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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 22, 2002

 

Call and response

Bitch and Animal took over Club 202 in Columbus on February 19 with riotous abandon.

The show was nearly sold out, the club packed full of men and women alike, many of whom came on the recommendations of friends.

The duo mixes violin, bass, djembe, ukelele, singing and plays a plethora of percussion instruments. One of Animal’s favorite stage props is duct tape. Everything was either taped to the stage or her chair, a sticky and carefully-placed web of sound.

The show was a completely interactive experience between audience and performer, thoroughly entertaining and alive. The crowd was so involved during one of the songs that they were singing along call-and-response style.

Their current album What’s That Smell is out on Righteous Babe Records.

-Heather Gmucs, Photo by Eve Muzic


 

Two cities consider partner benefits

Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley at a February 11 Stonewall Democrats meeting, with members Cal Zunt, left, and Brooke Willis, right. Photo: Anthony Glassman

 

by Anthony Glassman

Both Cleveland and its suburb of Cleveland Heights are preparing to offer domestic partner benefits to city employees, and the smaller city hopes to become the first in Ohio to do so.

The Cleveland measure was proposed in January by Ward 14 Councilmember Nelson Cintron, Jr., and is now in the hands of Council President Frank G. Jackson.

It is in the information-gathering stage, with no date set for introduction.

"We’re putting all of our data together to make sure all council members have the information," Cintron said.

The Cleveland Heights measure is being prepared for a possible March vote, according to Mayor Ed Kelley.

Kelley revealed the plan at a February 11 Stonewall Democrats meeting at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center.

Pointing to the Cleveland proposal, Kelley indicated that he believed Cleveland Heights could beat its neighbor to the punch.

"I’m shocked that nobody in Ohio has this," Kelley told the Gay People’s Chronicle. "I’m proud of Cleveland Heights. I’ve lived here all my life and it’s a great place to be."

"We’re the most diverse community in the Cleveland area," he noted, pointed to figures from the 2000 census.

Kelley said that council members began discussing domestic partner benefits in November or December, and have recently brought it up in meetings of the council’s Administrative Services Committee. Both Kelley and committee chair Nancy Dietrich agree that there seems to be little or no opposition to the measure in council.

"We may have to face controversy, but I don’t think among ourselves there’s any doubt," Dietrich said. "I think that this seems totally positive to me."

The council has been looking at information about other cities with domestic partner benefits, as well as the increasingly large number of big corporations offering them. Kelley pointed to New York City, Disney and, more recently, University Hospitals of Cleveland. About 40 Ohio companies offer the benefits.

The law department, currently examining the issue, is researching whether any of the cities that currently offer domestic partner benefits grant them only to same-sex couples, as Ohio State University does. OSU offers dependent group life insurance to employees for their same-sex partners and their partners’ children. OSU also offers a program called GlobalCare, which provides medical referrals to faculty and staff travelling outside of the state.

"In providing dependent group life insurance and GlobalCare benefits, we are focusing on those who do not have the right to get married," said Larry M. Lewellen, associate vice president of human resources for the university. "We are standing with our peer institutions who have implemented domestic partner benefits in this choice."

"This is kind of the track we’re on," Kelley said. The council is concerned about benefits for those who cannot be married legally.

When the law department has drafted the legislation, it will face two readings in city council meetings. The first reading introduces the measure, the second reading, two weeks later, provides an opportunity for community feedback and final approval or defeat from the council.

"I would think we would be ready to do it in March," Dietrich said.

A major concern for the council is the defeat of a similar Lakewood measure in early 2000. The issue drew large crowds to council meetings in the Cleveland suburb. Many of the people speaking against the measure cited religious objections to the "gay lifestyle" and the perception of governmental sanction of homosexuality brought by granting benefits.

"I think Cleveland Heights might be a little more tolerant than Lakewood," Kelley said, stressing that he was not criticizing Lakewood. "It’s an issue I think we can handle in a nice way. My guess is the Interfaith Council [a group of local religious organizations] won’t get too involved in this."

"It’s an issue I think we can handle in a nice way," he said.

Another argument against the introduction of benefits in Lakewood was the economic ramifications. Lakewood residents referred to their city as the most heavily taxed municipality in Cuyahoga County and fretted over the added burden.

Kelley, however, feels that the additional cost would be minimal. He estimated that six to twelve people might register for benefits. This would add about 2% to the city’s benefits budget.

"That’s nothing," Dietrich said. "That’s like hiring another employee."

Cleveland council members are also concerned that they not repeat the abortive effort in Lakewood. They are also looking at the fate of domestic partner benefits passed in December 1998 by the Columbus city council. The measure was repealed two months later when the city was faced with a petition drive to force a referendum on the benefits.

"If [Lakewood City Councilmember] Michael Skindell has taught me anything, it’s the importance of the process in this issue," Cleveland Ward 13 councilmember Joe Cimperman said of the handling of domestic partner benefits in Cleveland.

