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June 14, 2002

30 floats, new band mark Cincinnati Pride

Cincinnati-It was nothing but blue skies for thousands people who celebrated two days of Pride as part of Cincinnati’s Gay Pride parade and festival.

On Saturday evening, June 8, roughly 1,500 people enjoyed an eclectic collection of music at Hoffner Park in the LGBT-friendly Northside neighborhood. On Sunday afternoon, the Pride parade kicked off with a rally in Burnet Woods in Clifton. Then, several thousand people marched back to Hoffner Park for more music, food and day-long festivities.

Festival organizer Ken Colegrove estimated the crowd at about 5,000.

Jason Dul, who handled route security, said he was pleased with the number of floats in this year’s Pride parade--30, which broke all previous year’s records. Giving another big boost to this year’s parade was the debut performance of the newly-formed Queen City Rainbow Band and Flag Corps. The crowd along the parade route cheered and sang along to two of the numbers the band performed, “We Are Family” and “YMCA.” Joining the Rainbow Band in their inaugural was the Lakeside Band and Flag Corps of Chicago.

“It’s just not a parade without marching band,” Dul said.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and supportive straight youth and families were also prominently featured in this year’s parade.

“From my perspective as a schoolteacher, it was wonderful to see so many families this year,” said Christopher Profitt, a teacher with Cincinnati Public Schools. “There were gay dads with their kids, lesbian moms, there gay sons with their moms. I know that people don’t always think of Gay Pride as a family event, but it really is, and that’s a strength of our community that we need to foster a little more.”

Profitt added that it was interesting to see that the mainstream news media, which generally ignores the annual Gay Pride event “actually gave a nod to it this year.”

Kathy Laufman who co-chairs the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network with Profitt’s partner Andy Ruffner, said she also was excited to see so many young people who came together to be so visible in the parade.

“Cincinnati Youth Group and the combined Gay Straight Alliances teamed up to do a float,” Laufman said. “Xavier University and Northern Kentucky University’s Gay-Straight Alliances marched, and there was significant presence of both high schools and college groups. It was thrilling to see all those wonderful young faces, because that is part of what GLSEN is trying to accomplish.”

Chris Seelbach, who serves on the Stonewall Cincinnati board of directors, said that this year’s Pride event provided some unity during what has been in many ways a very tumultuous year for the local GLBT community.

“I think the best thing about Pride this year was that it was a non-confrontational, non issue-oriented way for the GLBT community to come together and say that even though we have lots of differences, there are enough similarities that bring us together to celebrate and be proud of who we are.”

“The event was very well organized and executed,” Seelbach added. “The Pride committee did an excellent job, and they should be congratulated.”

Colegrove said the two day format seemed to work well, and served to welcome more of the Northside community to the Gay Pride event. The Northside Community Council sent a delegation that held a banner to greet parade marchers on Sunday afternoon.

The Saturday evening event, Colegrove said, was a “nice, laid-back event that involved a whole lot of Northside families.” This is exactly what Colegrove and the Pride Committee hoped to accomplish.

“It has always been our philosophy to include everyone,” Colegrove said. “We want everyone to come to the celebration.”


Sunny skies greet Dayton’s first Pride parade

Dayton--Sunny skies, warm weather and not a single protester greeted marchers in the city’s first Pride parade on June 1.

The parade was followed by a Gay Pride Kickoff Celebration on Courthouse Square, with performers and speakers including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan.

“Dayton’s GLBT brothers, sisters, and supportive families and friends came together to share our Pride and celebrate in our diversity, and successfully showed the community as a whole that we are all more alike than different,” said Dayton Pride Partnership coordinator John Gantt of the days’ festivities.

Participants converged at Cooper Park at the corner of 2nd St. and St. Clair and began marching toward Courthouse Square at 4 p.m. Groups from all over the country and a wide variety of backgrounds were represented, including churches, dance clubs and outreach centers. Approximately 200 people participated in the parade, with another estimated 150 onlookers following the procession.

