victim of an anti-gay assault.

Spears placed the call on March 3, 1999 following an assault by another customer at the Chili Company restaurant on West Eighth St. downtown.

Spears said he was with his brother James, 30, who is also gay. The two met at the gay bar The Dock, left the bar and went to the restaurant. They were seated in a booth directly behind Bill Sapp Jr. and his girlfriend Susan King.

Spears said Sapp began making anti-gay comments, which upset James, who got up to leave. Spears said he got up to follow his brother, and said to Sapp, "I don’t know why people have to go through this."

Spears said at that, Sapp emptied his coffee cup and hit him in the head with it, cutting his eye. Then, as he tried to leave, Sapp tackled him from behind. "My head hit the door," he added.

Officers Bell and Jones responded to the call and arrested both Sapp amd Spears, even though Spears was the victim of the assault. Spears said the officers knew why he called because he told the emergency operator that he was the victim of an anti-gay crime.

Spears said the police accused him of assaulting Sapp and King and of being intoxicated. "I had four or five beers," said Spears. "I was only slightly intoxicated, and I was sober enough to make the emergency call."

Spears said he was later acquitted of all charges, while Sapp was found guilty of assault.

Spears alleges that while handcuffed and under arrest in the police car, being taken to the hospital to get his eye stitched, he asked why he was being arrested. The officers did not like his questioning them, so they stopped the cruiser at the corner of Court and Vine and maced him in the face and poked him with a nightstick, because he squirmed to get away from the mace.

Spears said the two officers made derogatory comments about his being gay, calling him an "ass licker" and telling him, "the next time you get gay bashed, go home and cry about it."

Spears said once he got to the hospital, he protested again.

"No one believed me," he said, "I was incarcerated and I smelled of alcohol and mace."

Police and hospital personnel restrained Spears to the bed to be stitched.

Spears said he was restrained again when he got to the police station and had to undergo strip search and body cavity search.

"There were about seven cops in the room including [Bell and Jones], and I was scared at what they might do to me," said Spears.

Spears was later bailed out of jail by his then partner.

Prior to filing the suit, Spears attempted to get action through the city’s Office of Municipal Investigation. Spears said the investigators dismissed his complaint after interviewing only him and the officers in question. He said he persuaded investigators to re-open the case when he learned that Bell had been disciplined for abuse to the victim of a male-male rape three months later.

Spears’ suit is being tried under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the federal code, which deals with civil action to redress the deprivation of rights.

Spears’ attorney, Lisa Meeks of Cincinnati, said the case falls squarely within that section. Unless the court grants the city’s expected motion to dismiss the case, "it will not likely be one to break any new legal ground, even though it is not the sort of case you run across every day."

Meeks said that if the city tries to claim that the U.S. Constitution does not protect Spears against this kind of offense, "it would be a novel theory."

City Attorney Thomas Harris is defending the city against the charges. He said he is unable to comment on the case until the trial begins.

Meeks said the city’s defense is to deny the rights violation charges and claim that the officers had probable cause to arrest Spears.

Like many complaints about the Cincinnati police by African-Americans, Meeks also alleges that the police are "inadequately trained and/or supervised" so that "homosexual citizens are afforded equal treatment under the law."

The suit also alleges that the city failed to properly discipline the officers involved.

Spears, a full-time student at Cincinnati State University, is asking for a jury to determine the amount of his damages.

 


Dinner and show raises
$10,000 for AIDS groups

Canton--A group created to raise money for organizations that care for people with AIDS will donate over $10,000 to groups in Stark, Wayne, Tuscarawas, and Carroll counties for the second year in a row. The money was raised by an evening of entertainment at the McKinley Grand Hotel (formerly the Hilton) in downtown Canton.

Friends Together for Life, Inc., a two-year-old organization, pulled together nine performers to entertain 400 people who paid $40 per ticket and bought donated items at a silent auction after dinner.

A part of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was on display, mostly the panels of local people claimed by the disease.

Friends Together for Life spokesperson Tim Rypien said this year’s event topped previous events because of support from the non-gay community.

"We’re growing because the majority of the people here are not gay," said Rypien, noting that was not the case in the past. "We are always hearing that straight people don’t want to support AIDS causes, but that has not been the case here."


Attack on O.U. student is
investigated as hate crime

by Eric Resnick

Athens, Ohio--An Ohio University freshman was attacked January 13 while leaving a dance held for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Ohio University police are investigating the assault as a hate crime.

The female student, who has not been identified, left the Open Doors dance at the local hangout Casa Nueva, around 1:00 am.

As the woman walked alone down Jefferson Hill behind Lincoln Hall, she was suddenly pushed from behind. When she tried to get up, one of the attackers shoved her again and pushed her face in the mud.

The woman beleives that there were at least two male attackers, and that they knew she was gay and followed her from the dance.

