Ontario must allow same-sex marriage, court rules
by Eric Resnick
Toronto--A three-judge panel ruled July 12 that refusing legal recognition of same-sex marriages violates the Canadian constitution.
The unanimous ruling by the Ontario Superior Court moves Canada another step closer to nationwide marriage rights for gays and lesbians. The court ordered Ontario to change its laws to comply within two years.
The case is one of three lawsuits headed for Canada’s Supreme Court that may result in all of Canada’s provinces changing their definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The other two are in Quebec and British Columbia.
The Ontario suit originated in January, 2001, when two couples tested a loophole in the Ontario Marriage Act.
The couples, one gay, the other lesbian, were married by the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto under a 19th-century law based on the Christian principle of "banns," which makes a church marriage into a civil one if the church publishes announcements on three Sundays prior to the marriage. If no one files an objection, the marriage goes forward.
But when the couples attempted to register their marriages, the Ontario Consumer Minister refused, prompting the lawsuits.
Currently, all Canadian provinces are updating their laws to eliminate discrimination between same-sex couples and legally married ones.
These updates result from the equality guarantees made part of the Canadian Charter of Rights in 1985, which provided an open-ended list of classes that should be protected from discrimination.
In 1995, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that the list must include sexual orientation.
Subsequent rulings, including a May 1999 decision that eliminated the exclusively opposite-sex definition of "spouse," have made it possible that Canada may join the Netherlands in granting full marriage to same-sex couples.
The Canadian government has already changed federal tax and immigration laws to bring about parity between same- and opposite-sex couples.
Quebec and British Columbia also have cases in their courts that challenge Canada’s "one man, one woman" marriage definition.
Quebec’s superior court is expected to rule in a few weeks in the case of a Montreal gay male couple who have sued for a marriage license.
A British Columbia judge ruled last October that while Canada discriminates against same-sex couples by refusing to allow marriage, it is justified under the Charter of Rights.
Canada’s highest court could consolidate all three cases and make the final ruling on same-sex marriages binding on all provinces.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Heather Smith suspended the July 12 ruling for two years in order to give the Ontario Parliament enough time to change the laws. If Parliament does not act, Ontario’s common law will be automatically changed to reflect the court’s decision.
Ontario premier Ernie Eves said July 16 that the province would not appeal the decision, leaving it up to the federal government to do so. Ottawa has not said if will appeal the ruling.
Matrimony falls under federal jurisdiction in Canada, but marriages are registered by the provinces.
John Fisher, who is executive director of Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere in Ottawa, said he is optimistic that the Supreme Court will not reverse the decision.
"Same-sex marriages in Canada are a matter of when, not if," said Fisher, adding that if the Quebec Superior Court rules as Ontario’s did, it will all but make it certain. He also indicated that the strong language in the Ontario case helps the Quebec case.
Fisher said that the Canadian Human Rights Commission released a report in May calling for the Canadian government to end the remaining discrimination against same-sex couples in the marriage law.
"That report was well received by the press and the public," said Fisher. "There is little risk to the Canadian government to bring the marriage laws in line with the constitution."
Fisher said Canada does not have an organized anti-gay religious lobby like the United States does, so opposition to same sex marriage has been "very narrow and very muted."
"Polls show that two thirds of Canadians support same-sex marriage," said Fisher.
"In the short term, those opposed will make a fuss, but over time, [same-sex marriage] will become a part of Canadian life," Fisher added.
Fisher indicated that Canadians and Americans see civil rights from a different perspective, which he credits for Canada’s progress.
"Americans have a melting pot approach, which tries to make people fit into the culture," said Fisher. "In Canada, we are less nationalistic, and have deeper respect for a multi-cultural society. We don’t try to make people fit into slots."
"This has led your Fred Phelps to call Canada ‘the enemy within North America,’ " said Fisher. "But when he sent his daughter to burn a Canadian flag at the Capitol, there was strong backlash from Ottawa."
Fisher predicts that progress in Canada will lead to progress in the United States for same-sex marriage, due to the flow of trade and information across the border.
"This will be a great opportunity to boost marriage efforts in the U.S.," said Fisher.