The parade ended at Courthouse Square where marchers were met by vendors, musicians, and another estimated 500 Pride celebrants.

The Gay Pride Kickoff Celebration started at 5 p.m. Pre-show music was provided by Equal Peace Band, with a diverse array of speakers and entertainers to follow, including former city commissioner Mary Wiseman, Ann Cregan, president of the New York Police Department’s Gay Officers’ Action League, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Hagan, gospel singer Jenni Hoge and a number of other speakers and performers entertaining the audience.

The theme for the celebration was “True Colors, Shining Through.” Many of the speakers focused on the heroes and victims of September 11 from the LGBT community. They expressed the fact that the community is part of the larger community of American citizens, all of whom are entitled to equality.

Cregan shared her experience of September 11 and discussed the impact of that event on the partners and families of the victims. She also discussed the role that public servants from the LGBT community played in the rescue and recovery efforts.

Teri Gilman and Betty Wilson of Eternal Joy Metropolitan Community Church led a tribute to the heroes and victims of September 11, as well as all heroes and victims everywhere.

Hagan assured the audience that the LGBT community would in fact be represented in his office.

“It is important for the leadership of the state to speak out for human rights. [The LGBT community] is the last community in America that it is politically correct to attack,” said Hagan. “This event is long overdue.”

Groups participating in the day’s festivities included the AIDS Foundation Miami Valley, Youth Quest, P-FLAG, Dignity Dayton, the Artemis Center, Club Diva, Celebrity Show Club, DJ’s Saloon, The Stage Door, Up on Main, 464 on Fifth, Community Gospel Church, Faith United Church of Christ, Cross Creek Church of Christ and Eternal Joy MCC.

Gantt was pleased with the day’s events.

“This event sent the message to the greater Dayton community that the GLBT are a dynamic part of the community and are citizens that work, play and raise families in Dayton,” he said. “Dayton plans on a bigger and better celebration next year,” he said.

Festivities continue this week with the 16th annual Pride dinner and expo on Saturday, June 15 at the Dayton Convention Center, corner of 5th and Main. The Expo will run from 5 pm - 7 pm, and the dinner will start at 7 pm.

The next day, the outdoor Family Pride Picnic will be held in Carillon Park on Patterson Blvd across from NCR. The picnic will begin at 12 noon and go to 5 pm. Call 937-2753059 for information, or see www.members.tripod.com/pridedayton.

The theme for next year’s Dayton Pride  is “Flying High, Soaring to New Heights” It will celebrate Dayton and the LGBT community’s part in aviation history and Ohio’s bicentennial.


 

 

New state lobby group will endorse, fund candidates

Columbus--A new Ohio political action committee has been formed to fight the Defense of Marriage Act currently under consideration by the Ohio Senate.

Ohioans for Pride, Justice and Growth will attempt to make the Ohio legislature more friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender concerns.

Following nearly a year of study and planning, the first board was elected in Columbus May 18, marking the official formation of the group.

The PAC has incorporated and registered with the state of Ohio as a non-partisan issues advocacy committee.

The committee began to take shape following the Ohio House’s passage of the anti-marriage act last October. The bill, written by Cincinnati attorney and anti-gay activist David Langdon and sponsored by Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, seeks to make same-sex marriages and all civil unions against the strong public policy of the state and prohibit local governments from recognizing any non-marital cohabitation for the purpose of granting employee benefits.

Several PACs have been organized in the past ten years to lobby Ohio lawmakers on lesbian and gay issues. Those groups included Citizens for Justice, OutVoice, and Ohioans Against Discrimination. The latter was organized in 1997 to oppose the first DOMA bill introduced in the House by then Rep. Jay Hottinger of Newark.

Unlike the earlier PACs, the new group will be set up to endorse candidates for statewide office and make contributions to the campaigns of those endorsed.

According to board member John Farina of Lakewood, Ohioans for Pride, Justice and Growth will primarily have a state focus, but could also become involved in local races and issues.