The Open Doors dance is held for LGBT students the second Saturday of every month.

The attackers reportedly yelled anti-gay epithets including "dyke" at the woman during the assault.

The victim said the attackers held her head so she could not get a look at them and they kicked her in the stomach several times.

The woman reported the next thing she remembered was silence, and thinking she was dead. When she finally got up and noticed she was alone, she reached a campus call box at Bush Hall and contacted a friend.

The friend placed a 911 call to campus police at 1:45 am.

The woman was treated at the campus Hudson Health Center for cracked ribs, a bruised spleen, and scrapes on her hands and knees.

The O.U. police declared the assault an apparent hate crime January 17 and issued a campus-wide safety alert.

The city of Athens has an ordinance enhancing the punishments for crimes committed as an act of anti-gay bias, and that law will apply in this case.

Police have no suspects and have made no arrests.

Mickey Hart, who is the campus resident coordinator and coordinator of LGBT programs, said this was the first anti-gay violent incident on the O.U. campus.

"Athens feels like a safe place to most people, and this really shook people up," said Hart.

Hart said about 150 people joined LGBT students January 17 for a candlelight march though campus to raise awareness about the incident and allow people begin to heal.

Hart said the students feel the campus police are handling the investigation well and are confident that all that can be done is being done.

Hart also said that the Department of Student Affairs is having "a learning experience" from the attack, and will review some of its policies to deal better with any future anti-gay attacks.

According to Hart, the victim has returned to classes.


Scammers target suburbs
with fake AIDS benefit

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland—Someone has been soliciting donations door-to-door in the name of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, and the Taskforce is not happy about it.

The collections are not for the AIDS Taskforce, the organization says, they are fraud.

"The idea that someone would exploit AIDS in such a manner is appalling," said Taskforce executive director Earl Pike.

The solicitations have been in the suburbs of Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and Beachwood. The people running the scam ask for donations for a fake benefit supposedly being held by the AIDS Taskforce.

The Taskforce, meanwhile, is helping law enforcement officials to stop the con.

"We’re working actively with the police to put an end to the exploitation," Pike said. "If anyone has questions about a possible solicitation, they should call us, and we’ll track it down."

Pike warned against the dangers of giving to solicitors who come to the door.

"It is always a risky thing to do," he noted. "If you’d like to donate, send your gift by mail to the organization, and always write a check—don’t give or send cash."

Especially troubling is the fact that the scam comes at a time when all non-Sept. 11 charities are feeling the pinch. Donations to AIDS and other community charities have dropped sharply in the wake of last year’s terrorist attacks, while coffers at the Red Cross and other organizations providing disaster relief are overflowing.

The most important thing, however, is that those who want to give to charity know that their money is going to the right place.

"We want AIDS Taskforce donors to feel secure," said director of development Judy Price, "which is why we decided to put the word out."

"We’ve received several calls from individuals who have been victimized by this scam, and their primary concern has been the potential loss of fund for AIDS services, not losing a few dollars personally," she noted. "That’s the kind of supporter we’ve had in the community, and they deserved to be protected."

The AIDS Taskforce can be reached at 216-621-0766 with questions or concerns.


News Briefs

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

Freshmen favor same-sex marriage

Los Angeles—The majority of college freshman are in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, a survey released January 28 revealed.

According to Reuters, the annual survey, conducted by UCLA and the American Council on Education, 57.9% of the students surveyed said they supported same-sex marriage, up from 56% in 2000 and 50.9% in 1997.

The survey also revealed that 29.9% of students at 400 colleges referred to themselves as liberal or "far left," the highest percentage since 1975, reflected the most major liberal shift in opinions since the end of the Vietnam War.

The survey, done every year since 1966, is considered the most comprehensive study of its kind.

 

Overflow crowd at rights hearing

Dover, Del.—More than 300 people turned out for a hearing on legislation to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation, but no action was taken.

The debate on the bill, which squeaked by the House by one vote in March 2001 and has been bottled up in a Senate committee, centers on whether it sanctions homosexuality and whether people choose to be gay.

The crowd at the Senate Small Business Committee meeting January 28 filled the Senate chamber and spilled over into the lobby and outside steps of Legislative Hall.

The bill, sponsored by GOP Rep. Bill Oberle Jr., adds sexual orientation, "whether real or perceived," to age, race and other factors that cannot be used to discriminate against people in employment, housing, public accommodations, insurance or public works contracting.

The measure exempts religious groups and specifies that it does not confer approval of any unlawful conduct.

Committee chair Robert Venables, an opponent of the bill, said the committee would consider it in March.

 

Civil union bill withdrawn

Sacramento—A state legislator has abandoned for now a bill that would have created civil unions for California same-sex couples.

