Top of Page
Stories from the current issue of the Chronicle. Read or Place a Personal Ad. Find out where you can pick up a Chronicle near you. Calendar of upcoming community events.     Read or Submit. Buying, selling, hiring, looking, renting, etc.    Classified ads. Listings of businesses and non-profit organizations.
News Stories from the Chronicle.

News stories from the Gay People's Chronicle

Back to our Home Page. Masthead, Privacy Notice, Address, Submissions, Deadlines, Letters and Copyright notices. Theatre, Arts, Movies and More Get home delivery of the Chronicle and never miss a thing. Past lead stories from the Chronicle are here. Join in our Community Discussion Forum and speak your mind.

STORIES ON THIS PAGE:
 
 
 
 
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Join our mailing list and keep up on the latest news!
Enter e-mail:

First Name:

Join      
Remove
 
DISCUSSION
Share your thoughts on this story in our forum area.
Recommended Gay/Lesbian Books
DID YOU KNOW?

All of the businesses, social groups and organizations listed in the Chronicle have thousands of members across Ohio.

Thousands of people who read the Chronicle and visit our website every week to get the latest news and info.

Thousands of people who will see your advertisement in the Chronicle, in print or online.

Chronicle readers count on us to help them find gay-friendly businesses and services.

Can you really afford not to advertise with us?

DISCUSSION
Share your thoughts on this story in our forum area.
 
SUBSCRIBE
Keep up on all the gay news with more stories like these. Get home delivery of the Chronicle and you won't be left in the dark!

Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 8, 2002

 

High court ponders importuning law

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--As the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the state�s importuning law February 5, it appeared that both sides agreed on many points.

The 30-year-old law makes it a crime to proposition someone of the same sex if it would offend them. It does not apply to heterosexual situations.

The statute is often used for police stings in parks, where gay men are charged for asking an undercover officer if they are interested in sex.

This case arose when Eric R. Thompson of Ashtabula leaned out his car window in 1999 and asked a male jogger if he wanted oral sex. The jogger said to leave him alone, and Thompson complied. But the jogger complained to police, and Thompson was arrested and convicted of importuning. He spent six months in jail, the maximum time allowed.

With help of Ashtabula County public defender Marie Lane, Thompson appealed the conviction on constitutional grounds, saying the law violates the equal-protection clauses of both the Ohio and United States constitutions.

The Eleventh Ohio District Court of Appeals in Warren upheld Thompson�s conviction in December 2000, but did so reluctantly.

The appeals court deferred to two previous cases where the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the importuning law. But one of these was based on different constitutional arguments, and the other did not provide a published decision, which Lane said renders that case non-binding as a precedent.

"What is not clear is why [the law] would only apply to same sex solicitation and not to opposite sex solicitation," the appeals court commented in its ruling. "It is inherently inconsistent for the Ohio legislature to now criminalize homosexual solicitation after it has chosen to decriminalize homosexual conduct between consenting adults."

The legislature passed the importuning law as part of a 1972 revamp of the criminal code that also repealed Ohio�s sodomy law. The measure took effect in 1974.

The court wrote, "Although [Thompson�s] arguments are compelling, this court has no authority to overrule the Supreme Court of Ohio.

The Eighth Ohio District Court of Appeals in Cleveland found in another case last May that the law violates equal protection guarantees. Cleveland prosecutors did not appeal that ruling to the state supreme court, however.

The Eleventh District opinion set the stage for the February 5 hearing before the seven justices, during which both sides were often arguing the same side of the issue.

Representing Thompson was public defender Lane. The state was represented by Ashtabula County assistant prosecutor Teri Burnside.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund staff attorney Heather Sawyer assisted Lane. Burnside had assistance from the Ohio Attorney General�s office.

The hearing lasted one hour, with each side allowed 30 minutes to present their case and answer questions from the justices.

Lane went first, and was quickly interrupted by questions from Justices Paul E. Pfeifer and Deborah L. Cook. Pfeifer asked about the appropriateness of the legislature passing the law.

Cook asked, "We can argue all day about what the legislature ought to have included in the law and didn�t, but if you are seeking a change in the law, shouldn�t you lobby the legislature for it rather than saying it cannot be upheld?"

Lane told the justices that the law was passed to prevent violence stemming from a person being solicited by someone else of the same sex, and that times and the culture have changed since it was passed.

"The state has no rational interest in keeping this law around," said Lane.

Lane�s brief to the court alleges animus against homosexuals by the legislature of that time.

Pfeifer asked, "Isn�t it difficult to say the legislature acted out of animus when the revised criminal code it is part of made all sorts of sexual acts illegal?"

Lane answered by quoting the legislative notes found in the back of the Ohio Revised Code, where members of the House Judiciary Committee referred to homosexual behavior as "highly repugnant and deviant" during debate on this section.

Justice Andrew Douglas asked Lane, "At what time did the defendant decide to challenge the constitutionality of this law?"

"Immediately," Lane responded.

Douglas then asked if the attorney general had been served notice that the constitutionality of the law was being challenged.

"They were never served," answered Lane.

Both Lane and Burnside agreed after the hearing that Douglas was fishing for a technical "out" for the court to avoid ruling on the core issues in this case.