Ohio Lesbian Festival is cancelled for this year
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus—The lack of a location and volunteers have taken their toll on the Ohio Lesbian Festival, causing its organizers to cancel the late-summer music gathering for this year.
Last year’s festival was to be the final one at Frontier Ranch in Kirkersville, east of Columbus. The ranch was being sold for a housing development.
According to the Lesbian Business Association president Sherrill Howard, the group searched for another location large enough to handle the festival, which it produces. When no suitable site was found, the LBA looked into booking a smaller location and centering the focus of the festival more tightly on central Ohio performers. However, even narrowing the scope of the event, they were unable to find a usable location.
A blow was struck to morale when the sale of Frontier Ranch fell through. A referendum in Kirkersville on rezoning the land for residential development went against the sale, but happened too late for the women to secure the location for the festival. The event has been held there for 13 years.
Frontier Ranch will now be managed by Ekoostik Hookah, an iconic hippie-rock band less known than the Grateful Dead but still popular in those circles. The management for the music group has looked at land use fees for festivals at other sites around the region and will most likely raise the charges for using Frontier Ranch. Howard said that, in addition to the basic fee for the land, they will most likely also charge a per-head percent of the gate receipts.
Another blow was dealt to the festival when, earlier this year, a call for volunteers yielded only five people.
"You can’t run a festival this size with just five volunteers," the LBA president said. "You can’t even run a festival for 500 people with five volunteers."
The future of the Ohio Lesbian Festival will hang on the availability of people to help put it together. The four core members of the LBA bear the brunt of the workload for putting the festival together.
In addition, donations to charitable organizations have been down across the board in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Large numbers of people donated the money they might have given to other charities to Sept. 11 relief efforts, leaving AIDS service organizations, LGBT groups and crisis centers scrambling to make ends meet.
Similar concerns of volunteers and finances forced the board of the autumn Out in Akron festival to cancel this year’s event last month. Instead, they will look to helping other groups organize programming aimed at the gay community. The move will also give them more time to plan for 2003.
The Lesbian Business Association began 14 years ago as a networking organization for women in Central Ohio but, "Its reason has ceased to be," Howard noted. "It’s not as closeted as it was years ago."
"We’ve tried to switch the focus and had limited success," she continued.
At the behest of some of its members, the group has attempted to shift itself towards providing a social milieu for women in the area, but the efforts were not entirely successful.
The LBA is looking at becoming event-specific, an organization devoted solely to staging the Ohio Lesbian Festival each year. This option, however, is conditional on the support of the lesbian community in central Ohio.
"If [the festival] is going to be perpetuated, there has to be a base of people moving it forward," Howard stressed.
If all options for reviving the festival for 2003 fail, noted Howard, the women of LBA may redirect their energies towards the Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Organization, which they are all involved with. That option would, however, leave Ohio without a mainstay of the women’s music movement.
The Lesbian Business Association can be reached at 614-267-3953 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their web site is www.ohiolba.org.
Former president Clinton says fixing the problem is not complicated
by Rex Wockner
Barcelona, Spain--The big story at the 14th International AIDS Conference held here July 7-12 was not a surprise. It is that less than two percent of the 40 million HIV-positive people in the world have access to the drugs that keep people from dying of AIDS.
"My advice," former U.S. President Bill Clinton told the 15,000 delegates, "is push every country you can to make their deals with the drug companies. If the deals are unsatisfactory, go to Brazil or India--the U.N. is certifying those drugs. Then come to the rest of us and say, ‘OK, this is what we need: Here’s what we need for medicine and here’s what we need for prevention.’ "
Brazil and India circumvent drug-company patents and produce and export generic AIDS drugs at a fraction of the cost of the brand-name products.
"Barring some nuclear war, more people are going to die from AIDS in the next three years than from anything else," Clinton said in one of several appearances at the confab. "Wherever you’re from, what’s your government’s fair share [to spend], and are they paying it? The second thing is, is there a plan?"
"You can criticize the drug companies--some are much better than others," he said. "Most countries still haven’t cut their deals with the drug companies. You need to make sure there is a plan. And then, once you know what the price is, you figure out what the government can afford to pay there, and what the rest of us have to kick in, and then who’s got to get the drugs out and teach people how to use them.