An aide to Assemblyman Paul Koretz called the move a "strategic decision" because the lawmaker believed it would be difficult to win support for the measure in a statewide election year.

Koretz intends to bring back the legislation in some form next session. It is modeled after a Vermont law that gives same-sex couples all the state rights and benefits of marriage, except the word itself.

Gov. Gray Davis signed a measure last year that provides about a dozen rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples to more than 16,000 registered gay, lesbian and senior domestic partners in California.

Koretz, however, said the domestic-partner law signed by Davis should be expanded to give domestic partners "the full legal recognition of their relationship."

 

Amedure killer loses appeal

Lansing, Mich.—The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the murder conviction of a talk show guest who killed a gay man who admitted to being a secret admirer on an unaired 1995 episode of the Jenny Jones Show.

Three days after the show was taped, Jonathan Schmitz shot and killed Scott Amedure at Amedure’s trailer. Schmitz said he went on the show expecting to meet a female admirer, and was "humiliated" when it turned out to be Amedure.

Schmitz was convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder and is now serving a 25- to 50-year sentence.

In a decision released January 23, the three-judge panel rejected Schmitz’s appeal that the trial court erred when it did not allow his history of alcoholism and suicide attempts to be introduced.

 

Housing board nixes gay loans

Richmond, Va.—Despite a plea from Gov. Mark Warner, the Virginia Housing Development Authority’s board declined January 23 to vote on a proposal that would make same-sex couples eligible for low-interest home loans.

The board opted instead to consider an amendment that would exclude gay couples from eligibility while providing loans for the disabled and elderly as well as single parents or custodians of minor children.

Current regulations restrict the joint purchase of a home to people related by birth, marriage or custodial guardianship. Late last year, the authority did a major study of housing needs. Officials said the findings prompted the staff proposal to eliminate the family rules.

William Leighty, the governor’s chief of staff, showed up at the packed meeting to present a letter urging the board to make gay couples, single parents, the disabled and elderly eligible for low-interest loans.

Virginia is the only state with such a family restriction on loan applicants, officials said.

Conservative activists fought the proposal to include gays and threatened to block the change in the General Assembly if necessary.

 

Bias bill has better chance this time

Albany, N.Y.—The state assembly on January 28 passed a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The measure passed by a lopsided 115 to 27.

Similar bills have come before the assembly for 31 years, and for the last decade they have passed, only to be stopped in the Senate. There, Republican majority leader Joe Bruno has refused to let them come to a vote.

This year, Republican Gov. George Pataki urged the passage of the bill in his January state of the state address. Bruno now says he is open to the measure. The majority of Republicans assembly members voted for the bill, compared to only five out of 51 in 1993.

The measure is not without controversy, even among groups who support gay-inclusive non-discrimination laws. Missing from the bill is gender identity, prompting protests by transgender activists.

Proponents of the bill as it stands argue that adding gender identity would cost it vital bipartisan support, while gender advocates charge that without the addition, it does not reflect the full spectrum of New Yorkers.

 

Eight more Egyptian men arrested

Cairo, Egypt—Eight more men were arrested January 19 on charges of debauchery, a code word used by law enforcement for homosexuality.

While homosexuality itself is not outlawed in Egypt, charges like debauchery or contempt of Islam have been used in at least three incidents in the last year. The first came last May when over 50 men were arrested on a restaurant boat on the Nile on various gay-related charges, including a 17-year-old.

Their trials, except for the teenager, were held in a military anti-terrorism court, without the possibility of appeal. Juvenile court officials were slated to release the teen after dropping his sentence to time served.

Another group of arrests followed those trials, and the Jan. 19 arrests are at least the third.

Human rights organizations warn that Egypt, a key American ally in the current struggle against terrorist elements, is abusing the rights of its citizens on a grand scale, and the arrests amount to a systematic purge of gay men from the conservative Muslim country.

The trials of the eight men opened with the judge ordering the khawalat--a derogatory term for gay men--to be brought in.

 

No drape, no photo

Tampa, Fla.—A lesbian high school senior’s photo will not be in her yearbook because she refused to wear a drape like the other girls.

Nikki Youngblood went to the Bryn-Alan Studios dressed in a suit jacket and tie, and was informed by the studio that the school gave orders that all female students be dressed in black velvet scoop-necked drapes; only boys were permitted to wear jacket and tie in their yearbook photos.

Youngblood and her family are considering filing a lawsuit against the school. The question of whether the point is moot, however, may decide whether the suit is filed.

While school administrators will not allow her picture to be in the regular class section of the yearbook without the dress, Youngblood will appear in the activity section of the book in her regular attire.

Youngblood’s family attorney, Karen Doering, charges that the school engaged in sexual discrimination, since federal and state discrimination suits have found that forcing someone to adhere to gender stereotypes amounts to that, and violation of Youngblood’s freedom of expression.

