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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 15, 2002

 

Ohio high court hears
dual-parenting case

Anti-gay lawmakers set state precedent to keep family from having two legal moms

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--The highest court in Ohio heard a case that will decide whether unmarried couples, same-sex and different-sex, have the right to set up court-approved shared parenting arrangements March 13.

The case, which is being watched nationally by civil rights groups and religious conservatives alike, could lead to Ohio joining 12 other states that allow such arrangements.

Conservative Ohio legislators have signaled that whatever the outcome of the case, they will introduce laws to prevent recognition of parenting by unmarried couples.

The case was brought be two Cincinnati women, Teri Bonfield and Shelley Zachritz and their six children.

Bonfield and Zachritz have been together since 1988. Bonfield adopted two boys, one in 1993 and another in 1995, and also gave birth to a son in 1995 and twins in 1998. The latter three children were by artificial insemination from an anonymous donor.

The couple filed their first shared parenting plan with the Hamilton County Juvenile Court in 1999, the same year Bonfield gave birth to the couple’s sixth child.

The court rejected the parenting plan, saying that the law makes reference to parents only as natural or adoptive.

The First District Ohio Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision February 16, 2001, saying that the statute limits the definition of "parent" and that the legislature would need to make any changes to the definition.

The women did not ask the court for a joint or second-parent adoption because Ohio law does not permit joint adoptions by same-sex couples.

Their attorney, Sallee Fry Waterman of Cincinnati, explained that the women asked the court to approve an agreement created by the women. It would give Zachritz, who is the partner most directly involved with the daily care of the children, parental rights to make decisions about the children’s lives. It would also give her rights if anything happened to Bonfield or their relationship.

According to Waterman, this agreement, unlike adoption, would terminate when the children reach adulthood.

Waterman said the lower courts dismissed the case out of bias against the women.

"They just didn’t want to recognize the relationship as legitimate," she added.

No clear definition of ‘parent’

The primary issue before the Supreme Court is that Ohio law does not give a clear definition of "parent."

"Since it is not defined, it is a matter of the court’s power to construe a statute," said Waterman. "This court has expanded the definition of ‘parent’ in the past, and we are asking that they do it now, regardless of the lesbian issue."

That is likely a reason the high court chose to hear this case. The appeals court, in a footnote, mentioned a Ninth District case from 1998 involving an Akron lesbian couple who attempted to have a second-parent adoption.

That court cited the lack of clarity of Ohio law in its denial of the adoption, and wrote that the issue should be settled by the legislature, not the courts.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the Akron case, but that footnote gave the justices a reason to hear this one, and provided a basis for opposition by religious conservatives, anti-gay activists, and eight anti-gay Republican members of the Ohio legislature.

Since there was no party in opposition to the women’s plan, the opposing "friends of the court," who were represented by Ohio "Defense of Marriage Act" author David Langdon of Cincinnati, were granted the right to argue against it.

That coalition includes the American Family Association, Citizens for Community Values, Equal Rights Not Special Rights, Family First and the National Legal Foundation--all anti-gay activist groups.

Lawmakers before the high court

Never before in Ohio have members of the legislature become "friends of the court" and sought legal representation to have their view heard before the high court.

Law Professor Susan Becker of the Cleveland Marshall College of Law assisted Waterman with the case. She said the lawmakers were trying to send a signal to the court that the legislature was preparing to take action limiting the definition of parenting independent of what the court ruled.

The lawmakers against the plan are Ohio DOMA lead sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, Rep. Michelle Schrieder of Cincinnati, Rep. Twyla Roman of southeast Summit County, Rep. Linda Reidelbach of Columbus, Rep. Tim Grendell of Chester Township, Rep. Larry Flowers of Canal Winchester and Sen. Jim Jordan of Urbana, a 1999 DOMA sponsor.

Citing attorney-client privilege, Langdon declined to disclose whether he sought friends of the court in order to oppose this matter or whether they came together and sought him. Regardless, Langdon prepared all of the opposition briefs.

Friends of the court in favor of the women are the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the Ohio Psychological Association, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Ohio Human Rights Bar Association.

No controversy between parents

Each side got 30 minutes for oral arguments.

Waterman began by telling the justices, "Unlike so many family law cases, there is no controversy here. Both parents want to serve the best interest of their six children."