"The money will come," Clinton said. "The world has awakened to this, if there is a plan. . . . That’s what my advice is. . . . What’s [your] country supposed to pay, and badger them to pay it. And then badger them to have a plan. And then badger them to implement it. It’s not very complicated."
Clinton is advisory board chair of the International AIDS Trust.
Other headlines from the conference included:
• Many young U.S. gay men are barebacking, and most who have become HIV-positive as a result do not know they are infected.
• A new class of drug will hit the market within a year. Fusion inhibitors (also called entry inhibitors) block HIV earlier in the replication process than any of the 16 drugs now available, preventing an immune-system cell from becoming infected in the first place.
• Therapeutic vaccines are on the radar screen as a new kind of treatment for people who are already infected.
• The health secretaries of the United States and Spain were prevented from being heard at the conference in separate run-ins with jeering, whistle-blowing protesters--scenes reminiscent of the 1990 AIDS conference in San Francisco.
Twenty million people around the world have died of AIDS to date, says UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS. By 2020, 68 million more may be dead. Even with negotiated price reductions in some Third World nations, the antiretroviral drugs--each one patented and produced by only one company--still cost way too much.
"We are only at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic," said UNAIDS Director Peter Piot. "Collectively, we have grossly, grossly underestimated how bad this was going to be . . . It is by far the biggest epidemic that humanity has known in absolute terms."
Hundreds of protesters staged a colorful march outside the conference demanding universal access to cheap, generic AIDS drugs, including in wealthy nations where the yearly price tag for an antiviral cocktail is $12,000 to $15,000, a serious strain on the health-care budgets of even well-off countries.
On day three of the conference, about 100 very noisy protesters (with support from much of the audience) prevented U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson from being heard when he delivered his address. They chanted, blew whistles and shouted.
Thompson persevered to the end, despite the deafening din.
The protesters accused George Bush’s administration of failing to give its fair share to the new Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; shortchanging the U.S. AIDS Drug Assistance Program; blocking needle-exchange programs; and "attacking science-based prevention programs that talk frankly about sex and supporting abstinence-only prevention programs."
"The truth is, we know what he was going to say, and we’re tired of his lies," said protester Asia Russell, who was credentialed to the conference with the organization Health Gap.
U.N. officials and others working on the Global Fund agreed with the protesters on all points. Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, an adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the Bush administration suffers from "utter confusion" on AIDS issues, lacking even a plan.
The U.S. has pledged $500 million to the Global Fund but fund officials say the U.S.’ fair share would be $2.5 billion of the total $10 billion yearly goal.
Secretary Thompson said the U.S. contribution is a quarter of all the money the fund has raised so far.
Fund officials replied that when the U.S. didn’t ante up its fair share, other nation followed suit and didn’t pay what they should either.
Protesters pointed out that as a percentage of their gross domestic products, Sweden has contributed seven times more than the U.S. and Rwanda has contributed ten times more.
On July 12, just hours after the conference ended, the U.S. Senate passed a measure to increase U.S. contributions to the Global Fund; the bill now must be reconciled with one that has passed the House of Representatives.
Spanish Minister of Health and Consumer Affairs Celia Villalobos got a reception similar to Thompson’s when she tried to address the opening plenary session. No one heard her because several hundred Spanish delegates screamed and blew whistles throughout her speech.
They were upset that up to 100 delegates were denied visas to attend the conference by Spanish embassies and consulates in several nations, including South Africa, Sri Lanka and Yugoslavia. They also said Spain has budgeted only for 21 percent of its promised contribution to the Global Fund.
The study on infection rates in young U.S. gays was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control at gay bars and other meeting places in several cities. They interviewed 5,719 men under age 30, then drew their blood.
Five hundred seventy-three of the men tested positive and 440 of them didn’t know they were positive. Most, in fact, thought they were negative and at low risk for HIV infection. Ninety-one percent of the blacks who were positive didn’t know it, 70 percent of the Latinos and 60 percent of the whites.
A spokesman for the Washington, D.C. lobby group AIDS Action said a big part of the problem is barebacking--gay men deliberately not using condoms during casual sexual encounters.
"There is the whole notion that AIDS is over in the United States, that it’s not a problem any more," AIDS Action’s Scott Brawley said in an interview.