Freshman Ward 17 council member Matt Zone also supports the benefits, viewing their passage as an issue of fairness.

"My two predecessors in this seat, Ray Pianka and Tim Melena, were big proponents of equal rights for all people," Zone said. "I don’t think this legislation is a gay or straight issue, it’s about universal health care, something I’m very interested in."

Zone stressed that the city council in Cleveland needs to talk to both the proponents and opponents of such a measure and build a strong community base for its passage.

He mentioned the need to talk to labor and religious leaders, as well as leading organizations in the city’s gay community, including the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, the Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans and the AIDS Taskforce.

The Cleveland proposal would grant benefits to the domestic partners of both straight and gay city employees.


 

Chad Foust begins his
Statehouse campaign

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--With newly created districts, the 2002 races for the Ohio House of Representatives have begun, with openly gay Chad Foust among the first to file a petition for candidacy.

Foust is one of three openly gay candidates considering Statehouse seats, and his February 15 filing puts him ahead of most candidates in the state seeking open seats.

The new 25th district contains the Columbus neighborhoods of the Short North, Victorian Village, German Village, Hamilton and Jackson Townships and the West Side.

According to the 2000 census, there are more gay and lesbian households in this district than any other in the state.

Foust, 28, is a resident of Victorian Village, and will resign the position as an aide to Cleveland Democrat State Sen. Eric Fingerhut on February 25 to campaign full time.

Foust has held that position since March 2000.

Foust began planning his candidacy a year ago, and formed his campaign committee in March, 2001. He has raised nearly $25,000 so far and has been endorsed by the Lesbian and Gay Victory Fund, which will contribute the maximum $2,500 in the primary and another $2,500 in the general election, as well as include Foust in its national membership mailings.

Foust expects to raise and spend $50,000 in the Democratic primary and another $50,000 in the general election.

Though Foust’s campaign is advanced, he will face a tough primary challenge from former Service Employees International Union president Dan Stewart, and if successful, he will face former Republican Columbus School Board President David Dobos in the general election.

As of press time, Dobos and Stewart had pulled blank petitions from the Franklin County Board of Elections, but neither had yet filed completed ones. The filing deadline is February 21.

The area is currently represented by Republican Amy Salerno, but with redistricting, it is now considered a Democratic district. Stewart ran unsuccessfully against Salerno’s predecessor in 1988.

According to Foust, the Franklin County Democratic Party told him months ago that there will be no party endorsements in his race.

Foust said that the House Republican Caucus wants to keep the seat, and has promised Dobos $500,000 for his war chest.

Saying that his campaign will be grass-roots, Foust said, "It doesn’t cost half a million to run this race unless you are so out-of-touch that you have to buy the seat."

Foust is a member of the Franklin County Democratic Party and Stonewall Democrats. He was elected to the Elida Local Schools Board of Education in Allen County in 1995.

His political activity in Allen County has been the target of Stewart’s attacks on Foust, particularly within the party.

Despite his Democratic Party activity, and role as a key aide to the Senate Democratic caucus, Foust is a registered Republican due to a technicality in Ohio election law.

"When I was in Allen County," said Foust, "I was a Republican because that is all there was."

"I remained a Republican in 2000 in order to vote for John McCain in the presidential primary," Foust continued, "But I voted for Gore and Democrats in the general election and I don’t line up with Republicans on the issues."

But in Ohio, one must vote in a partisan primary in order to change party, and the 2001 Columbus primary was non-partisan.

Foust will officially become a Democrat when he votes for himself in the primary. Ironically, due to a similar situation in election law, Stewart is currently listed as an Independent by the Board of Elections.

Foust has made his campaign about setting different priorities for the Ohio legislature. Foust is highly critical of the Republican majority’s failure to solve major problems like education funding and citizen empowerment.

"My message is about education, economic development, and empowerment," said Foust. "Gay civil rights are important to me, but it is no more upfront an issue than anything else."

But Foust recognizes the role he will play as an openly gay candidate. "I do appreciate playing that role," he said, "and I am humbled by the support, trust, and belief that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has shown me so far."

"I believe I am up to this task," said Foust, "to win the primary and go on to win the general election."

Foust’s campaign web site is www.foustforthehouse.com.


Four Stonewall Cincinnati board members resign over boycott

by Anthony Glassman

Cincinnati—Four members of the board of the Stonewall Cincinnati Political Action Committee have either resigned or announced their intention to do so.

The move comes after a February 11 press conference in which the co-chairs of the Stonewall Cincinnati Human Rights Organization expressed their solidarity with the leaders of a boycott of the city stemming from the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police last year.

The PAC is Stonewall’s political arm, the HRO is its non-profit one.

M. Freeman Durham, Lauren Koon and Doreen Quinn have tendered their resignations already. Nancy Minson will meet with the board of Stonewall Cincinnati before resigning her position on the PAC board.