Farina said the group will be in a position to contribute $35 to $50,000 to LGBT-affirming candidates for the current state races.

“Until now, Ohioans who believe that growth comes from embracing equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have had no one at the Statehouse representing their interests,” said interim board chair Tim Downing of Cleveland.

“The result of this has been bills such as DOMA, which is the brainchild of anti-gay, anti-family, anti-progress groups, which right now, have a full-time presence and thus undue influence on Capitol Square,” added Downing. “OPJG hopes to counteract this undue influence.”

Downing noted that those same groups have signaled that they plan to introduce other bills which will adversely affect all Ohio families, particularly those headed by LGBT adults during the remainder of this legislative session and the session that will begin in 2003.

“From a reintroduction of the bill banning family and health care benefits to people who are not married to an effort to bring back sodomy laws which were repealed over 30 years ago, LGBT families and all Ohioans who believe in equality will have their work cut out for them,” said Downing.

The Ohioans for Pride, Justice and Growth board is made up of two members each from Ohio’s largest cities, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland, and one member each from Toledo, Akron-Canton, Dayton, Youngstown and Athens. Four other members will be elected at-large.

Joining Downing as officers are treasurer Mark Kraus of Columbus and secretary Bill Bridges of Cincinnati.


HRC dinner honors King Ave. minister, media visibility

Columbus--The Human Rights Campaign Columbus dinner drew nearly 700 people to the Hyatt Regency on June 8. The fundraiser, now in its nineteenth year, honored a Columbus religious leader and celebrated the increased presence of gays and lesbians in the media.

The HRC gave its Equality Award to Rev. Grayson Aytha, senior minister at King Avenue United Methodist Church. After a video program on the work of the church, event producer Rob Pettit introduced Aytha, who has been jailed for protests with the group Soulforce.

“I accept this award for those who go to their churches, synagogues, and mosques, only to be told that they are not loved,” Aytha said.

He spoke of a member who was walking the corridor of the church, saying “gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transgender.”

Aytha asked, “What are you doing?”

“I am practicing,” she replied. “I want the words to roll off my lips.”

Early in the evening, Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson thanked the many candidates for the bench and political office who attended, including Debra O’Neill, Dan Steward, Tim Hagan, and Charleta Tavares.

Anderson then introduced Mary Jo Hudson, special assistant to the mayor for community affairs. Hudson thought that Mayor Michael Coleman had left, but he surprised her, giving an impromptu speech.

Coleman emphasized the importance of the HRC’s work.

“We are here tonight to win the fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination, wherever it may be,” he said.

City Council president Matt Habash read HRC’s mission statement, which now includes transgender people. The HRC voted to include gender expression in 2000.

HRC dinner co-chair Mario Pinardi said that fighting DOMA locally and nationally is their focus this year.

“Also, we want to improve funding for lesbian and gay health issues,” he said.

Former major league baseball player Billy Bean gave the keynote address. In a highly personal speech, Bean talked of the challenges he faced in a homophobic culture.

He said that on the evening after he hit his first home run, his partner had prepared a beautiful dinner for him. When former teammates came over to celebrate, he asked his partner to hide in the back of the house.

“The happiest day of my life became the saddest day of my life, because I could not be who I was,” he said.

Bean encouraged the audience to be visible. “Being out is a day to day struggle; it is not something you do once and then can just move on,” he said. “But the way you carry yourself can have such a positive impact on those around you.”

A pre-dinner silent auction and live auction held during the event helped the HRC toward its fundraising goal of $100,000. Mary Ann Brandt led the auctions, and comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer emceed the event. National HRC representative Everett Hamilton gave the closing address.


Rainbow flag to fly over Cleveland city hall for Pride

Cleveland--A rainbow will be seen in the sky over City Hall on June 15, greeting marchers in the Cleveland Pride parade.