Justice Alice Robie Resnick interrupted her first, asking, "Isn’t ‘parent’ defined in other places [of the legal code?]." Waterman explained, "It may be included in reference to adoption, but not in in loco parentis [in place of parents] matters."

Waterman said that Zachritz passes all of the tests usually used to determine whether or not someone qualifies to be in loco parentis, but the lower courts have refused to grant it.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer asked Waterman how the court should interpret the section of the code dealing with parenting.

Waterman replied, "Put the childrens’ needs first, and encourage people to reach agreements, as these women have tried to do."

After some discussion concerning specific sections of the code, Waterman told Justice Resnick that "the legislature has said it is not going to treat children of unmarried couples differently than those of married parents."

Justice Andrew Douglas asked why no agreement was filed with the court.

Waterman explained, "The court wouldn’t accept one."

Douglas then asked, "Should we say that a trial court has the discretion to hear and decide these matters on an individual basis?"

"That is an accurate statement of law," replied Waterman, "Every shared parenting agreement should be decided on a case-by-case basis."

Justice Paul Pfeiffer questioned Waterman about the term "shared parenting" and the two discussed the evolution of the term, which courts had at one time recognized as "joint custody."

Waterman agreed that some of the conflict stems from the incompatibility of the two terms.

Waterman concluded by telling Pfeiffer that included in the differences of the terms were the fact that Bonfield was not relinquishing any parenting rights of her natural children. She also said that the "history of the case law wrongly suggests that [Zachritz] is an unacceptable parent."

Snickers from the audience

Langdon began his presentation by acknowledging that there is no controversy between the parties, and his presence, therefore, was "unusual."

Langdon then made what courtroom observers believe was a major tactical error. He stated that he had an idea that wasn’t expressed in his briefs.

In his briefs, Langdon used common anti-gay activist statements about families. He wrote: "[The parenting agreement] would create a slippery slope that could render Ohio a haven for morally repugnant relationships," and "[The women] are trying to do through the courts what they cannot succeed in doing through the political process--redefine the family in order to legitimize what has long been recognized in common and statutory law as deviant social behavior."

Langdon never expressed that opinion in court, and the justices never asked him about it, because Langdon told them he didn’t believe the women should have access to the court for such an advisory opinion.

This declaration elicited snickers from members of the audience, and visibly raised the ire of Justices Pfeiffer, Douglas, and Resnick.

Most observers count Douglas as a critical swing vote in this case.

Pfeiffer asked, "Where do they go? What if they split up?"

Langdon replied, "I don’t think they have the right to bring an action under shared parenting."

Douglas stopped Langdon in mid-sentence to insist that government prevented the biological parent of the children from doing what she wanted to do.

Langdon disagreed.

Douglas shot back, "Look, when the trial court judge says ‘no’ [to the shared parenting plan], it sounds like ‘no’ to me."

Langdon then asserted that the current law on parenting is only relevant when there is a dispute, and that he and his wife would not be able to set up an arrangement with their children unless they divorced.

Again, muffled laughter went through the audience.

Douglas responded, "If we accept that, then there is no place for Teri and Shelly, or anyone else in a similar situation, to go when there is a parenting dispute."

Pfeiffer asked, "You mean people in their circumstance don’t have the right to redress grievances with their government? After all, this was the government denying the agreement."

Langdon called Pfeiffer’s question "speculative."

Resnick questioned Langdon as to how a parent with no parental rights would be able to obtain medical care for the children.

"There are durable powers of attorney that the legal parent could get," replied Langdon.

"Sort of shared parenting?" asked Resnick.

"Well, yes," Langdon replied.

"As a matter of public policy, we don’t want people with no dispute to come into courts looking for advisory opinions," said Langdon.

"There’s no dispute until the non-biological mother is denied the right to pick the children up at school," Justice Resnick interrupted.

Waterman reserved some of her time for rebuttal at the end. She concluded by telling the justices that she believes the lower courts interfered with Bonfield’s fundamental right as a parent to choose who will stand in her place.

A ruling is expected on the case in three to six months.


 

Ohio State gives limited benefits to workers’ same-sex partners

With no health coverage, there is no cost to school

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Columbus—Ohio State University is extending a number of benefits to same-sex partners of university employees in a move considered an important step towards equality for gay and lesbian faculty and staff of the school.

The two most recent additions to the list of benefits available to LGBT faculty and staff are dependent group life insurance and Global Care, a physician referral service for employees traveling out of state.