"Prevention messages are not working. We do have gay men barebacking . . . We have a whole generation of people under the age of 30 that don’t remember the AIDS epidemic, that think it’s nothing more than, ‘Hell, you take a couple of pills and you’ll be fine.’"
Brawley had no suggestions on how to slow the barebacking trend.
"My honest response, as a gay man, is that things are going to have to get worse again before they’ll ever get better," he said. "Resistant HIV, an explosion of HIV, something that may go wrong with the medications."
The new drug, an entry/fusion inhibitor made by Roche and the U.S. biotech firm Trimeris, is called T-20 or enfuvirtide. It has succeeded in reducing HIV viral load to undetectable levels in many people who had become resistant to all currently available drugs, which are protease inhibitors or reverse-transcriptase inhibitors. T-20 will be shockingly expensive ($10,000-$12,000 per patient per year, according to reports) and must be injected rather than swallowed.
Still, veteran AIDS researcher Robert Gallo, who co-discovered HIV, predicted that entry/fusion inhibitors like T-20 soon will replace protease inhibitors because the latter are toxic.
"The inhibitors of viral entry will be the most important new advances," Gallo said. "The protease inhibitors will go down and maybe go away. Important as they are, they are toxic. My guess would be in two or three years, the protease inhibitors will go away. They will be taken over by viral entry inhibitors and by more intelligent use of reverse-transcriptase inhibitors."
Human trials will begin this year in the U.S. and Italy on another possible new treatment, therapeutic vaccines.
The vaccines, which are rubbed into the skin, may allow HIV-positive people to periodically go off their meds, or to take fewer drugs, researchers said. The vaccines work in monkeys, stimulating the white blood cells that destroy HIV-infected cells.
At the conference’s closing session, Clinton repeated his recipe for ending the AIDS epidemic and former South African President Nelson Mandela, honorary co-chair of the International AIDS Trust, presented a lengthy analysis of the crisis, agreeing with Clinton almost point by point.
"AIDS is a war against humanity," Mandela said. "This is a war which requires total mobilization of entire populations. We must find ways and means to make lifesaving treatment available to all who need it regardless of whether they can pay for it or where they live or for any other reason why treatment is denied."
by Eric Resnick
Cincinnati--An anti-gay group hopes to begin suing Ohio public school systems, claiming that the districts are responsible for physical and emotional harm to students who are exposed to "homosexuality education."
Citizens for Community Values launched a campaign June 12 to "warn Ohio public schools that they face legal liability for putting children’s health at risk if school officials allow the promotion of homosexual behavior on campus."
The group is well-known for backing the passage of Article XII of the Cincinnati city charter, which prohibits any ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. They are also advising a Cleveland Heights group that is trying to repeal health benefits for city workers’ same-sex domestic partners.
CCV first sent a report they wrote titled "The Legal Liability Associated with Homosexuality Education in Public Schools" to superintendents and school board presidents.
A week later, they followed with a letter signed by CCV president Phil Burress saying, "We are concerned that by allowing access by homosexual activist organizations, and by establishing policies that have the effect of normalizing homosexual behavior, school districts may have become responsible for physical and emotional harm to the students entrusted in their care."
The letter continues, "We have a responsibility to advise parents that with the approval of school officials, organizations such as GLSEN and P-FLAG have been allowed to sponsor clubs, programs and activities through which students are being lured into a behavior pattern that threatens their physical, mental and emotional well-being."
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, works to end anti-gay bias in public schools. P-FLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also works to help gay and lesbian youth.
But CCV is doing more than "warning" superintendents. They are also trying to recruit plaintiffs for these suits.
CCV vice president David Miller said, "We are interested in talking to anyone who has been injured due to the negligence of a school system."
Miller said his group is currently examining school policies, "looking for yellow and red flags and constitutional violations."
Miller said that the report and the letters were sent to all 613 superintendents and board presidents in the state and to every school board member in the Cincinnati area.
The Gay People’s Chronicle contacted superintendents for response and found that many hadn’t received either mailing. Among those who had, most, including Cincinnati’s Steven Adamowski, would not comment.