Near the end of the hearing, Douglas, who has a reputation of being very technical about fine points of law, brought it up again, reading a civil rule aloud from a book.

"What he was reading only applies to civil actions," said Lane, "and this was a criminal action."

Burnside agreed, saying, "I never heard of that rule applying to anything other than civil actions, either."

Burnside then began her presentation to the court, and was quickly interrupted by a question from Pfeifer.

"Do you agree with the constitutionality of this law?" asked Pfeifer.

"Our office grappled with it," said Burnside. "We don�t have the liberty to determine whether or not a law is constitutional. That is up to this court."

Burnside said that during Thompson�s prosecution, her office presumed it to be constitutional and would continue to do so if the court ruled it was.

"But we agree with the reasoning of the Eleventh District," Burnside added.

"When the law was put into effect, it was clear who this law was to target," Burnside continued, "and because of it, the state has been asked to argue the undefendable."

Burnside told the justices that prosecutors are struggling over this law and how it should be applied.

"We appealed this case because we�re asking the court to tell us how it doesn�t violate equal protection," said Burnside, "and the lower courts are asking for you to explain how this law is constitutional."

On the question of whether the law passes the legal "rational basis" test, Cook asked, "Can you say there is no relationship between homosexual advances and lessening violence?"

Burnside pointed to the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court Romer v. Evans decision. It struck down a Colorado measure banning gay and lesbian civil rights laws because it encoded anti-gay animus into the state constitution.

"That animus issue applies to the decision before us," she said.

"If a man solicits another man�s wife in front of him, would that not elicit the same response as if the man was solicited by a man?" Burnside asked the justices.

Burnside continued by raising other concerns, including that nearly all the people charged with importuning are men caught in questionable sting operations, and that women who solicit other women are rarely charged.

"And what is the state interest in not protecting heterosexual women?" Burnside said, noting that the law only applies in cases where the parties are the same sex. "What woman hasn�t experienced the same offense on any Saturday night?"

"Should women offended by men have to become violent to get protection?" Burnside pressed. "Are we to protect only men from being solicited by other men and leave behind women?" Burnside told the justices it was her duty as a prosecutor to seek justice, not just convictions.

Following the hearing, Lambda�s Sawyer criticized Justice Cook�s assertion that the best way to handle the law is to have the legislature repeal it, saying it is the duty of courts to rule on the constitutionality of laws passed by the legislature.

"But the most compelling thing about this case," said Sawyer, "is who hasn�t supported the law."

She noted that no prosecutor�s group or other law enforcement association has filed friend of the court briefs in favor of the law.

"[The current law] is so fraught with constitutional difficulties," Sawyer said.

Lane noted that despite Justice Douglas� raising of the civil rule, he was in the 5-2 majority that decided to hear the case.

A decision is expected within three to six months.

Thompson did not attend the hearing.

Lane said since Thompson has served the maximum sentence, not even the vacating of his sentence by the Supreme Court would help him, and he shouldn�t expect an apology from the state.

"It might affect the conditions of his parole, though."


 

Pediatricians endorse gay and lesbian adoption

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Chicago�The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed gay and lesbian adoptions, saying same-sex couples can provide the loving, stable and emotionally healthy family life that children need.

The new policy focuses on gaining legally protected parental rights for co-parents or second parents whose partners have children, but it also could apply to gay couples who want to adopt a child together, said Dr. Joseph Hagan Jr., chairman of the committee that wrote the policy.

In many states, only married spouses can legally adopt their partner�s children without the birth parent first giving up all rights.

Citing estimates suggesting that as many as 9 million U.S. children have at least one gay parent, the academy urged its 55,000 members to take an active role in supporting measures that allow gay adoption.

An academy report, based on related research, says "there�s no existing data to support the widely held belief that there are negative outcomes" for children raised by gay parents, Hagan said.

"Denying legal parent status through adoption . . . prevents these children from enjoying the psychological and legal security that comes from having two willing, capable and loving parents," the report says.

The academy says it�s crucial for pediatricians to get involved because gay households are becoming more prevalent and doctors are increasingly confronted with related issues.

Same-sex partners often are the primary caretakers, but without parental rights they have no legal say in matters as simple as granting doctors� permission to give a child a shot, said Dr. Barbara J. Howard, an assistant pediatrics professor at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center who helped draft the policy.

Also, children in gay households may lack health insurance if the family�s only breadwinner is not the biological parent, Hagan said.

In addition, partners lacking parental rights may lose visitation or custody battles when a couple separates or one partner dies, depriving children they�ve helped raise of future contact, Howard said.

Critics say the nation�s largest pediatricians� group relied on flawed data and is meddling in a political issue.

"It�s a group of pro-homosexual people . . . who want to further tear down the one-man, one-woman relationship in America," said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Christian lobbying group.

"It�s not a political issue," Howard said. "This is an issue regarding the well-being of the child."

Dr. Marla Kahn, a Cincinnati-area psychologist who recently passed the state bar exam to practice law, concurs.

"My feeling is that people who are against this are afraid it will dovetail into gay marriage," Kahn, a lesbian who has adopted two children, said. "This isn�t about giving additional rights to parents, it�s about the well-being of children."