None of the benefits, long available to married heterosexual spouses, present a direct financial burden to the university. The dependent insurance is paid for out-of-pocket by the employee purchasing the policy, while it costs the university nothing to open other programs to gay and lesbian partners.

Three other state universities in Ohio offer some domestic partner benefits, Kent, Wright and Central State Universities, although none include health insurance commonly extended to heterosexual spouses. Eight other private colleges and universities in Ohio offer benefits. Most include health insurance. They join about 150 schools across the country that offer some form of benefits for same-sex partners of faculty and staff.

The two new benefits are available to employees’ same-sex partners and their children, but not unmarried opposite-sex partners.

"In providing [these] benefits, we are focusing on those who do not have the right to get married," said associate vice president Larry M. Lewellen. "We are standing with our peer institutions who have implemented domestic partner benefits in this choice."

The dependent life insurance can be purchased by faculty and staff to cover same-sex partners and their children. The employees and their own adoptive or biological children are covered under standard life insurance.

In addition, the school has opened a number of other benefits to the faculty and staff’s domestic partners and their partners’ children. These benefits, unlike Global Care and the dependent life insurance, have historically been open to unmarried heterosexual partners as well as spouses of faculty and staff, and are now being made available to same-sex partners.

Among these other benefits are use of the child care center for the children of domestic partners, specific financial planning sessions dealing with LGBT issues, employee discount programs organized through the university’s Office of Human Resources Special Events Department, as well as family and medical leave and sick leave for attending to ill domestic partners or their children, or in the case of the death of a partner or child.

Employees may be asked to file an affidavit of domestic partnership with the Office of Human Resources.

"This is a very solid interim step that helps send a signal, especially to our gay and lesbian faculty and staff, that we are very interested, and that we are making some progress in this area," Lewellen said.

The issue of domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples at state universities has been contentious for years. In 1992, Jennifer Levin, an English professor at the University of Michigan and author, resigned her post at the school because it did not, at that time, offer domestic partner benefits as she was led to believe. She moved to Boston with her partner.

The OSU benefits, first noted in a February 22 Gay People’s Chronicle story on city domestic partner benefits, are part of an effort by university president William Kirwan to grant as many benefits as possible to same-sex couples without the need for board of trustees approval.

Because it would have a cost to the school, partner health insurance requires board approval.

Board chairman David Brennan, for one, would stand against extending the benefits and opposes the steps currently being taken.

"I don’t think Ohio State even has the right to extend benefits only to same-sex partners," he said. "We’re a state agency and the state of Ohio doesn’t recognize those relationships. I expect to look into it."


Executive signs Erie County civil rights ordinance

by Anthony Glassman

Erie, Pa.—The county got its long-anticipated gay-inclusive civil rights ordinance when the legislation, approved February 26 by the Erie County Council, was signed by county executive Rick Schenker.

Schenker, the former executive director of the Pennsylvania Christian Coalition, had promised to veto any human rights legislation that included sexual orientation. The county council, however, sent it to him on a vote of 6-1 in favor; five votes are necessary to override a veto.

The sole holdout was council president David Mitchell, whose district includes the fervently anti-gay Rev. Pat Kennedy and his First Baptist Church in North East. Kennedy, the church and an affiliated "ex-gay" ministry provided the majority of testimony against the ordinance. Kennedy is known in the area for vilifying a restaurant owned by a lesbian couple last year and urging churchgoers not to eat there. The restaurant has since closed.

The ordinance, which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity, took effect when Schenker signed it.

Three amendments were made to the bill to sway the votes of the two additional members of council who voted for it. They joined Republican council vice president Joy Greco, primary sponsor of the bill, and the three Democrats on the council, Joseph Giles, Fiore Leone and Mark A. DiVecchio.

The amendments, introduced by Greco, clarified definitions and made the bill more precise. One amendment excluded crimes like pedophilia from the definition of sexual orientation, while another states that the ordinance does not require employers to grant domestic partner benefits to their employees. The third clarifies the status of the Human Rights Commission, the agency charged with enforcing the legislation.

While Mitchell had voted against the ordinance claiming that a lack of statewide protection for gays and lesbians would make it unenforceable under a legal appeal, after the vote he urged Schenker to sign the bill.

"We worked together to make a significant step forward in Erie County," said Michael K. Mahler, a local gay activist whose efforts to pass the legislation were crucial. "There were an incredible number of people and organizations who made this happen.