The four made up a majority on the PAC board.

The co-chairs of the HRO board are automatically the co-chairs of the PAC board, and the rest of the PAC board is elected by the PAC membership but approved by the HRO board. The human rights organization is a registered non-profit group, by law only able to campaign for issues, while the political action committee is not, and can support specific candidates in elections.

"The Stonewall PAC is the only LGBT issues PAC in Cincinnati, and it’s critical that it continue," said Doreen Cudnik, board member of the HRO and media liaison for the organization.

At issue is whether the organization should support the boycott of Cincinnati by performers, conventions and businesses, or whether supporting it will cost Stonewall Cincinnati other allies in the fight to repeal Article XII of the city charter. That measure, passed as Issue 3 in 1993, prevents the city from enacting any ordinance protecting the rights of its citizens on the basis of sexual orientation.

The boycott was also a contributing factor to the major change in the board of directors in September, when a number of old board members resigned and nine new members were elected. Some of those leaving did so because of the perception of the incoming members as promoting one issue only, to get Stonewall to support the boycott, according to Durham.

"I’ve seen them work hard on issues completely unrelated to the boycott," Durham noted, refuting that perception. "I don’t question their dedication to gay rights. It was six months before the boycott issue came up."

Durham believes, however, that the press conference and statements later published gave an inaccurate view of Stonewall Cincinnati’s historical position on boycotting the city stemming from the passage of Article XII. He believes the current board’s position on the boycott is beyond anything the group has espoused in the past.

According to Durham, the group previously informed businesses and groups interested in coming to Cincinnati about Article XII and let the groups decide what actions to take on the matter instead of advocating an out-and-out boycott. In 1995, Stonewall Cincinnati launched Project Buycott, which published lists of businesses that included sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies.

"The Stonewall board discussed that using the word boycott should not be the thing that gets in the way," board co-chair Heidi Bruins said. "It’s semantics. Stonewall has actually called it a boycott prior to last April."

Cudnik noted that the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, the main driving force behind the more recent boycott, has been very successful at reaching "artists of conscience." They persuaded Bill Cosby and Smokey Robinson to cancel appearances in the city.

Another issue in the current turmoil over the boycott is whether Stonewall’s alliance with the Coalition will alienate other current and potential allies, like business interests in the city. Durham also believes that, while the action was taken by the HRO, it will affect the ability of the PAC to support gay-friendly candidates.

"We had been very careful for many years not to use the word boycott," Cudnik said. She believes, however, that the additional support generated by Stonewall embracing other social justice issues will outweigh any possible costs.

"Our primary focus is on issues affecting the LGBT community, but we are also concerned with all disenfranchised people," she stressed.

The Coalition for a Just Cincinnati embraces LGBT causes as well as racial justice. They make at least two references to LGBT issues in their list of demands. Under "Restore Public Accountability of the Police," they urge that candidates for the police force be rejected "who may be unable to control racist, homophobic or violent tendencies."

One of the central demands under "Support and Enforce Civil and Human Rights" is the repeal of Article XII.

The most important part of the inclusion of gay issues in the list of demands, according to Cudnik, is the fact that many members of the coalition are black ministers who in 1993 had mobilized voters in favor of Issue 3.

"If they’re working with us on this, how can we not work with them?" Cudnik asked. "The black leaders acknowledge their role in the passage of Article XII, and are serious about its repeal."

The public reaction to Stonewall’s stance has been mixed. The group has received e-mails Cudnik describes as "venomous," as well as some saying, "Bravo, you finally said it out loud."

"The support is good, because it’s been hard to lose old friends who’ve been in the trenches," Cudnik said. "Maybe someday we’ll be able to bring back some of those people who feel we’ve made the biggest mistake."

The matter of semantics behind some of the current debate is open. An October, 1998 position statement by Stonewall Cincinnati reads, "It is up to each organization and business to decide for itself what it wishes to do in light of the discriminatory nature of Article XII. We expect that people of good conscience will not want to do business here."

"Many organizations and businesses have adopted non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a policy. Many also recognize the legitimacy of gay and lesbian families by offering domestic partner benefits to employees with same-sex partners. We expect that these businesses and organizations will be reviewing their plans to hold meeting, conventions and events in Cincinnati in light of Article XII . . . How can any organization that promotes non-discrimination come to Cincinnati if it is true to its own principles?"


Sodomy repeal may have led to Ohio’s importuning law

A hasty amendment to a massive 1972 law reform is now the focus of an Ohio Supreme Court case

by Eric Resnick

The most anti-gay law in Ohio, now being reviewed by the state’s highest court, might owe its birth to the repeal of a sodomy law 30 years ago.

The importuning law makes it a crime to ask someone for gay or lesbian sex if it would offend them. It is unique to Ohio, and its origin is linked to a major event in Ohio’s legislative history.