"My nine-year-old daughter has asked me, �What happens to me if you die?� " Kahn continued.

The academy�s policy statement also says "there is no basis on which to assume that a parental homosexual orientation will increase likelihood of or induce a homosexual orientation in the child."

The policy is published in the February issue of the academy�s journal, Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychological Association also support gay adoption.

Steven Drizin, an attorney with Northwestern University�s Children and Family Justice Center, said the academy�s stance will make a tremendous difference in legal battles involving gay adoption.

"The stamp of approval from a widely respected and mainstream organization . . . will go a long way to further the movement throughout courts and legislatures," Drizin said.

Nationwide, about half the states have allowed second-parent adoptions, where one partner already is a legal parent, said Patricia Logue, an attorney with the gay civil rights group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Most of these are through court rulings. Only California, Connecticut and Vermont have laws allowing second-parent adoption.

A Florida law bans all gays and lesbians from adopting, while administrative rules in Utah and Mississippi affect gay couples but not gay individuals, said Lisa Bennett of the Human Rights Campaign.

Ohio�s courts have not been particularly friendly to the LGBT community. While state law is nearly silent on the issue, the Ohio First District Court of Appeals in 2001 rejected a lesbian�s argument that she is a "de facto" parent to her partner�s children. The decision contrasts rulings in New Jersey and Rhode Island, where judges have ruled that "de facto" and "psychological" parents should play a role in children�s lives.

In the Cincinnati case, Teri T. Bonfield had given birth to three children and adopted two others. Her partner, Shelley Zachritz, filed for second-parent adoptions for all five children to provide a more stable environment for them, and to provide protections in case Bonfield died or was incapacitated.

The Hamilton County Juvenile Court ruled in 1999 that Zachritz could not adopt her partner�s children.

"Gay families are all over the place," Kahn noted. "This decision gives responsibility to the adults and security to the children."

"Ultimately, when the right is up in arms, they forget this is for the benefits of the kids, not the adults," she concluded. "The children shouldn�t suffer for the parents� orientation."

"The pediatricians� decision is a good one," said Heidi Bruins, co-chair of board of directors of Stonewall Cincinnati. "It seeks to provide stability to children of gay parents, opens a wider pool of prospective parents to children awaiting adoption, and takes a step towards equality for gays and lesbians who are or want to be parents."


How did birth certificate get changed, activists ask

Document is hub of transgender man�s
child custody case

by Eric Resnick

Dade City, Fla.--An Ohio birth certificate has become the focus of a child custody case between a transsexual man and his wife of ten years.

The case, which began airing on Court TV January 22, has left Ohio�s transgender and transsexual population wondering how Michael Kantaras, born Margo in Youngstown, got the gender marker on his birth certificate changed from F to M.

Ohio law prohibits changing the gender marker, even after sex reassignment surgery.

According to transgender activist Mary Ann Horton of Columbus, this case is not just another custody dispute, and it will become more significant if it is appealed.

"This is one of several cases in the United States to challenge these gender markers," said Horton, "and it raises the issue that there is no universally accepted legal definition as to how to document someone�s sex."

Because of its national exposure, this case is challenging common perceptions about whether sex is between one�s ears or one�s legs.

Kantaras� wife Linda is claiming that their 1989 marriage is void under Florida�s 1998 "Defense of Marriage Act" which prohibits same-sex marriage, and is demanding full custody of the 12-year-old son she brought into the marriage and the daughter conceived using sperm from Michael�s brother in 1992.

The divorce and full custody of both children were sought by Michael after he became involved with another woman.

Kantaras had surgery in 1987 in Texas that removed his breasts, uterus and ovaries, and sculpted a male chest, but not a penis. The surgery followed a legal name change by a Texas court in 1986.

Linda was aware that Michael was born a woman during their courtship a year prior to their marriage, and asserted in court documents around the divorce that the two were legally married and that he was the father of her children.

It was not until Michael attempted to move out of the state with the children that Linda claimed they were never legally married.

However, Linda Kantaras is asking the court to award her alimony, despite her claims that she was never legally married to Michael.

According to court documents, Linda claims that Michael only completed two phases of a three-step process, and was never declared a male.

Michael counters that he is legally recognized as a male and, therefore, legally married to Linda. He cites his modified Ohio birth certificate that indicates he is male.

Michael was born in Youngstown in 1959 and moved to Florida in 1982. The gender marker on his birth certificate was changed from F to M in 1999.

"Right now, by far the most relevant part of the case to Ohio�s transgender community is the fact that Michael successfully changed his birth certificate," said Cindy Scott, spokesperson for TransFamily of Cleveland. "That is not suppose to be able to happen here."

"Many of us are, frankly, thrilled at the apparent precedent that was set," added Scott.

Testimony has largely been focused on the physical aspects of sexuality and the reassignment surgery. Experts have testified that less than ten percent of female-to-male transsexuals undergo phalloplasty, a surgical procedure that uses skin grafts and fat transplants to construct a penis in place of the clitoris.

The judge has also heard that the Kantarases� 12-year-old son has been putting socks in his pants because he has seen Michael do it.