Miller claimed that CCV has gotten nearly 300 positive responses back from superintendents. The Gay People’s Chronicle asked to speak to one. In a post-interview e-mail, Miller wrote, "I don’t believe it would be appropriate for me to release their names to the media for fear of violating their confidence."
Canton City Schools Superintendent Dianne Talarico has not received anything from CCV, but said, "From what you describe, this sounds like a conservative group trying to violate civil rights of people, and that is troubling to me."
Talarico said that a substitute teacher in her district made a presentation to the Board of Education earlier in the year pointing out areas where the system needed to do more for gay and lesbian students.
"I have a meeting scheduled with him in August," said Talarico, "and we intend to take action."
GLSEN deputy director Eliza Byard, said her group got a call from an alarmed Ohio superintendent wanting to know what to do to counter CCV.
"I hope Ohio school districts will recognize this [CCV’s threat] as misinformation and fear tactics," said Byard.
Miller said CCV bases the part of their threat that First Amendment rights of students are being violated on a 2001 Pennsylvania case, Saxe v. State College Area School District, which found that the school district went too far in crafting anti-harassment policies and violated students’ free speech rights.
In the same post-interview e-mail, Miller wrote, "Although I could not name a case that directly set a precedent re: homosexuality education in public schools, we both know the legal theory is certainly there."
Byard said CCV was misusing the Saxe case, which she said affirmed that preventing discrimination and harassment in schools is a compelling interest of government.
About the report and letter, Byard said, "This is clearly a real mishmash of misinformation and strange legal tactics."
Byard did not know of any other state where similar threats have been made to school systems, and she didn’t think any suit brought by CCV would be taken too seriously by a court.
"This CCV effort is not really worth responding to," said Byard, "except as part of a larger national agenda to turn the tide against schools trying to protect gay and lesbian students."
Byard said the gay-straight alliances that CCV calls "harmful" are student organized and run groups that courts have consistently upheld under the First Amendment when anti-gay groups have attacked them.
by Anthony Glassman
Cincinnati—Continuing a year of upheavals in the Queen City’s most prominent LGBT rights organization, a petition to dismiss three board members stalled on July 9 during an often-vitriolic membership meeting.
The positions of co-chairs Heidi Bruins and Roy Ford and that of board member Mike McCleese may be decided at the next general membership meeting on September 10.
At issue are allegations that the trio have used Stonewall’s name in actions not approved by the board as a whole and have been divisive in their behavior and comments.
Board member Doreen Cudnik, in a transcript of the speech given to the members, noted, "Most recently, Stonewall’s name was used on signs to protest the GALA conference, in blatant violation of a July 2 board vote on this matter."
The Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses held their eastern regional conference in Cincinnati July 3-8, despite a boycott of the city. Two of their concerts at the Aronoff Center were picketed by the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, a group of about a dozen organizations that are backing the boycott. Stonewall is a member of the coalition.
Some Stonewall board members had tried to ban other board members from picketing the festival with the group’s name on their signs. According to McCleese, the vote tied at 5-5.
Cudnik also wrote, "Messages from Stonewall members who wrote or posted their disagreements online were regularly labeled ‘virulent attacks’ by Mr. McCleese."
Co-chair Roy Ford sent e-mails to the mayor and city council members that a section of the Stonewall membership viewed as straining relations with city council at a time when Citizens to Restore Fairness was lobbying for the repeal of Article XII of the city charter, banning the city from passing any civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation. The E-mail’s subject line, "Stonewall invited Mayor to Gay Pride," was written without the input of the committee organizing Cincinnati Pride.
McCleese charges that the effort to repeal him and the co-chairs is a backlash from conservative elements in the organization, many of who resigned their memberships last September when a more progressive board swept into power in the human rights organization.
"Folks are dissatisfied," Cudnik said. "It’s been very disruptive. You can’t burn bridges with other organizations and expect to be asked to the table when the real work gets done."
McCleese counters, "People are working with various factions. People who do not agree with the activist stance, instead of working with us and getting on the board to affect the direction, are starting anonymous ‘concerned member’ letters."
"The people who are doing this support the status quo and are resistant to change," he continued. "What this boils down to is an ideological schism."