Conference celebrates Mass
over Vatican’s objection

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Louisville, Ky.—Catholics attending a conference examining issues of faith and homosexuality celebrated Mass over the objections of the Vatican.

At least 550 people attended the Mass on March 9 during the New Ways Ministry’s fifth national symposium, "Out of Silence God Has Called Us: Lesbian-Gay Issues and the Vatican II Church."

The group discussed issues like accepting gays in the church, what the Bible says about sexuality, and same-sex marriages.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, a representative of the Vatican, wrote a letter to Archbishop Thomas Kelly of Louisville asking that the archbishop forbid the celebrating of the Eucharist by participants in the symposium.

Retired Bishop Leroy Matthiesen led the liturgy.

"They have the right to be parishioners and not to be condemned," Matthiesen said. "There needs to be more openness in the church."

Matthiesen, the retired bishop of Amarillo, Texas, said he does not make judgments about the participants in the conference.

"I’m here to celebrate the Eucharist. This doesn’t imply judgment," he said.

With clasped hands and bowed heads, the participants joined in the modern liturgy as the elements of bread and wine were brought to them after a blessing by Matthiesen.

New Ways Ministry was founded in 1977 by Sister Jeannine Gramick and the Rev. Robert Nugent as a nonprofit group devoted to gay and lesbian concerns in the Catholic faith.

Gramick and Nugent were ordered by the Vatican in 2000 to cease their ministry to gay men and lesbians and to stop criticizing Vatican edicts on homosexuality.

Joseph and Mary Byers, of Broomall, Pennsylvania, said the ministry helped them learn about homosexuality. The couple have three gay sons, and said the ministry was trying to let everyone worship freely.

"They were not out to defy anyone," Mary Byers said. "This is a ministry of love and enlightenment."

A purge of gay priests?

The act of defiance came just one week after a Vatican spokesman suggested that gay men should not be ordained as priests and current clergymen who are gay could have their ordinations annulled. Joaquin Navarro-Valls was trying to deflect a priest pedophilia scandal that has engulfed a number of U.S. cities in the past decade; the latest is Boston.

Navarro-Valls, a trained lay psychologist and top papal spokesperson, was interviewed by the New York Times at the beginning of March. He said that many of the cases of sexual abuse by priests involve one teenage boy, indicating to him that the issue was homosexuality and not pedophilia.

"People with these inclinations just cannot be ordained," he said. "That does not imply a final judgment on people with homosexuality, but you cannot be in this field."

Navarro-Valls’s statement brought an immediate backlash from both faith-based LGBT groups and by scholars of the connection between sexuality and the church.

"If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb," said A.W. Richard Sipe, psychotherapist and former priest. Sipe has written three books on priests’ sexuality. "It would do the same damage to the church’s operation."

"It would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world," he continued. "And it’s very much against the tradition of the church. Many saints had a gay orientation, and many popes had gay orientations. Discrimination against orientation is not going to solve the problem."

The Rainbow Sash Movement, a group of LGBT and supportive Catholics, referred to Navarro-Valls’ comments as "segregation at the Eucharistic Table, and in direct opposition to [the Vatican’s] position of opposing all forms of unjust discrimination against the homosexual person."

Sipe also noted that more than twice the number of priests have violated their vows of chastity with women as with boys.


 

Ryan White AIDS funding increases for Cleveland area

by Anthony Glassman

Cleveland--Federal AIDS funding for the area will increase this year, although the caseload and the total U.S. AIDS budget has remained the same

An extra $150,000 has been earmarked for the six-county area administered by Cleveland’s Ryan White Title I planning council, an increase of roughly 5% for their budget.

"That’s a big win at a time when some communities took a hit," said Sandra Chappelle, the health policy and programs coordinator for the Cuyahoga County Health Department. Chappelle acts as liaison between the county and the planning council.

She attributes the increase to the planning council’s success at assessing the needs of its clients.

"I think the council’s done a good job of planning," she noted. "The try not to ask for more than we need."

"They have been good stewards and submitted a good proposal on their needs," she continued. "They’ve built a stronger program and only try to get what can be spent well."

The funding was established in 1990 by the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, named for a teenager who died of the disease. The money pays for services to people with AIDS who are either uninsured or whose insurance does not cover them.