The trial is a bench trial, heard only by Circuit Court Judge Gerard O�Brien, who is described by Court TV commentators as "traditional." Horton fears that this really means "transphobic."

O�Brien frequently interrupts testimony to question witnesses, mostly about penises and physical characteristics of sex.

Ultimately, O�Brien will have to decide if having a penis is a requirement for marriage under Florida law.

The trial is expected to continue through the middle of February. O�Brien is expected to rule in March.

Both sides expect to appeal the decision, possibly to the Florida Supreme Court.

Dade City, Fla., is just north of Tampa.


Ohio University group says Boy Scouts violate city ordinance

Out Scouts members Jaclyn Light, Erin Doering, Jacque Newton and director Ryan Beam, left to right, at a February1 campus petition drive. Photo: Ian Beers

by Eric Resnick

Athens, Ohio--The national office of the Boy Scouts has turned down an Ohio University student group�s request to establish a dialogue around the Scouts� ban of gays and atheists.

Out Scouts, which was launched January 1 by Ohio University sophomore Ryan Beam, requested an "open channel of communication" to "resolve this issue in a way that is beneficial to both our organizations" in a January 12 letter to chief scout executive Roy L. Williams.

The Boy Scouts have ignored Out Scouts� letter, but responded to the Athens News on January 24, saying they will not be swayed by the group�s threats to take legal action around Athens� equal access law, which Beam says the scouts are violating.

"We are a group of shared values and beliefs," Boy Scouts spokesperson Greg Shields told the Athens News. "Most Americans, and even most minority groups, agree with the Boy Scouts of America on this."

Beam said his group, which is expanding to other campuses, began an "informal, off-record" set of discussions with Max Bucey, the Boy Scout district executive that handles the Athens area.

According to Beam, once the local media began reporting Out Scouts actions, Bucey became hostile.

"I called [Bucey] on the phone, and he immediately began yelling, �I don�t want anything to do with you stupid queers,� and threatened to report us to the police for telephone harassment," said Beam.

Out Scouts has since called for Bucey�s resignation.

Bucey did not return phone calls for comment.

Beam contends that the Scouts use of Athens schools and other public places like University Mall are in violation of the city�s law forbidding access to groups that discriminate.

Athens is one of 11 Ohio cities that include "sexual orientation" in non-discrimination ordinances.

Beam says the 1997 Athens law is unique in that it includes areas generally used by civic groups, like the social hall of churches.

Beam points to an Athens City School District policy establishing that schools may be rented only to groups and organizations that are "nonexclusive and open to the general public," saying that the scouts are in violation of the policy.

Beam says his group has not found a lawyer willing to handle legal action pro bono, but he says the city�s law department is willing to investigate the matter as a violation of the law.

Beam said University Mall would be a target of legal action because they allowed a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby to be held there free of charge, then denied Out Scouts� request to circulate its petitions there February 1.

Beam, who is an Eagle Scout and currently registered as an adult leader of Troop 320 in his home town of Hudson, Ohio, says the Boy Scouts are selective about who they remove for being gay.

Beam says he has been out to his troop for years and sent a letter informing the national office he is gay.

"They haven�t thrown me out yet," he said.

Beam pointed to the Minutemen Boy Scout Council in Boston as another example of the Boy Scouts� selectivity.

In 2001, the Minutemen Council said it would informally adopt its own version of a "don�t ask don�t tell" policy for gay leaders, and not target those suspected to be gay.

Critics of the council�s statements pointed out at the time that there are many gays in the Boy Scouts that are closeted, and that no councils are conducting witch hunts, so, effectively the Minutemen council wasn�t breaking any new ground.

But Beam insists that councils and individual troops have the ability to enforce the Boy Scouts anti-gay policy as they see fit.

"The Boston Minutemen Council is 18,000 scouts and 350 units," said Beam, "If just one or two troops do it, their charters get revoked, but the Boy Scouts are not going to shut down an entire council."

Neither the City of Athens nor the Athens City Schools have publicly responded to Out Scouts as of yet, but Beam says that privately, they are in agreement with what Out Scouts has requested.


Out on Main to close

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus�After over five years of feeding and supporting the Columbus LGBT community, culinary mainstay Out on Main will close its doors on March 30.

Opened in November 1996 by Michael Caven and Tom Grote, the restaurant became a focal point of the city�s gay and lesbian community, functioning as host to fundraisers and celebrations for numerous organizations in the city.

Last year, Grote, who also works for Donato�s Pizza, committed to a three-year stint expanding the pizza franchise in the northeast U.S. This forced him to spend much of his time in Philadelphia, away from Caven and their restaurant.

"The constant airplane shuttling back and forth between Philadelphia and Columbus and too much time apart, combined with the events of September 11, just made me realize that I want to be with Tom 24-7," Caven wrote in an e-mailed release. "We want to be together on a daily basis. It�s that simple."

Caven will move to Philadelphia to be with Grote for the remainder of his commitment to expanding the chain, after which the two hope to return to Columbus.