 

Center seeks ‘faith-based’ funds

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.—A senior citizens’ center aimed at the area’s gay and lesbian community will seek federal funds under Pres. George W. Bush’s "faith-based" initiative.

The center, partially funded by Broward County’s Area Agency on Aging, will be on the grounds of Sunshine Cathedral, a predominantly LGBT church. Sunshine Cathedral will seek "faith-based" initiative funds to supplement the $200,000 they will receive from the Area Agency on Aging.

The religious right has already started protesting against the organization getting federal funding. Janet Folger, a radio host and director of a Christian ministry, called it "state-sponsored discrimination" in comments to USA Today, arguing, "It’s about forcing the taxpayer to subsidize homosexuality."

Supporters of the center quickly pointed out, however, that regulations for "faith-based" funding would cut off federal funds if the center discriminated against heterosexuals.

Edith Lederburg, the director of the Area Agency on Aging, said that the center will simply make a special effort to serve elderly LGBT people in the county. The elderly gay and lesbian community in Broward County is estimated at 15,000.

 

Hate crime vote urged

Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was sent a letter on January 24 urging him to quickly bring a gay-inclusive hate crime bill to the floor for a vote.

The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of senators, including Republican bill sponsor Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Democratic sponsor Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Under current law, hate crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, national origin or color can be prosecuted on the federal level if the victim was engaging in one of six specifically protected activities.

The bill, the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, would add sexual orientation, gender and disability to the list of categories protected under the legislation, and would remove the requirement that the victim be engaged in a protected activity.

Hate crime legislation has passed the Senate twice in the past three years only to be defeated in the House of Representatives.


Going quackers

Gay web cartoon hits Showtime

by Anthony Glassman

There was something a little off about Daffy Duck. When Bugs Bunny was saving his feathery tuchus, he was hanging all over him; the minute the situation went south, Daffy would try to sell him out.

And what about Bugs? How many times did he dress in drag in the Looney Tunes cartoons? The rabbit had more dresses than RuPaul.

Which brings things nicely to the topic at hand. Starting in October 2000, Icebox.com showed five episodes of Mike Reiss’ Queer Duck, a cross between the Looney Tunes and The Boys in the Band, featuring the adventures of a fey male nurse duck.

The show drew over 28,000 hits on the web site its first day, and now it is back, brought to you by those folks at Showtime, the ones playing Queer as Folk and putting together a gay cable network with MTV.

Queer Duck centers around the life and misadventures of Queer Duck, the only character in the cartoon that wasn’t directly lifted from a gay celebrity. He and his friends have all sorts of crazy, albeit incredibly brief, adventures focusing around issues like Dr. Laura, National Coming Out Day, Barbra Streisand and babysitting.

Oh, and such friends he has! There’s his boyfriend Openly Gator, who sounds like Harvey Fierstein. (Two notes here. First, the thought of an alligator and a duck having sex is a little too much suspension of disbelief. Why Queer Duck was still alive after their first date is never explained. Second, the joke. Openly Gay-tor. Argh.) Next up is Bi Polar Bear, a hirsute and husky leather-clad albino who sounds like the late, lamented Paul Lynde. Finally, there is Oscar Wildcat, who insists that coming out would destroy "Mummy."

In one episode, Queer’s brother drops his son off for Queer to baby-sit the morning after a huge party. Openly emerges from the bedroom and, not seeing the child, says, "I’m remembering the party now. It was wall-to-wall cock."

Then, of course, he notices the child.

"Er, coke, I mean we were doing coke. Coca Cola!"

After the nephew tries to watch a video called Poke-a-Man, Gator finally slips him a mickey and the child sleeps through the rest of the visit.

It’s all zany and madcap like that. Better than that, however, is the fact that, unlike another web cartoon that was recently released on video, this one isn’t horribly animated. Some of the motions may be a little jerky, but it’s not much worse in terms of animation than Comedy Central’s Dr. Katz.

The cartoon was created and written by Mike Reiss, who has won three Emmy Awards for his work on shows like The Simpsons and The Critic.

Jim J. Bullock, who got his start playing the wacky neighbor in a completely forgettable Ted Knight sitcom, plays Queer Duck. Oh, so that’s why he doesn’t sound like his voice is impersonating a famous gay person: He’s played by a pseudo-famous gay person.

You know you are in trouble when the butchest voice in a cartoon is RuPaul singing the theme song. Seriously.

It’s a really cute cartoon, albeit a bit old-fashioned. The humor seems at times more relevant to the era of The Boys in the Band than to the new millenium, but perhaps the old jokes are the best.

The cartoons debuted on Showtime’s web site on January 23. It will play on the cable network itself on Tuesday nights after the 11 pm repeat of Queer as Folk, starting on January 29. Showtime’s web site is http://www.sho.com.

 

 

 

 

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