The Ryan White Title I planning council is designed to be in touch with the community it represents. The original federal guidelines required that 25% of council members be HIV-positive and reflect the makeup of the area’s HIV and AIDS community, but the number has been increased to one-third of the council.

Also, members of the council who could be considered representatives of the HIV community or of AIDS service organizations, like AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland board president David Feldt, are counted only as representatives of their organization, not toward meeting the percentage required of HIV positive people.

The federal guidelines for the program also originally required a community to have 2,000 AIDS deaths to qualify; the requirements have been changed to 2,000 deaths or cases of full-blown AIDS.

The Cuyahoga Region, with 28% of reported cases of HIV and AIDS in Ohio, is the only Ryan White Title I area in the state, and the local program has continued to grow and change to meet the needs of its constituents.

"We’re proud of quite a few aspects of the program," Chappelle said. "We’ve gotten positive feedback on the dental services provided through Metro Health. They’ve been a tremendous partner, ensuring that people with AIDS have the same quality of care as anyone else whether they have insurance or not."

She was also pleased with the increase of Latino service providers involved in the program, reflecting the increasing number of cases of HIV infection in the Latino community in northeast Ohio.

Among the services funded by Ryan White Title I money are housing assistance, primary, dental, respite and child care, dental services, home and mental health care and transportation and medication assistance.

 


 

 

Activist honors his brother with AIDS prayer week

by Larissa Theodore

Youngstown--After watching his brother die of AIDS more than a decade ago, T.J. Williams held a special place in his heart for his brother during a March 4 prayer service.

Now in its 13th year, the Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS has grown to become the largest AIDS awareness program targeting the faith community in the United States.

As events in other cities events kicked off March 4, Williams spearheaded the events in Youngstown. When his oldest brother Harry died of AIDS in 1991, the young gay activist made a commitment to devote his life and strength to an AIDS ministry.

Williams said many people wanted to ignore how his brother had died.

"My brother had full-blown AIDS," he said. "After he passed away, a young lady came up to me at his funeral to give me her condolences. She then introduced herself as his girlfriend. That day I became part of the secrecy and the denial that the culture of the church supports. No one wanted to talk about how he had died. And that’s why I’m working to change this."

Standing proud at the Mahoning County Courthouse in Youngstown, a sparkle lit up in Williams’ eyes as he led the ecumenical and multicultural prayer service. An AIDS quilt display hung in the background. When he went on to sing "Merciful Heaven," his voice reverberated in remembrance of his brother and the host of other AIDS victims.

While some of the black churches in Youngstown chose not to attend the prayer, many others did. Ohio State Rep. Sylvester Patton was among the many community leaders who came out to show support for the healing of AIDS.

"AIDS is rampant in the community among African-Americans," Patton said, "especially in urban areas, which I happen to represent. This is something that we need to be made aware of because people think it’s something that can’t happen to them."

Patton said he and other legislators are working to bring more financial for people affected by HIV and AIDS. "The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus is trying to get more funds. We look at it as an epidemic," he said.

Kate Wallace, coordinator of the Youngstown Health District who also attended the ceremony added, "It is important for the community to take action before it affects more of the population."

"AIDS is increasingly infecting the African-American community and everybody needs to work to eradicate HIV/AIDS," she said.

Williams said he was bothered by the lack of participation from the Youngstown black churches, but it wouldn’t stop him from traveling around the country combining contemporary Christian music with HIV education.

"The church has been silent for too long about HIV and AIDS. To mention AIDS is to be realistic about sex within the church. It also means that support and compassion would have to be given to the GLBT community. And that’s why I’m doing this," Williams said.


Moving OSU gay office didn’t hurt it, coordinator says

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--University officials say gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students at Ohio State University have nothing to fear from a September 2001 restructuring of the office that houses the GLBT Student Services.

"There are no cuts," said Brett Beemyn, coordinator of the GLBT Student Services office. "We have the same staff and the same budget as before."

"In fact," said Beemyn, "We will be hosting the Midwest GLBT and Allied conference this summer, and we could not do that without the university’s commitment."

Beemyn said confusion arose when the Student Gender and Sexuality Services office became part of the new Multi- Cultural Center.

"There were some missteps by folks high up," said Beemyn, which apparently led to some students thinking that the office would "cease existing in its present form."

E-mails began circulating urging students to speak against the changes.