The two are ceaseless community activists both in an out of the restaurant, which they opened to "give back to the community." A portion of the proceeds from the restaurant were put into philanthropic funds that have benefited organizations such as Stonewall Columbus, Kaleidoscope Youth Group, Project Open Hand, Lesbian Health News and the Ohio Human Rights Bar Association.

"Both Michael and Tom�s commitment to the community will be missed," said Susan White, president of the board of Stonewall Columbus. "I hope someone steps up and keeps the restaurant open."

White�s hopes may be fulfilled. Caven said that the restaurant is for sale, and he and Grote would like to see someone carry on what they began half a decade ago.

"We�d love to see the space continue on as Out on Main or another concept," he said, "but Tom and I see our role as complete."

"We do have some internal and external interests," Caven said, indicating that the restaurant may continue without their stewardship.


Ohio University walkout protests campus attacks

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Athens, Ohio�Around 300 people staged a walkout at Ohio University on February 4 to protest three recent assaults on campus.

Two female students were assaulted in campus dormitories in the last month. In a third incident, a lesbian student was attacked by two or more men after leaving a dance on January 13.

The third incident being investigated as an anti-gay hate crime. The woman is now back in classes, according to school officials.

Following the 11:30 am walkout, a crowd gathered on College Green, a traditional gathering spot, for a rally to urge the school to increase programs to protect students from bias-motivated and sexual assaults.

"We want to show how many students are against hate crimes and sexual assault," senior Suzanne Seesman said. "The university does have a lot of programs for men and women who have been victims of sexual assault, but there are going to be lots of different groups . . . who are saying the university isn�t doing enough."

University spokesperson Leesa Brown insists that the school is always looking at ways to do more on the issues.

"It might be a situation here that we�re doing so much that if you ask just one person you�ll never get the whole answer," Brown noted. "I�m sure there�s always more that we could do."

Published estimates of the crowd gathered on College Green ranged from "a few dozen" to about 250, according to Mickey Hart, the university�s coordinator of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender programs. Hart counted "around 300" from a balcony overlooking the green.

The event was a positive experience for those who participated, Hart believes.

"Any time the students get involved and get active," he said, "it�s a good thing, moving beyond apathy and helping their fellow students."

Resolution opposes DOMA

The rally is the second recent progressive move taken by students at the school, located 60 miles southeast of Columbus.

The student government passed a resolution opposed to House Bill 234, the anti-gay "Defense of Marriage Act" currently before the state senate, and urged other members of the Ohio Council of Student Governments to follow suit.

The student government at Wright State University in Dayton voted down Ohio University�s resolution, but is now considering a similar one drafted specifically for the school. Supporters of the resolution argue that HB 234 violates the school�s diversity statement, which seeks to ensure that all students are free from discrimination.


Court date set for man sought in AIDS Walk scam

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland�A man accused of fraudulently soliciting donations in the name of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland was due to be arraigned February 7.

A warrant for Stephen Kovacik�s arrest was issued on January 28 for forgery and receiving stolen property. Kovacik had identified himself as a volunteer for the Taskforce and claimed that he was collecting donations for the AIDS Walk held each September.

An indictment was handed down on January 24. The bank of one of his victims reported to the police that a suspicious check had been turned in, with the amount altered from $15 to $750.

Commander Jack O�Donnell of the suburban Beachwood police said that Kovacik, who is believed to still be trying the scam, may not even know that he has been indicted yet.

O�Donnell said that Kovacik has a history of arrests for drug-related charges. He speculated that Kovacik was not trying to cover his tracks with his current spate of fraudulent solicitations, rather, that he was trying to get money to purchase drugs.

He also said that Kovacik has been arrested in California and Virginia.

Kim Kowalski, the press liaison for the Cuyahoga County prosecutor�s office, reported that Kovacik had been charged with a similar crime before. Kovacik pleaded guilty on November 28, 2001, and was sentenced the same day to one year of probation.

According to Kowalski, bond will be set for Kovacik at the arraignment. She believed that it would be set high in light of the fact that Kovacik is just over two months into his probation.


�So many people have had their bisexuality erased�

Lani Kaahumanu speaks about bisexual visibility, activism and the Safer Sex Sluts

by Milla Rosenberg

Columbus�Ohio State University�s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Allies Awareness Weeks seek to cover all the bases in under a month, but bisexuality is often in the shadows. The Jewish Queers shabbat is non-specific, but there are events that are gay male-oriented, or very lesbian. Last year, transgender photographer and activist Loren Cameron gave a lecture.

The annual Awareness Weeks wrapped up at the end of January after thirteen days of events ranging from the aforementioned sabbath celebration to games like "Guess the Straight Person" and a concert by Michelle Malone.

The history of bisexual groups in Columbus, and around the state, is one of near-invisibility. In 1996, for instance, the co-ed group Bi-Lines withdrew into the background, and two years later, the bisexual editor of a prominent local paper sold his share of the publication.

From this vantage point, one might think that a bisexual community does not exist.

Think again.

Lani Kaahumanu is a remarkable human being. At once a writer, poet, safe-sex educator, performance artist, and bisexual activist, Kaahumanu has helped to foster visibility and to bring understanding for people who have the potential to love all genders and sexualities.