Stonewall bylaws require 10% of the membership’s signatures on a petition to force a recall vote of board members; 2/3 of the membership must then vote for removal for the motion to pass.
One of the main points of contention at the meeting was whether the petitions could be counted as absentee ballots. The petitions, in part, read, "In the event I am not present at a meeting of the general membership at which a vote on removal is held, I also intend for this petition to serve as an absentee ballot to cast my vote for removal."
Petition opponents argued that the petitions were valid, but could not be used as absentee ballots, because they lacked a mechanism for those wishing to retain the board members to cast absentee ballots opposing their removal.
"Many of the names of the people who signed the petition were people who quit after we joined the board," McCleese said, referring to the upheavals in the organization last September. "Most of the names were people who joined in the last 60 days."
A number of the people dissatisfied with the actions of the board members want the organization to more narrowly focus on LGBT issues instead of becoming more involved with wider social justice causes like the larger boycott of Cincinnati. The majority of those at the meeting intending to vote Bruins, Ford and McCleese out were white gay men.
"What we heard a lot about last night is that racism, sexism, classism and homophobia are all connected," McCleese noted. "We really believe you cannot fight one and ignore the others. A number of the people who spoke against us want to see Stonewall Cincinnati return to focusing only on LGBT issues."
Such a move would be disastrous to efforts to repeal Article XII, according to some board members. African-American churches were influential in getting the measure passed, and many have since reversed their earlier positions, pledging their support in the repeal effort.
"We have worked very hard to build coalitions with African-American organizations," said McCleese.
According to McCleese, two local organizations have said that they will refrain from coalition-building with Stonewall Cincinnati if the three are voted out. In addition, board members Dianna Brewer and Amy Vincent have said that they will resign in protest if Ford, Bruins and McCleese are ousted.
by Kaizaad Kotwal
Columbus-At this year’s Pride festivities in Columbus, like many before, religiously conservative protestors gathered along the parade route, holding placards, shouting slogans and proselytizing to the parade marchers and watchers alike. Some of the placards read, "God Created Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve," and "God Hates Fags--Fags Will Burn in Hell."
A group by the Columbus Convention Center included a man holding a placard that read, "AIDS is not a Desease [sic]. AIDS is a Cure." Next to him stood a protester holding a sign from which was dangling a lynched pair of Ken dolls, stripped naked and taped together to simulate anal intercourse.
Such religious protestors and proselytizers are not limited to Pride festivities. Certain Christian groups use any opportunity to spread their anti-gay views about God and the Bible.
In light of this, Stonewall Columbus, in conjunction with Rev. Gene Talley of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church offers a course in "Biblical Self-Defense for GLBT People."
Held at Stonewall’s offices each Monday in July, the class seeks to demystify the misuse of the Bible against gays and lesbians.
Talley said that he understood how "many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people had detached themselves from the church, given that the Bible has been so misused to chase them away in the first place."
The sessions on Bible defense, according to Talley, start with the premise that "the best defense is a great offense." Talley led the group through a very methodical and detailed examination of the Bible, how it has been abused by those opposed to gays and about how GLBT people can fight back.
Talley, using handouts and the Bible itself, referred to very specific passages that have been taken out of context or been misinterpreted in an attempt to prove that the Bible is anti-gay.
Talley also said that those interested in a very exhaustive and comprehensive study of the Bible and homosexuality should refer to John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century.
The session held on July 15 was focused around demystifying and clarifying the most commonly used passages against gays and lesbians from Leviticus and Genesis.
The evening shed light on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. A close reading of the texts brought the group to the conclusion that the two cities were punished not for homosexuality, but rather for "pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease [and for not aiding] the poor and needy." (Ezekiel 16:48-50)
Talley showed participants what he views as other truths in the Bible than those used by religious conservatives. There are two more sessions to be held on July 22 and 29 at 7 p.m.
For more information about future classes contact Talley at 614-299-2541or 614-352-4660 or Stonewall Columbus, 1160 N. High Street, at 614-299-7764.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Supreme Court is asked to review Texas sex ban law
Houston—A gay and lesbian legal group took its case against Texas’ 123-year-old law criminalizing gay sex to the U.S. Supreme Court on July 16. The group asked the court to reconsider a 16-year-old ruling that upheld such laws.