One such e-mail posting reads, "All of the underrepresented groups in the community have been lumped together as one and stuck on the fourth floor of the Ohio Union. This gives administrators the ability to put us out of sight, out of mind, and could lead to a lack of funding for our individual events."

"The e-mails were alarmist in nature," said Beemyn.

Beemyn said that the moving his office to the Multi-Cultural Center has had no negative effect, and that the administrators in charge of the larger organization are committed to the GLBT Student Services.

GLBT students have questioned the university’s commitment to them in the past. In 1996, students questioned proposals by the university to combine many of specialized student services offices.

Students then worried about the possibility that blending the offices of advocacy groups would lead to the loss of the safe spaces for students created by keeping the offices separate.

One unidentified student told the Gay People’s Chronicle in 1996, "Gays and lesbians have heard this before, a bigger umbrella to serve everyone, and before we know it, we’re swallowed away."

But Beemyn remains optimistic that there is no need at this time for such concern over the university’s support for GLBT Student Services.

 


News Briefs

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

Lawmakers regret the adoption ban they passed in 1977

Miami--Florida’s gay adoption ban was passed during a time of hysteria and panic and should be repealed, nine former state legislators said in statements released on March 7 by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU is representing four gay men who are challenging the adoption ban in federal court.

Among those signing statements repudiating the law were a former Florida Senate president and former state speaker of the house.

"The hysteria of the times led us to do the wrong thing," Elaine Bloom, a former state representative who voted for the law in 1977, said. Bloom helped the ACLU and Equality Florida approach her former colleagues.

"This law was always wrong, and it’s good to see that it’s now being seriously reconsidered," said Don Chamberlin, the only state senator who spoke against the bill in debate two and a half decades ago.

The American Association of Pediatrics recently announced their support for allowing gay parents to adopt, indicating that there was ample evidence that gay men and lesbians could and do provide stable, loving environments in which children can be raised properly.

Assembly to have 5 gays and lesbians

San Francisco--As a result of recent primaries in two solidly Democratic districts, the California Assembly will most likely have five openly gay and lesbian legislators this November, including its first two gay men.

After three days of ballot counting, Harry Britt conceded the Democratic nomination for state assembly to Mark Leno on March 8. Both are gay.

San Francisco is considered a safe Democratic district. If Leno is elected in November, he will fill the Assembly seat being vacated by Carole Migden, a lesbian.

Leno and former Santa Cruz Mayor John Laird are set to become the first openly gay men in the California Legislature, joining three lesbians there.

Laird ran unopposed in the Democratic primary for the seat of Assemblyman Fred Keeley, D-Boulder Creek, who is being forced out by term limits. Laird will face Republican Chuck Carter, a Monterey real estate agent, this fall for what is also considered a safe Democratic seat.

Ford joins GOP unity group

Washington, D.C.--President Gerald Ford in February accepted an invitation to join the Republican Unity Coalition’s advisory board, thus becoming the first former or current president to be a member of a pro-gay equality group.

The RUC is an organization for gay and straight Republicans that advocates for gay issues within the party.

Former Arizona senator Alan Simpson, the honorary chair of RUC, extended the invitation to Ford after the former president was interviewed by lesbian columnist Deb Price.

In the interview, Ford said that he thought granting domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples was a "proper goal," and that he thought LGBT people should be treated equally.

Court denies 2nd-parent adoption

Lincoln, Neb.--The state Supreme Court rejected a woman’s attempt to adopt her partner’s child, but avoided deciding if gay couples are prohibited from adopting in Nebraska altogether.

The court ruled March 8 in the case of a Lincoln lesbian who wants her partner to adopt her son. The two women were joined in a commitment ceremony in 1995.

The boy was born in 1997 after his mother became pregnant through artificial insemination. He has lived with his mother and her lover since birth.

The court ruled that the boy cannot be adopted by the second woman because the mother has not relinquished her parental rights.

"With the exception of the stepparent adoption, the parent or parents possessing existing parental rights must relinquish the child" before an adoption can take place, the unsigned opinion said.

In a strongly-worded dissent, Judge John Gerrard said the "issue in this case is whether Nebraska law permits an adoption when the adoptive parent is not married to the minor child’s biological parent.

"I believe that it does," he said.

Gerrard said requiring the mother to relinquish her parental rights "appears to leave the door open" for the women to proceed with the adoption "but only by virtue of an unwieldy and illogical process."