After completing a degree in women�s studies in the late 1970s, Kaahumanu came out and then helped to found the first San Francisco Bay Area bisexual political action group.

In 1987, at the second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, she distributed fliers to see whether people were ready for a bisexual movement. This led to the formation of BiNet, a national service and support network for bisexuals.

At the 1993 March on Washington, she and other activists pushed for bisexual and transgender inclusion. While the organizers refused the word "sexual" and excluded transgender, the event was titled the "March for Lesbian, Gay & Bi Equal Rights and Liberation."

Kaahumanu organized the Safer Sex Sluts, a renowned safe-sex education troupe that travels the country giving performances and workshops. For her efforts, she was recognized in Ms. magazine�s "Fifty Ways to Be a Feminist" anniversary issue.

In town to give a workshop on safe sex and a presentation on her history in bisexual activism, Kaahumanu took part in the OSU Awareness Weeks. She spoke with this writer at a local café.

Milla Rosenberg: Did you co-found BiPOL (the first bisexual political group)? How did it come about?

Lani Kaahumanu: In March of 1983, a core group of seven of us helped start the bisexual political group. You have to remember that from 1976 to 1984, San Francisco had a Bisexual Center, a real building where they hosted meetings and kept information. Most of the center�s leadership were at the forefront of AIDS work in the early 1980s. And four of those leaders worked on BiPOL.

MR: You came out in 1980. What was the process like for you in that context? Also, which resources were of help to you at that time?

LK: It was like my second coming. I had been an out lesbian for four years, and I was very biphobic; to my knowledge, bisexuals did not exist. And then I fell in love with a man. He was bisexual, and he identified as a feminist. He asked me, "Have you ever read Of Woman Born?" [by Adrienne Rich], and I just began to melt. From that moment forward, we talked about bisexual feminist revolution.

To be honest, I did not have the support that I needed at first. When I went to meetings at the center, most of the women had identified as straight and did not understand same-sex dynamics. And I was wondering, so what do you do with a man?

My phone number was passed around, and people would call me discreetly seeking support. That really helped me, and I knew that I was not alone.

MR: You are here to speak in part about your work in bisexual activism. What do lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Ohio need to be aware of to understand both our history and our community?

LK: That we have never ridden on the coattails of the lesbian and gay movement. That we have always been a part of gay and lesbian history. So many people have had their bisexuality erased because of heterosexism, a logic that says that a person can only be either/or. Sappho wrote love poems to both women and men. Walt Whitman wrote odes to female and male bodies. Oscar Wilde was married and had children during his lifetime. Eleanor Roosevelt kept a young male lover while she had a more public affair with reporter Lorena Hickok.

We have the right to name their lives and respect their experiences.

MR: How have you seen the gay and lesbian community change in response to bisexual visibility?

LK: Well, the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center is opening. During the 1980s, they did invite the entire community when first beginning to plan a center, but the meetings often ended up in shouting matches�who�s in, and who�s out.

As early as 1992, BiNet did staff trainings and board trainings with the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Now, on a national level, there is still a lot of work to be done. Groups with a philosophy of social justice, like NGLTF, GLAAD, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, have been the most receptive.

MR: What are some of the most rewarding aspects of doing safe-sex education?

LK: The most rewarding part is that it has improved my sex life greatly! [Laughs]. Well, because our culture fosters so much shame about sex, every time I do safe sex work, I feel that I am shedding.

Also, I am in my early "old womanhood," and with few exceptions, there are no sexual images for me.

MR: What would be an exception?

LK: Well, Betty Dodson is still out there. She wrote the first book on masturbation for women in the 1970s. She also gave her mother a vibrator for her 70th birthday, and it changed her mom�s life! [Laughs]

With safe sex work, there is a level of vulnerability and joyfulness that young students show in workshops. They are so excited to be able to talk about sex without shame, to ask about anything in a comfortable setting. And I am able to facilitate these discussions.

MR: What are your future goals?

LK: Well, I am in the middle of writing my memoir. And Safer Sex Sluts has started up in several cities, including Minneapolis and Seattle. I would eventually like to do sex-positive videos. These would be short, campy films that communicate about sexuality. Have you ever seen Busby Berkeley�s films?

MR: Yes! With the aerial shots of women dancing and swimming in pools.

LK: Well, I would like to recreate those kaleidoscopic shots. Except instead of eight women in a circle, it would be a safe sex slut, a blow up doll, another safe-sex slut, and so on. You get the picture. Just a playful, hot, and educational way to celebrate sexuality.

MR: Thank you so much for speaking with me.

LK: It has been my pleasure.


News Briefs

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

17-year sentence for sex is upheld

Topeka, Kansas�The state Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to a Kansas law punishing teenagers who have sex with underage partners more harshly if those partners are of the same gender.

A three-judge panel on February 1 ruled against Matthew R. Limon, who was seeking to overturn his sentence of 17 years and two months in prison for having sex with an underage boy in February 2000, when Limon was 18.

Had either Limon or the other boy been a girl, the maximum sentence would have been one year and three months in prison.

In an unsigned opinion, Appeals Judges Henry W. Green Jr., David S. Knudson and G. Joseph Pierron Jr. said the U.S. Supreme Court has held that states may treat homosexual acts differently than heterosexual ones. They cited the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick ruling that upheld Georgia�s sodomy law.