House Bill 511, passed in December 1972, completely overhauled Ohio’s criminal codes. The first real change to Ohio’s criminal law since 1840, it is the largest bill ever passed by the state. Lawmakers worked on the bill for nearly seven years.

Part of H.B. 511 was the repeal of Ohio’s sodomy law criminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults.

With that, Ohio became one of the earliest states to decriminalize homosexuality, but behind-the-scenes maneuvering and the political climate may have left us with the importuning law.

The anti-gay section of the importuning law, which is section 2907.07 of the Ohio Revised Code, is only one of its three parts. The other two deal with sexual solicitation of children by adults. These are also covered by other sexual offenses created by H.B. 511. Thus, the section prohibiting same-sex inquiries is the only uniquely operational part, and the part that is now under constitutional scrutiny by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The statute has been used extensively by police in sting operations where gay men are arrested after asking undercover officers if they are interested in sex.

Courts reviewing the law have asked why the legislature criminalized homosexual solicitation at the same time it decriminalized homosexual conduct. The answer is cloudy.

Model code had sodomy repeal

In May 1966, the Legislative Services Commission, the agency that provides legal assistance to the legislature, convened a technical committee to review a model penal code drafted by the American Law Institute, and being considered in nearly every other state. The committee included legal scholars, law enforcement officials, and select members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

The model code recommended the decriminalization of homosexual acts, based on the 1957 British Wolfenden Report, which said that "it is not the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens . . ." making it explicit, for the first time, that morality and immorality are not the law’s business.

Members of the technical committee agreed with this. Alan Norris, then a Columbus Republican representative, now a federal judge, served on the technical committee and is credited with selling its recommendations to the House. He saw to it that the old sodomy law was repealed by H.B. 511, along with dozens of other archaic provisions.

Benson Wolman, then executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said he discouraged members of the Columbus Gay Activist Alliance from staging a demonstration in support of the sodomy repeal after the final version passed the House, but prior to Senate consideration.

"It was done very quietly," said Wolman. "If it had been raised to broad view in the legislature, it would have only required one member to propose an amendment [putting it back] that the others could not have refused to vote for."

A newcomer’s amendment

In fact, Joseph Tulley, a Republican from Willoughby who was also the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, attempted to do just that with a floor amendment on March 21, 1972. The amendment, which was not included in the final bill, made it a crime for persons to "have anal intercourse or engage in fellatio or cunnilingus with another."

According to then Parma Republican Rep. Donna Pope, lawmakers burst into laughter when, after reading the amendment, Tulley turned and said, "I don’t even know what fellatio and cunnilingus are."

But once Tulley had the bill opened for amendment, it was Pope who amended it to read, "No person shall solicit a person of the same sex to engage in sexual activity with the offender, when the offender knows such solicitation is offensive to the other person, or is reckless in that regard."

Pope’s motion passed by a vote of 73 to 13, and the importuning law was born.

Pope said she didn’t recall making the amendment, when she discussed it with the Gay People’s Chronicle 30 years later.

"I would agree that people should not be allowed to solicit if the solicitation would be offensive," said Pope, "but that means not just same-sex."

Pope had been appointed to serve the remainder of the term of Gertrude Polcar, who was elected judge in Cuyahoga County two months earlier. She was not a member of the Judiciary Committee, and indicated that since she was new to the job, she wasn’t aware of the six-year review of sexual offenses that had taken place.

But after discussing the language, Pope told the Chronicle that she could have been trying to strengthen the provision making it illegal to solicit children.

Solicitation was discussed

There is evidence, from the technical committee’s memos and miscellaneous documents, that there was discussion by both the technical committee and the Judiciary Committee on sexual solicitation and behavior.

A November 19, 1968 Technical Committee memorandum states, "Although the Technical Committee agreed that consensual activity by adults should not be the subject of the criminal law, offensive solicitation, it reasoned, is not inconsistent with this view. The proposed statute prohibits the act of affronting or alarming another in circumstances where such result is likely by soliciting any person to engage in normal or deviate sexual intercourse."

The Technical Committee’s recommendation in that memorandum was to make all unwanted sexual solicitation--same-sex and different-sex--a third degree misdemeanor.

The House Judiciary Committee, however, was beginning to distinguish same-sex solicitation as more offensive than different-sex solicitation.

In Ohio, committee proceedings are not recorded. Thirty years later, key players on that committee are deceased or have unclear recollection, given that this was such a small part of the entire criminal law reform.

But case notes in the Ohio Revised Code, which summarize committee rationale for passage of laws, indicate that the committee believed that "indiscreet solicitation of deviate conduct is . . . highly repugnant to the person solicited, and there is a risk that it may provoke a violent response."

Columbus urged not to change law

Joe Quigley, then a civil rights activist and now an Ohio State University law professor, recalled that Columbus revised its city codes at the same time, and noted that a group of Christian businessmen went to the mayor demanding that the entire package be scrapped if it included the decriminalization of sodomy.