Deputy Attorney General Steve Grasz said the ruling does not necessarily preclude a gay couple from adopting a child whose parent or parents already have relinquished parental rights.

One in three may have HPV

San Diego--Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings at a conference on sexually-transmitted diseases March 5 that one in three gay men may be infected with human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is linked to penile and anal cancers.

The results came from a study conducted by the CDC, examining the medical records of 83 gay and bisexual men, 38% of whom tested positive for the virus. The link to cancers is especially strong in those who were also HIV-positive. The infection rate in the study was almost five times that of heterosexual men, and double that of women.

Half of all cervical cancer cases are believed to be caused by the virus.

Another study of a mixed group of gay and straight men at an STD clinic in Arizona showed 32% of the men testing positive for HPV.

The virus sometimes causes genital warts, but those infected often have no symptoms. HPV is currently incurable.

Egypt jails five more gay men

Cairo, Egypt--Five Egyptian men were sentenced March 11 to three years in prison with hard labor for engaging in gay sex, judicial officials said.

The men had pleaded guilty to debauchery and running a house for gay sex parties. The Nile Delta Misdemeanor Court handed down their sentence, which also includes three years of probation.

Islam prohibits homosexuality and, although not explicitly referred to in the Egyptian penal code, a wide range of laws covering obscenity, prostitution and debauchery are applied to those perceived to be gay.

Egypt has prosecuted dozens of men for being gay in the past year, prompting an international outcry and support from gay civil rights activists.

Last year in Cairo, 52 men were tried by on charges of immoral behavior and contempt of religion after police raided a Nile boat restaurant and accused them of taking part in a gay sex party. Twenty-three were convicted by a special court created to prosecute terrorists, and sentenced to up to five years in prison. The rest were acquitted.

The identities of those convicted March 11 were not revealed. Officials said the group included two government employees who used to invite gay youth to their house in Damanhur, about 90 miles northwest of Cairo, for sex parties.

 


Evenings Out

From Mädchen to Maud’s

Seven decades of lesbians on celluloid

by Anthony Glassman

From the birth of the movies in Edison’s first experimental reels, there have been queer images. Often used in a cautionary sense or as the punch line, these visions reflected the times in which the films were made.

Rarest of these images were those of woman-loving women, but they too have been around since the height of the silent film era.

G. W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box (1929), for instance, was credited by Vito Russo in his book The Celluloid Closet as having the earliest well-developed lesbian character. The film concerns the romantic adventures of Lulu, played by silent screen legend Louise Brooks. The Countess Geschwitz, portrayed by Alice Roberts, pursues Lulu.

Geschwitz’ affections are never returned in a romantic way, but she makes many sacrifices for the object of her affection and grows from a jealous, petty creature into a well-rounded portrayal, many decades before the dawn of "gay cinema."

Contemporary with Pandora’s Box was Mädchen in Uniform (1931), Leontine Sagan’s tale of a schoolgirl in love with her young teacher. The film was considered one of the ten best of the year both in the U.S. and in Germany, where it was made. Operating as a tale of idol worship (the prevalent heterosexual interpretation), lesbian love (the currently popular interpretation) and as an anti-fascist metaphor couched in terms of boarding school students, the film has been considered a classic since shortly after it was released, over seventy years ago.

Shortly after Mädchen came out, a huge backlash against the perceived immorality of Hollywood and its films caused a film production code to be put in place, banning portrayals or even mentions of homosexuality. For the next three decades, hints were the only thing lesbians could look forward to in films.

In the 1933 film Queen Christina, Greta Garbo played the titular Swedish monarch whose one great love was Countess Ebba Sparre. The film’s script removes most, if not all, traces of the queen’s lesbianism, but the combination of Christina’s habit of wearing male clothing with Garbo’s own butch-femme mingling provides an interesting glimpse at what the film could have been.

Dozens of films over the next two decades included mannish women, menacing prison matrons, biker chicks and other representations of crypto-lesbianism as blatant evil. However, by the 1960s, the "Code," as it was referred to, was cracking and falling apart. More direct representations were beginning to come to the surface, although seldom with happy endings for those involved.

Two lesbian characters emerged in the ever-misogynistic James Bond films, for instance. In 1964’s Goldfinger, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) led the title villain’s private guard of Amazons. Once Bond showed her the error of her villainous, Sapphic ways, however, she switched teams in both senses. (Blackman preceded Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel in the television show The Avengers.)