Limon still may appeal the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.

In 1999 and 2000, Limon was a resident of the Lakemary Center, a school for developmentally disabled young people in Paola, Kansas.

In February 2000, he had sex with another boy there, identified only as M.A.R., who was almost 15.

The year before the incident, legislators enacted what became known as the "Romeo and Juliet" law, with the goal of separating consensual teenage sexual relationships from cases in which older adults exploited young children.

It lessened the penalties for consensual sexual relations where one person is under 19 and the other person is between 14 and 16, if their ages are less than four years apart. However, it applies only when the partners are of the opposite sex.

Limon was charged and convicted under an older criminal sodomy law. His juvenile record contained another offense, making his sentence in this case more severe.

 

High court to rule on adoption cases

Sacramento�The California Supreme Court agreed January 29 to review a lower court�s ruling that may have voided thousands of existing second-parent adoptions.

The justices agreed to review a San Diego appellate court�s October ruling that said the law does not authorize second-parent adoptions. In these, a biological parent�s unmarried partner gains parental rights without the biological parent having to first give up those rights, as they would in ordinary adoption.

If the appellate ruling is allowed to stand, three decades of the adoptions could be voided. This would jeopardize health care, inheritance and other rights.

A domestic partner law that took effect January 1 allows same-sex couples to use step-parent adoption as married couples do. But this can�t be done in earlier cases where parents have split up, moved out of state, or where the child has grown up or a partner has died.

The Supreme Court did not indicate when it would hear the case.

 

Miami referendum set

Miami�The battle over Miami-Dade County�s gay-inclusive civil rights ordinance has officially moved to the ballot box.

County commissioners put a referendum to repeal the ordinance on a Sept. 10 ballot at their January 29 meeting. The commissioners took their action reluctantly, forced to do so after county elections supervisor David Leahy certified petitions submitted by Take Back Miami-Dade, a coalition of religious and conservative residents.

Leahy had originally thrown out the petitions containing over 50,000 signatures after a sampling of 1,500 showed nearly 25% were not of registered voters or were fraudulent.

Take Back Miami-Dade sued to force acceptance of the petitions, and a court ruled that Leahy was not authorized to determine whether signatures were fraudulent.

Save Dade, a progressive organization that backed the 1998 ordinance, has filed claims with the state attorney�s office alleging widespread fraud in the petition-gathering process. The state attorney is currently investigating those claims.

A similar 1977 measure failed in the nation�s first anti-gay referendum, organized by former beauty queen and orange juice spokesperson Anita Bryant.

 

Man says he robbed hundreds

Washington, Pa.�A man who pleaded guilty February 1 to killing an Ohio medical consultant in December 1999 said he and his friends have beaten and robbed hundreds of gay men.

Alexander Martos said he shot Ira Swearingen in the head and dumped his body in a remote area after he and two others abducted him outside an adult bookstore about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Swearingen, a medical consultant and physician�s assistant from Stout, Ohio, near the Ohio River in Scioto County, had flown to Pittsburgh the night of Dec. 12, 1999, to assist in a surgery in Uniontown the following day. Police began searching for him when he missed the appointment, and his rental car was found abandoned in neighboring Greene County on Dec. 17.

Swearingen was abducted after following Martos down a deserted road near the bookstore, Washington County District Attorney John Pettit said. Pettit read a confession in which Martos said he, Gregory Modery and John Shaker beat Swearingen, put him in the trunk of a car and drove him to a friend�s home, where they robbed him.

Authorities did not find Swearingen�s body until almost a year later, in November 2000.

Martos admitted that he and others made a practice of attacking people outside the Highway News bookstore, believing they would be hesitant to report them to the police, Pettit said.

Martos, 34, bragged about enticing and assaulting more than 1,000 men at the store. Pettit said it could be true because Martos would plan crimes there up to four times a day, and police have known about assaults at the business since 1994.

"There were people who were beaten very badly," Pettit told the Washington, Pa. Observer-Reporter. "What this defendant did was terrible, absolutely terrible."

 

$15M for �non-traditional� family

New York City�As part of its plan to disburse money from the Liberty Fund, the American Red Cross will allow for $15 million to assist Sept. 11 attack victims� extended family members or non-traditional family members.

The amount was part of an announcement made January 31 by Red Cross officials, who said the organization expects to collect $850 million in its terrorist attack relief fund and plans to disburse 90 percent of the money by Sept. 11, 2002.

Non-traditional family members could include same-sex partners of victims. Charity organizations like the United Way and the American Red Cross have been praised for treating same-sex partners similarly to heterosexual spouses.

 

Frank refuses Egyptian invitation

Washington, D.C.�Rep. Barney Frank denounced Egypt�s treatment of gays in declining an invitation to an Egyptian government-sponsored forum on improving cross-cultural understanding.

Frank released a letter February 4 that he sent to Abderahman S. Abderahman, minister for political and congressional affairs at the Embassy of Egypt.

"Enjoying the hospitality of those who have so harshly mistreated people because of a basic characteristic of personality which they share with me is not something I wish to do," wrote Frank, who is gay.