The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed its appeal on behalf of two men who were arrested in 1998 after sheriff’s deputies responding to a report of an intruder entered an apartment through an open door and saw them having sex. The men pleaded no contest and were fined $200 each.
Only Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma expressly prohibit homosexual sex. Texas’ law carries a fine of up to $500. Nine other states have "sodomy" laws prohibiting both heterosexual and homosexual oral and anal sex.
"This law harms all people who believe that their homes should be protected from governmental intrusion," said Lee Taft, director of Lambda’s regional office. "In particular, it brands lesbian and gay Texans as second-class citizens and is used to justify all kinds of discrimination."
A state appeals court upheld the law, and Texas’ highest court refused to hear the case.
If the U.S. high court accepts the case, it will likely reconsider its 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick ruling upholding the right of states to regulate private, consensual, noncommercial sex. That case centered on Georgia’s sodomy law, which the Georgia Supreme Court has since voided under the state constitution.
Victim catches his bashers
Vancouver, B.C.—Two American sailors are being charged with attacking a gay man on July 13.
The sailors approached a man walking on Pacific Avenue and asked him for directions. Before he could answer, one of the duo sprayed him in the face with Mace or pepper spray and the other kicked him and made anti-gay comments.
The two men ran off, but the victim chased after them with the help of a witness. They cornered the sailors, one of whom pulled a knife as police arrived. Police then arrested the sailors, who are being charged with assault and weapons violations.
Four years for dog-mauling death
San Francisco—A judge sentenced Marjorie Knoller to four years behind bars for owning two ferocious dogs that killed a neighbor last year, saying it was clear "someone was going to get hurt by those dogs."
Judge James Warren said Knoller deserved the maximum because she had shown no remorse and had lied under oath in denying that she had seen the two huge dogs bite or menace others.
With credit for good conduct and time served, Knoller could spend about 14 months in state prison.
She and her husband, Robert Noel, were convicted in March in the death of Diane Whipple, who was attacked by the couple’s two huge presa canario dogs in January 2001. Noel is already serving a four-year term.
Knoller was convicted of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and having a mischievous dog that killed someone. Noel was found guilty of the manslaughter and mischievous dog charges.
Knoller could have gotten 15 years to life in prison for murder. But the judge threw out the charge last month, saying Knoller had no way of knowing the dogs would kill someone when she left her apartment that day.
His decision drew criticism from prosecutors, who appealed. District Attorney Terence Hallinan said it should take about a year for the appeal to work its way through the system.
Knoller also was ordered to pay $6,800 in restitution to Sharon Smith, Whipple’s partner.
One arrested in Pride Day attack
Tampa, Fla.—Two men taunted and attacked a group of men leaving a Gay Pride celebration in the early morning hours of July 7, injuring three of them.
Devin Scott Angus was charged with aggravated battery and battery evidencing prejudice. He was released on $6,000 bail July 8.
Police were searching for a second suspect, a sheriff’s spokeswoman said.
About 12 men were leaving a PrideFest party when the three were attacked in a parking garage, police said.
One of the attackers dropped his pants, screamed obscenities, then punched some of the partygoers.
Scott Boswell and Steven Hair were punched in the face and received cuts on their faces. Sonny Gonzales suffered a head laceration.
"It’s very upsetting," Boswell said. "Especially since it was a Pride event, it was for our community to go out and be seen."
John Lockhart talked with 41 gay men about what to expect as we grow older
by Dan Cullinane
There may be no greater source of anxiety, depression or fear in today’s gay society than that associated with aging. Many gay men who survived the AIDS epidemic are now facing retirement age with no visible examples of what this chapter in their life may bring.
John Lockhart was one of these men. While visiting an older friend in Arizona, they had a long conversation about what life is like for gay men over 65. That conversation not only provided Lockhart with answers to some of his own questions, it also served as the inspiration for his first book, The Gay Man’s Guide to Growing Older, now available from Alyson Publications.
A former lobbyist, Lockhart, 70, is a dedicated runner. A Gay Games participant since 1986, he has won the gold medal in the marathon, half-marathon, and 10K.
Dan Cullinane: Where did you get the idea to write a book about the aging of gay men?