In From Russia With Love, Lotte Lenya played the Soviet Colonel Rosa Klebb, who was also, secretly, Agent #3 in SMERSH, an underground organization determined to destroy the espionage agencies of the world powers.

Klebb was predatory in her scenes with Tatiana Romanova, played by Bond girl Daniela Bianchi, stalking her like a cat with a particularly voluptuous mouse. Eventually, of course, Klebb meets the same end as all Bond villains, gay or otherwise: she dies.

Two other lesbian-identified characters died fairly horribly in the ’60s. In The Children’s Hour, Shirley MacLaine’s schoolteacher character realizes her own lesbianism after students spread a rumor about her being involved with Audrey Hepburn’s character. MacLaine cannot face the "horror" of what she is, and kills herself.

In the 1968 film The Fox, Anne Heywood and Sandy Dennis become romantically involved. Dennis, by the end of the film, is crushed under a tree. Both Dennis and MacLaine illustrate the typical end for any queer in a film of this period, suicide or externally-caused unnatural death.

Moving into the 1970s and 80s, gays and lesbians actually began surviving the film. They might not have a happy ending, but many lesbian characters were still standing by time the end credits rolled.

At least three lesbian-themed films hit the screen in 1983. John Sayles’ coming-of-age drama Lianna was called "100 times better than Personal Best" by critic and sometime-actor Rex Reed. That film had come out the year before, starring Mariel Hemingway as an aspiring Olympic runner who "experiments" with lesbianism by having a relationship with Patrice Donnelly, playing another runner.

Also that year was the classiest and least exploitative of the "lesbian vampire" movies, Tony Scott’s The Hunger, in which Catherine Deneuve seduces Susan Sarandon to the Delibes opera Lakhme. Of course, one of the two dies by the end of both the movie and the original novel by Whitley Streiber, but that is more a convention of vampire films than it is related to the lesbianism. It’s interesting to note that, in the book, Miriam the vampire survives, while in the film, Sarandon’s Sarah Roberts assumes Miriam’s mantle, complete with lovers of both sexes.

Entre Nous, a French film about the budding romance between two women in postwar 1950s France, again failed to produce a happy ending, with the women returning to their husbands and heterosexual lives by the end of the movie. They both live, though, which is always a good sign.

Since then, things have definitely taken a turn for the better. The 1986 film Desert Hearts portrayed a lesbian romance in the 1950s, two women fighting the intolerance of those around them to keep their love intact.

The recent Aimée and Jaguar, based on a true story, deals with the love between a German woman and a Jewish woman during the Holocaust, crossing cultural boundaries as it does sexual ones.

Documentaries in the last few years have provided the truest glimpse of the history of lesbians in America, especially Last Call at Maud’s and Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100.

Maud’s mixes footage and photos from the 40s through the 80s with the tale of the eponymous dyke bar that closed its doors in 1989. From the underground of the post-war years to the police raids of the 1950s, the sexual revolution of the 60s and the gay emergence in San Francisco in the 70s to the bar’s ultimate demise at the end of the 80s, the film travels along with fifty years of lesbians examining the way things were.

Living With Pride, on the other hand, tells the story of one amazing woman, the oldest open lesbian on record until her recent death. Ruth Ellis spent most of her long life in Detroit, Michigan, where the gay and lesbian community formed around her. Her house was one of the earliest and definitely the longest-lasting meeting place for queers in the city, and she worked tirelessly to fight for the rights of her "children."

Both films, along with works by Barbara Hammer and narrative films by directors like Ohio native Jamie Babbitt, who made the film But I’m A Cheerleader and won a jury award at Sundance this year for her short film Stuck, further illustrate the changing face of lesbianism in movies, especially now that lesbians are more openly directing them.

Two of the best resources about gays’ and lesbians’ relationship with Hollywood are Russo’s The Celluloid Closet, which was turned into a film a few years ago that is available on video, and William J. Mann’s Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood 1910-1969.

Russo’s opus gives an encyclopedic look at the queer images on the silver screen. Mann’s book, however, examines the men and women who made the films, from the designers and writers to actors and directors, and how their own sexual orientations affected the films they made.

Many of the gay men are well known, but the women have been left in the shadows for far too long, from Dorothy Arzner’s feminist scripts and films to costumer Edith Head’s adoption of a lesbian persona to disguise her own heterosexual insecurities.

 


 

 

 

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