Quigley, who testified on many provisions when H.B. 511 was being debated, believes that the state legislature could have been under similar pressures at that time.

"It was the same group of people," said Quigley, "who would have been upset by what the state was doing."

Quigley suggested that in the end, the importuning law could have resulted from compromise that made it possible to decriminalize sodomy.

Indicating, as did others, that Norris was adamant about striking the sodomy law, Quigley said, "It could have been that the language in the importuning law was used as a calming effect on those who might try to put sodomy criminalization back in."

Neither Pope nor Norris recalled any such discussion.

The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments on the importuning law February 5. It will rule on its constitutionality in three to six months.


 

Two judges disagree: Is TG man
still female in Ohio law?

by Eric Resnick

Canton--Was Sean Brookings a man or a woman at the time of three of his marriages? Two probate judges in neighboring counties don’t agree.

Summit County Probate Judge Bill Spicer recognizes the transsexual man’s fourth marriage to a biological woman as valid. But Stark County Probate Judge R.R. Denny Clunk had him arrested for making false statements on three marriage license applications.

Brookings was arraigned in Canton Municipal Court February 7 before Judge John Poulos, and pleaded not guilty to Clunk’s charges. He was arrested at his Springfield Township home the day before.

Springfield Township is in Summit County. Canton is in Stark County.

Clunk’s September 27, 2001 complaint accuses Brookings of making false statements on his 1988, 1990 and 1994 marriage license applications. All three licenses were granted by Clunk.

"This is a terrible sham on the court," said Clunk. "The marriage licenses were issued by fraud. He said he’s a male, and he’s not a male under Ohio law."

Clunk conceded that it is "unusual" for a judge to become the complainant in a case, but he added, "I am the proper party according to Ohio marriage statute."

"It’s a minor misdemeanor. It was called to my attention, and I don’t remember how," said Clunk. "Somebody called the marriage license bureau from Akron. I don’t know who that person was, but they wanted to know if we have marriage licenses for [Brookings], and did you know that this person is not a male as he purports to be?"

Clunk’s allegation that Brookings committed fraud by claiming to be male collides with a decision by Spicer in Summit County, who is hearing the contest of the will of Brookings’ most recent wife, Dimple Lois McKinney.

It was Brookings’ fifth marriage--the first two as a bride, the final three as a groom. The groom licenses were issued by Clunk.

Brookings, born Sharon May Brookings, underwent sexual reassignment surgery from 1986 to 1991. Upon becoming a man, Brookings did not get a legal name change through probate court, but did, as Ohio law allows, get a new social security card and driver’s license with his new name and sex using the documentation of his surgery.

Ohio law does not allow a change to be made to the sex designator on a birth certificate after reassignment surgery.

McKinney’s children Leslie Allen McKinney and Kimberly Mendez, both of Akron, say their late mother’s will is fraudulent because her 1995 marriage to Brookings was fraudulent.

But in a pre-trial motion ruling January 31, Spicer affirmed the 1990 marriage of Brookings to his fourth wife, Julia Castells Barreda, as valid and in effect at the time Brookings applied for the license to marry McKinney.

Spicer declared the fifth marriage "void ab initio, void from the beginning, based on "this court’s finding that Sean Brookings was married to Julia Garcia Barreda at the time of the marriage to Lois McKinney."

The two issues in the Summit County case are whether or not the marriage to a female-to-male transsexual is considered a legal marriage in Ohio, and whether or not Brookings legally owns the mobile home he shared with his most recent wife. The home is the only tangible asset of the marriage, and she changed the deed prior to their marriage to pass the property to the surviving spouse.

By his ruling, Spicer indicated that while Brookings’ marriage to McKinney was not valid for other reasons, his earlier marriage to Barreda, four years after surgery, was.

Canton City Prosecutor Frank Forchione said he was unaware of Spicer’s ruling.

Forchione said he was approached about the case by the Stark County prosecutor, who had been called by McKinney’s attorney, Vincent Alfera of Tallmadge.

Forchione said that he decided to prosecute Clunk’s case, even though the events took place 8 to 14 years ago. The statute of limitations on first degree misdemeanors in Ohio is two years.

"It was just discovered," said Forchione, "and the number of people that were defrauded justifies going ahead with it. It will be up to the court to decide if it is right."

Forchione said it is "extremely rare" for a judge to become a complainant in a case, and said his duty as a prosecutor was to see it through.

"I’m not aware of any of his prior rulings," said Forchione of Clunk, who has a history of anti-gay and anti- transgender rulings. "But this office doesn’t see [transsexuality itself] as an issue."

In 1987, Clunk wrote the landmark In re: Ladrach opinion which denied a marriage license to a post-operative male-to-female transsexual and a biological male. It is one of two rulings in the nation that hold that sex is determined by chromosomes, not by genitals.