John Lockhart: In the spring of 1999 I visited my friend, Bob, whom I had not seen in nearly 20 years. He lives in Arizona and was 82 then.
As I, 67, drove across the desert between San Diego and Arizona, I thought, "I sure would like know what to expect between now and then if I live to Bob’s age."
So, I asked Bob if we could talk about aging, he said, "Okay," and we sat around his dining room table and explored issues. From that dining room table chat, later research, and interviews with 4l men I have written a book that is topical, practical, and straightforward. Incidentally, that’s a three-year gestation from idea in head to book in hand.
DC: How did you find the men you interviewed?
JL: I mined my acquaintances, contacted national organizations, got some visibility in the gay and lesbian media, went up on a web site or two, attended a couple of national meetings of older gay men and enjoyed great good luck in reaching the 41 men 65 and older--the oldest man in the book is 91--men of varied economic, social, cultural, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
DC: What did you talk about to these 41 guys?
JL: Everything! Using an interview questionnaire, and I revised it as I went through the interviews based on experience, we explored issues of money, work, leisure and volunteering, health, where the men live, families, spirituality, and yes, for sure, relationships and sex. Death, too, but the book’s tone is upbeat. The focus is on the future. Overall, the book is a snapshot of who the men are right now.
DC: What’s your background? What do you bring to the enterprise?
JL: I’m the real thing, a 70 year-old gay man, born in the depths of the Great Depression, too young for World War II but just right for the Korean War; went to college thanks to the G.I. bill, worked as a lobbyist for public education for nearly 40 years, and I’m still here. The Gay Man’s Guide to Growing Older is neither technical nor academic. It’s a book for those who want to know about the aging of gay men based on the experience of those who are there.
DC: So your book isn’t just for gay folks.
JL: I don’t think so. The book is relevant to families of origin. After all, just about every gay man comes from a ‘traditional’ family. And nearly half of the men in the book were married at some point in their lives, three of them twice. The book is a resource for professionals and to those working in agencies and companies that provide goods and services to our country’s aging population. Remember, one of every five Americans is over 65, our largest single population. And baby boomers are turning 50 at the rate of one every 7.5 seconds. Translate that to gay men: 1.5 to 2 million in the age group 50-65 between now and 2014.
DC: What do the men say their top issues are as they age?
JL: Number one is maintaining their health. Having enough money to live on--and most feel they do--is next. Several men say finding a partner is important. Those in long term relationship, the longest is 55 years, treasure their partner and bless their good luck.
DC: Do gay men over 65 have sex?
JL: Yes, and how! Read the book to find out.
DC: What’s "the good, the bad and the ugly" of gay men’s growing older?
JL: The good, especially for those who worked all their lives and don’t now, is having time to savor experiences, relax and have the means to make it all happen. Their number one piece of advice to young gay men: Save your money for when you are older; you’ll need it. Relationships present and past are treasured.
The bad might be characterized as stuff "over and done with," problems resolved. But unresolved health issues for some are a major concern. Happily, there’s not a lot of the ugly. Instead, there’s life satisfaction, being at peace with the present and a holding a positive outlook to the future.
DC: On the back cover, there’s a photo of you running. Are you an athlete?
JL: Well, yes, I guess so. I began running 30-some years ago, I’ve run 33 marathons, and I never ran one until I was over 50. In 1981 I was a founding member of Front Runners San Diego and I run regularly with the club. I am thrilled to have participated in the Gay Games since 1986 and to have won the Gold medal in my age division in the marathon, half marathon and 10K. I look forward to the Games in Sydney in November. I’m registered for the 5K and the half marathon. I love hiking and Alpine skiing.
DC: This is your first book. Was writing it a hard job, did you think you would ever finish it, and how about awaiting a visit from the muse?
JL: None of the above! I loved meeting and interviewing the 41 men in the book, learning their experiences, plans and aspirations, researching issues and seeing the book take shape before my eyes on the computer screen. I’m organized and disciplined--I adhered to the "writer’s" morning schedule, and stuck to it, with time out for skiing and other breaks agreed to by a wonderful editor, Scott Brassart--and never worried about a visit from the muse. Instead, I sought and found the voices of the 41 men, and they’re loud and clear.
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