For the first time in northeast Ohio, and perhaps in the entire state, the city will hoist a gay pride flag over its seat of power to honor its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

The flag, donated to Cleveland Pride by Paul Zeitzew of Body Language, was brought to city hall by Patrick Shepherd, president of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats on June 10.

“It’s an historic act for Mayor [Jane] Campbell to commemorate Pride month in such a visible way,” Shepherd said. He said that Cleveland’s chief operating officer, David McGuirk, had paved the way for the flag to be raised over the city.

According to Shepherd, McGuirk had also assisted Cleveland Pride by altering the parade route. Last year’s parade ended at E. 6th St. and Rockwell Avenue, near City Hall, while this year’s will most likely end at the Voinovich Park festival site.

“We are honored to take part in this weekend’s Pride celebration,” said chief health and public safety officer Craig Tame. “We fly the flag as a symbol of our ongoing support, and we look forward to working closely with these organizations in the future.”

Cleveland’s rally and parade will bring together city council members Matt Zone, Jay Westbrook and Joe Cimperman, along with Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, Cuyahoga County Republican Party chairman Jim Trakas, Lakewood council member Dennis Dunn and Ohio state senator Dan Brady.


 

Court strikes down law requiring Internet filters

Philadelphia--A federal court ruled that libraries receiving federal funds cannot be required to filter gay and safe-sex related material from their computers.

The May 31 ruling handed down by a three-judge panel appointed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia says that the Children’s Internet Protection Act, passed by Congress in December 2000, violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The law, which was spearheaded by Arizona senator and then- Republican presidential candidate John McCain, tied federal public library funds to the mandatory use of filtering software on all computer terminals used by both adults and children. This software blocks access to web sites that contain content on safer-sex and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.

McCain attempted a similar law in 1997 known as the Internet School Filtering Act which was held unconstitutional in 1998 for similar reasons.

Both laws were touted by McCain as actions to protect children from on-line pornography and predators.

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged both laws claiming that the filtering software denied access to valuable research material, especially to those who could not afford computers in their homes.

The latest trial, which lasted nine days, contained testimony from 24 plaintiffs, including PlanetOut.com, Safersex.org, and Out in America.com, headquartered in Columbus.

The judges also heard from plaintiff Emma Rood of Portland, Oregon, who testified that as a 16-year-old lesbian, she was denied access to information she was seeking at the library to help her come out to her friends and family.

Other plaintiffs include Planned Parenthood Federation of America, seven libraries and library associations, and two candidates for Congress whose web sites were also blocked.

Jared Hunnell of Out in America said he was approached by the ACLU in 1998 to join the suit when it was discovered that his sites were blocked, even though they contain no pornography.

Out in America and PlanetOut sites were blocked only because the filtering software found words like gay and lesbian in them, and the programmer had decided those topics were indecent.

Hunnell said he became committed to the cause and opposed to filtering software when he was in an Internet kiosk at the Dallas airport trying to access his site and e-mail.

“There was no warning posted that the terminal had filtering software,” said Hunnell, “but I couldn’t even access my own e-mail.”

The court’s ruling has no effect on privately-owned terminals like the airport kiosk, nor does it prevent libraries from installing the filters on terminals designated for children, as is the practice with most Ohio libraries that are members of the Ohio Public Library Information Network.

But it prevents the federal government from withholding funds from libraries that do not install filtering software on all terminals, as McCain advocated.

“It’s a victory for libraries, communities, and content publishers,” said Hunnell, adding that what is needed to protect minors is for the internet publishing industry to agree on age verification standards.

“[Filtering software] was the most economical solution, said Hunnell, “but it left it up to the filtering company’s values as to what got through, and that’s wrong.”

ACLU spokesperson Emily Whitfield said GLBT plaintiffs were sought because websites with any GLBT content are often deemed “indecent” and filtered.

“There is a political ideology at work in the Congress,” said Whitfield, “and we know that because they didn’t write the exemptions for not filtering speech that is considered socially valuable into the second law.”