The other ruling, Littleton in Texas, opened the way there for same-sex marriages involving transgender partners. Two lesbian couples received Texas marriage licenses in 2000 under the ruling.

In 1996, Clunk denied a legal name change to Melissa Franjesh of Canal Fulton, calling her attempt to change her last name to that of her partner of ten years and their daughter, "a fraud on the court."

Clunk opposed the family that Franjesh and her partner Patti Foor had created with the adoption of their first daughter, not Franjesh’s desire to change her name. In open court, he told Franjesh that she could change her name to anything she wanted except Foor.

Franjesh did not appeal the decision.

Brookings is out of jail following bond posted by his daughter and appeared for a pre-trial conference before Judge Poulos February 14.

The purpose of the conference was to attempt to get Brookings to accept a plea bargain.

Instead, Brookings’ attorney, Randi Barnabee of Macedonia, who is transgender and specializes in transgender issues, made a motion to be admitted as Brookings’ attorney.

Barnabee is a federal practice attorney and not admitted to the Ohio bar, so her motion was to represent Brookings under special circumstances, as she does in his Summit County case.

This provided the only objection by Canton Assistant Prosecutor Scott Eckstein, who said he would only agree to Barnabee if a public defender attorney were also assigned to the case.

"If this gets appealed, I don’t want Brookings to be able to say he didn’t have adequate legal counsel," said Eckstein.

Judge Poulos agreed to that arrangement and continued the case until February 28.

A pre-trial conference before Judge Spicer in the Summit case is scheduled for March 12.


 

Powell backs condoms in
MTV chat, raises ire on right

by Bob Roehr

Washington, D.C.--Condoms were a flash point of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 14 appearance on Be Heard, a program on MTV where young people in six studio audiences around the world posed questions to Powell.

"A young Catholic woman" in Milan, Italy asked about her church’s ban on condoms in the context of AIDS.

Powell said that he respected the views of the pope, "But in my own judgment, condoms are the way to prevent infection and, therefore, I not only support their use, I encourage their use among people who are sexually active and need to protect themselves."

He noted that AIDS was spreading throughout much of the world and added, "It is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people."

"It’s the lives of young people that are put at risk by unsafe sex. And, therefore, protect yourselves," advised Powell.

Social conservatives in the U.S. were quick to condemn Powell’s remarks, declare him ignorant, and push abstinence as the only mantra that should be spoken.

"He is talking about a subject he doesn’t understand. He clearly doesn’t understand the science regarding condom efficacy," asserted James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family.

"Secretary Powell’s remarks are reckless and irresponsible," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council. "President Bush should repudiate Secretary Powell’s comments and publicly exhort him for his irresponsible remarks."

The White House demurred. Spokesperson Air Fleischer said that Powell "limited his answer to people who are sexually active" and thus was consistent with administration policy. He added that the president did not object to Powell’s comment.

"I don’t see anything contradictory in what Powell said," concurred Jim Driscoll, recently named to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

In an editorial on February 16 the Washington Post chastised social conservatives for their "hysterical reactions" and praised Powell for his "straightforward and remarkably sensible answer." It accused the far right of "needlessly polarizing the discussion about the prevention of AIDS and unintended pregnancies."


News Briefs

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

Chief justice calls gays ‘evil’

Montgomery, Ala.—In awarding custody of three teen-agers to their father over their lesbian mother, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court wrote on February 15 that homosexuality is "an inherent evil" and shouldn’t be tolerated.

In the aftermath of the ruling, the mother is filing an appeal with the United States Supreme Court and a state lawmaker is lodging a complaint with the judicial ethics board to have the justice removed.

The nine-judge panel ruled unanimously in favor of a Birmingham man and against his ex-wife, who now lives with her partner in southern California.

The parents weren’t named in court documents to protect the identity of the children, ages 15, 17 and 18.

Chief Justice Roy Moore wrote that the mother’s relationship made her an unfit parent and that homosexuality is "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature."

Moore also quoted scripture, historical documents and previous state court rulings that he said backed his view.

Moore is known for his decision to place washing machine-sized monuments of the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building after he became chief justice last year. He also fought to keep a Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom when he was a district judge.

David White, state coordinator for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Alabama, said Moore’s opinion reflected outdated thinking.

"It’s unfortunate Alabama is going to be embarrassed once again by a religious fanatic in a position of power," White said. "It’s obvious he cannot judge a gay person fairly and he should be removed from office."

Rep. Alvin Holmes agrees, and is planning on filing a complaint with the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission.

"The statutes of Alabama, the constitution of Alabama and the Constitution of the United States do not designate blacks, Hispanics, gays, Jews, lesbians, Asians, Muslims or others as evil," Holmes said. "It's almost inconceivable the chief justice of the state would take a position like that."

The father had held custody since 1996, but the mother petitioned for custody in June 2000.