"Indeed, I would feel it a betrayal of men very much like me who have recently been brutally arrested and imprisoned by your government for no reason other than the way in which they chose to express affection to other human beings in a mutually consenting relationship."

Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in the Egyptian legal system, but a wide range of laws cover obscenity, prostitution and public morality. Offenders may be punished with jail terms.

Last year in Cairo, 52 men were tried on charges of immoral behavior and contempt of religion after police raided a restaurant and accused them of taking part in a gay sex party. A number of other men have since been arrested on similar charges in separate incidents.

In August, Frank got 31 fellow House Democrats, two Republicans and an independent to sign a letter to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urging reconsideration of policies on gays.


It�s a hard job

But the Cleveland Cinematheque does it

by Anthony Glassman

The last couple of decades have seen major upheavals in the world of the cinema. Multiplexes with dozens of screens rose to prominence while smaller theaters and art-film houses struggled and often died ignominious deaths. Now the multiplexes with their high ticket prices, higher concession prices and steady streams of mass-market pablum are the ones fighting for their lives.

In this world, there has been one constant, however: the Cleveland Cinematheque.

Operating under the aegis of the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cinematheque, which turns 17 this year, brings in the most astounding array of films for one- to three-day runs. The films run the gamut from cutting-edge foreign films with little or no distribution in the United States to complete retrospectives of the works of a single director.

What the Cinematheque does best, however, might be finding and playing LGBT films that its larger cousins ignore. In January, they showed The Monkey�s Mask, a thriller with Susie Porter playing a lesbian detective who becomes involved with Kelly McGillis, the professor of a missing girl Porter is trying to find.

At the beginning of February, they gave Iron Ladies, a Thai docudrama about the transgendered volleyball team that won a national championship, its Ohio debut. The film was based on the 1996 Thai champions, and is thus far the highest-grossing film in its country�s history.

Now the Cinematheque is debuting The Fluffer, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland�s dysfunctional love story about a man who starts working in porn films to be near the "star" with whom he has become infatuated.

Sean McGinnis (Michael Cunio), an aspiring filmmaker, brings home Citizen Kane one night from the local video store, only to discover that the film inside is a pornographic send-up of the Orson Welles classic, Citizen Come.

In it is the most beautiful, mesmerizing man he has ever seen, porn icon Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). Sean winds up as a cameraman at Janus Films, the company that produces Rebel�s smut. While filming, however, Rebel seems to have trouble making the soldier salute, and suddenly Sean is asked to extend his duties from filming to fluffing.

For those that are not familiar with the term, a fluffer is someone who ensures that the male actors in adult videos have sufficiently upstanding citizens to continue with their activities.

Sean soon finds himself in a metaphor for any relationship full of neglect, as the only time Rebel pays attention to him is when Sean is fluffing him. Any other time, Rebel is either with his girlfriend or on massive amounts of drugs.

Sean is torn between weaning himself off of Johnny Rebel or trying to win Rebel, neither of which appears an easy task.

The Fluffer will play at the Cinematheque February 8-10. It is awaiting a free screen in the Drexel theaters in Columbus and at the Esquire in Cincinnati, both of whom expect it to play no earlier than March.

This brings up one of the biggest differences between a non-profit art theater like the Cinematheque and even the most progressive commercial theater: The Cinematheque can play films for as short or long a time as they wish, while commercial theaters have films run in week-long blocks. This limits the number of films they can show and creates logjams around Oscar time or when a film does better than is expected, like The Closet or The Crying Game did.

The Drexels need to find a time to work in The Fluffer, while the Cinematheque may bring it back for an encore presentation later, if it is successful enough in its run.

In the rest of February, in addition to a retrospective of Robert Altman�s films from the 1970s, the Cinematheque will also play The Fourth Man, a 1983 Dutch film from Robocop and Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven. The film deals with a bisexual author (Jeroen Krabbe) who becomes involved both with a lovely hairstylist and her handsome boyfriend. The only real problem--other than a lack of fidelity--is that the stylist�s three former husbands all died horribly, and neither Krabbe nor his male paramour want to become the title character.

The film is part of the January to April series "Lou Gianetti Presents," selected and introduced by Case Western Reserve University professor and author Lou Gianetti. It will play on February 18 at 7 pm.

On February 23 and 24, A Matter of Taste will please the palate of filmgoers.

In it, a businessman hires a waiter to become his food taster, and the relationship that forms between the two of them mirrors the Pygmalion tale.

Among the cinematic cornucopia being presented by the Cinematheque in March and April (their schedules are bimonthly, and the January-February schedule had 46 films) are Chop Suey, Bruce Weber�s cinematic autobiography, and Barbara Hammer�s History Lessons, using vintage film footage from dozens of sources to paint a picture of pre-Stonewall lesbian America.

The Cleveland Cinematheque is located inside the Cleveland Institute of Arts at 11141 East Blvd. at Bellflower. They can be reached at 216-421-7450, or online at http://www.cia.edu/cinematheque.

 

 

 

Top of Page Go Back One Page


© 2002 KWIR Publications
Legal and Privacy Notices

Go to Discussion Forum Top of Page