The Department of Justice can appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because the law in question has been ruled to be a restriction of the First Amendment, the high court must hear the case if it is appealed.

Members of Congress are suggesting a third filtering law if the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court on this one.

Whitfield believes the Supreme Court would uphold the lower court because of prior rulings that Internet speech is entitled to the highest level of protection by the Constitution.

“I’m hoping Congress just lets it go,” Hunnell concluded.


 

Choruses prepare for July festival in Cincinnati

Cincinnati--On July 3 through 7, Muse: Cincinnati’s Women’s Chorus and the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus will host the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses Eastern Regional Festival, “SingCinnati: Building Bridges in the River City.”

The chorus association, known as GALA, is committed to serving the lesbian and gay choral movement. The two host will have the opportunity to showcase their own organizations to groups from around the country, as well as provide educational outreach and entertainment to local community groups.

Over 30 choruses and 1,200 delegates will join them for five days of song and celebration.

The workshops, exhibits and conference will be held at the Westin and Hyatt hotels in downtown Cincinnati and all concerts will be performed in the Procter & Gamble Theatre of the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Tickets for these performances will be available to the general public.

Fans of Muse and the Cincinnati men’s Chorus will have the opportunity to hear both choirs at the opening night concert on Wednesday, July 3. The two groups will perform individually and together. Small group numbers will also be featured.

SingCinnati provides a unique opportunity to see choruses from the eastern half of the United States. Windsong from Cleveland will make their first GALA festival appearance, fresh off the success of their concert in cooperation with the Rainbow Wranglers.

“I’m hoping the regionals ground us more about GALA’s vision, and that we see all the diversity and know that we can work together,” said Windsong music director Sharon Marrell.

Other women’s choruses taking part in the festival include the Indianapolis Women’s Chorus, Hersong: the Quad Cities Women’s Chorus from Davenport, Iowa, Renaissance City Women’s Choir from Pittsburgh, Rochester Women’s Community Chorus, and Sistrum: Lansing Women’s Chorus and Grand Rapids Women’s Choir from Michigan.

Other participants in the program include the mixed choruses of Voices of Kentuckiana, Indianapolis Men’s Chorus and the Lexington Men’s Chorus. Each chorus will showcase its own unique style here in Cincinnati.

Sing Out Toledo! will perform at the GALA Eastern Regional Festival as well, just over a month after the board voted to keep the chorus going despite relatively small audiences.

The Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus will perform at the festival, fresh off their June 7 and 8 “Boys in the Band” concerts. In addition, the North Coast Men’s Chorus will be there, basking in the glow from their June 22 and 23 performances in Cleveland with their guests in the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus. North Coast will travel to Rochester on June 15 to perform there as well.

The only Ohio LGBT-oriented chorus that will be absent from the GALA festival is Good Company from Cleveland, who decided to pass on the festival this year.

“This year we decided to do a longer rehearsal sequence,” said sixth-year music director Karen Weaver. “So our first full concert was in January.”

Next season, Good Company is looking at doing a “program honoring the works of female composers and poets,” said Weaver, “and we’re talking about commissioning work by a local gay composer.”

Their most public and grandest event of the GALA festival will be held Friday, July 5 when over 1,000 delegates will gather on Fountain Square at noon for a mass outdoor performance. Catherine Roma and Patrick Coyle, artistic directors of the combined choirs, will lead a program of familiar and moving pieces sung by festival participants.

The festival steering committee will plan other community concerts in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The host choruses and GALA are committed to bringing strong voices of inspiration and social justice to the community.

“We have the opportunity to be change agents, to inspire, to motivate and to sing for justice,” Roma remarked. “ ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest,’ Ella Baker said, and indeed they cannot rest or remain silent when there are many issues that unite the causes of lesbian and gay people and women and men in the black community of Cincinnati.”

To volunteer or for more information, contact Muse at 513-2211118, or log on to www.galachoruses.org.

Laura Talarek is the staff coordinator of Muse. Jeff Woodard contributed to this article.