A Jefferson County circuit judge ruled for the father, but the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled 4-1 for the mother in June 2001. The appeals court said the father had a history of calling the mother vulgar names in front of the children and of hitting the children. The appeals court also said there was no indication the mother's lesbian relationship would be detrimental to the children.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the trial court was better prepared to judge the evidence of abuse than was the appeals court.

Wendy Crew, the Birmingham attorney for the mother in the custody case, said Moore’s opinion doesn’t give any weight to California state law, which granted her client certified domestic partner status. The mother and her lover have registered as domestic partners under California law.

"It seems to me that there is a contradiction in that Judge Moore is basically saying that what the state of California has blessed, he finds criminal," Crew said.

 

Stonewall figure Sylvia Rivera dies

New York City—Sylvia Rivera, one of the transgendered people who led the charge at the Stonewall riots, died on February 19 of liver cancer.

Rivera was one of the people outside of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in the wee hours of June 28, 1969, when police raided the bar and arrested patrons. The crowd gathering outside started throwing things at the police, leading to days of riots in the area to protest the standard police procedure of randomly arresting everyone inside of gay bars.

Rivera later became a crusader for the rights of transgendered people, having a hand in opening shelters for homeless transgendered youth and prostitutes.

Earlier this year, she met with members of the Empire State Pride Agenda to advocate for the addition of gender identity to the state’s proposed employment non-discrimination law.

She was born Ray Rivera, but the year of her birth is in question. According to some reports she was 50 at the time of her death; others list her as 53.

A memorial service at the Metropolitan Community Church of New York is being planned.

 

Second mom must pay child support

Wilmington, Del.—A lesbian sued by her former partner for child support should be considered a parent though she and the boy are not related biologically, a court commissioner ruled.

Both women should be considered mothers to the 4-year-old boy they chose to have through in-vitro fertilization, Family Court Commissioner John Carrow said. He ordered both women to attend a child support hearing at a later date.

The decision was handed down February 5. If it is upheld on appeal, it will set a precedent in Delaware by expanding who can be held legally responsible for caring for a child, experts said.

Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, said that a key issue is whether both parents consented to the creation of the child. When a married couple uses artificial insemination, there is an automatic presumption that the husband is the father, he said.

The women in the Delaware case were referred to in court records by pseudonyms, Carol and Karen Chambers.

Karen, the biological mother through in-vitro fertilization, said she was relieved by the ruling.

Carol’s attorney, Felice Glennon Kerr, said Carrow went too far in interpreting state law.

Carol had argued that because their relationship was not legally recognized as a marriage in Delaware, the state should not force her to help support the boy.

Nationally, about 14 million children have gay or lesbian parents, according to a book on same-sex parenting cited by Carrow in his ruling.

 

Florida adoption ban challenged

Miami—Florida’s ban on adoptions by gays is unconstitutional and should be overturned, a civil rights group said in an appeal filed Feb. 14.

The American Civil Liberties Union asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to review the cases of five gay men who want to adopt children in their care. The Florida men are banned from doing so by a 1977 law prohibiting adoptions by any gay or lesbian individual or couple.

The ACLU said in a release that the Florida law provides no proof that gays cannot be stable parents. It is based only on "expressing disapproval toward gay people," the ACLU said.

The ACLU challenged the law as discriminatory after the men were told they could not adopt children in their care.

A federal judge in Miami ruled in June that the men failed to demonstrate that "homosexual families are equivalently stable, are able to provide proper gender identification or are no more socially stigmatizing than married heterosexual families."

An ACLU release on Feb. 15 revealed that Rosie O’Donnell, who is coming out in her upcoming autobiography, was interviewed, along with one of the families in the case, by Diane Sawyer for a show to be aired on March 14 on ABC. O’Donnell is a vocal advocate of adoption.

 

Afghans keep their anti-gay laws

Kabul, Afghanistan—The country’s new chief justice wears a pure-white turban, and hanging on the wall above his desk are two symbols of Islamic justice: a sword and a leather lash for flogging.

The Taliban are gone, but sharia, or the code of Islamic law, is here to stay, said Fazel Hadi Shinwari, appointed by the interim government six weeks ago as chief of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court.

In the new Afghanistan, adulterers can still face death by stoning, gays can be hurled from a high place or crushed by a toppling wall, and thieves can lose a hand, the 70-year-old justice said.

But such punishments, Shinwari said, would be meted out only after a meticulous legal process, during which the accused has many chances to contest the charges and appeal for clemency, and measures such as paying restitution can often stave off the harshest sentences.

"We will not be like the Taliban," he said. "They used to hold one quick hearing, with no lawyers or witnesses, take the person away to the stadium and carry out the sentence in front of everyone--that was wrong. They blackened the name of Islam."

Egypt, which also follows Islamic law, has no laws specifically banning homosexuality, but charges of debauchery or contempt of Islam are often leveled against those suspected of being gay, as has been the case with an increasing number of men since a mass arrest on a floating restaurant last May in Cairo.

Afghanistan does not have as much of a gay community as Egypt, having suffered under the repressive Taliban reign for the last few years.

 

Presbyterians keep ordination ban

Louisville, Ky.—Conservatives in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) killed a proposal Feb. 19 that would have allowed gays to hold positions of authority within the denomination.

The conservatives won the support of a majority of the church’s regional legislatures, thereby thwarting an effort to lift a 1997 ban on the ordination of noncelibate gays.

Church law says that clergy and lay officeholders must "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness."

The church’s General Assembly voted last summer to recommend a reversal of that law. Since October, the church’s regional legislatures, known as presbyteries, have been voting on whether to repeal or keep the ban, with a decision requiring agreement by a majority, or 87 of the 173 presbyteries.

Conservatives got an 87th vote in favor of the ban on Feb. 19. It was cast by the Presbytery of South Louisiana, said Jerry VanMarter, director of the Presbyterian News Service.

The Presbyterian church doesn’t exclude gays, but progressives within the church say the ban on gay clergy unfairly excludes gays and lesbians from reaching the upper echelons of local church leadership.

Despite the setback, progressives have made inroads in the church.

The church judiciary has allowed congregations to conduct blessings for same-sex couples, so long as they aren’t called marriages. Last year, 58 percent of presbyteries voted to uphold that loose interpretation of church practice.


Going to the ball

‘Cinderella’ features a trio of
Cleveland singers

by Richard M. Berrong

Cleveland--Usually when gay artists involved in area opera productions are interviewed, they are individuals who come from elsewhere, work here for two or three weeks, and then take off for elsewhere again.

This time, however, Cleveland Opera’s upcoming production of Rossini’s comic masterpiece Cinderella features three hometown boys, members of the Cleveland Opera Chorus. Among the three of them, they personify the diversity of the Cleveland gay community as well as Cleveland Opera’s well-known openness to that community and to diversity in general.

Robby Thompson, a bass, is a Cleveland native who has been singing with Cleveland Opera Chorus for over 25 years. A musician by profession, he also sings locally at Fairmount Temple and First United Methodist Church.

Though he began his music studies as a child at the Cleveland Music School Settlement, he has studied and performed across the country and as far away as Paris, where he was involved in a Paris Opera production of Carmen.

Thompson stressed the particular significance of Cinderella for the gay community. It is the story of someone who believes that she can obtain the happiness she wants by dressing as someone completely different, which will allow her to meet the person who, in the end, can appreciate her for who she actually is.

John F. Kassimatis, another Cleveland native, has been with Cleveland Opera Chorus three years. He, too, is active with various area musical groups, including the North Coast Men’s Chorus, Lyric Opera Outreach, and Berea Summer Theater. He just auditioned for a part in the Great Lakes Science Center’s upcoming production of Titanic, where actors will guide visitors through difference stages of the ship’s final hours.

That non-singing part illustrates Kassimatis’ interest in acting as well as singing. Rather than dreaming about being a stand and sing lead tenor, who often has to produce pretty notes without much opportunity for acting, he aspires to become a good comprimario, someone who specializes in the smaller character roles that provide real possibilities for imaginative actors.

For this reason, he hopes to be able to join one of the nation’s full-time opera choruses, perhaps in Chicago or Seattle, since that would not only allow him to devote himself entirely to music, but also because those companies often draw soloists for character parts from their chorus. Since, for Kassimatis, the power of opera’s music often makes him believe, once he walks out on stage, that he is who he is playing, he sees such a real move as a ticket to lots of other imaginative ones.

The most recent member of Cleveland Opera Chorus is tenor Weldon Lee Gan, a native of Dayton who just moved to Cleveland last month from Columbus, where he is finishing his studies in music theater at Capitol University.

As his major would suggest, he is interested in musical theater as well as opera. In Columbus, he appeared in shows like Bye, Bye, Birdie, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, She Loves Me and Music Man, as well as works by Gilbert and Sullivan and Victor Herbert.

Like Kassimatis, Gan is also interested in the acting part of opera, and therefore character roles. He hopes to go on to graduate school soon, to develop both his vocal and his acting talents.

Interviewing these three together, all openly gay men, one African-American, one Asian-American, spoke reams about Cleveland Opera’s commitment to openness, diversity, and the gay community. All three emphasized the pleasure of being able to work for a company where being out is not a problem, an atmosphere that they all attributed to the company’s founder-directors, David and Carola Bamberger.

One of opera’s quintessentially gay stories will be on stage February 22 and 23 at 8 p.m., and February 24 at 2 p.m., at the State Theater in Playhouse Square. For tickets, contact Cleveland Opera at 216 575-0903, or www.clevelandopera.org.

Richard M. Berrong is a freelance writer living in Hudson, Ohio.

 

 

 

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