Bashing victim says he was arrested, tried and convicted without ever appearing before a judge
by Eric Resnick
Cincinnati--An HIV positive man who says he was gaybashed in downtown Cincinnati got a night in the Hamilton County Jail instead of medical attention.
Jimmy Lee Bird, 45, was arrested by Cincinnati police, charged and found guilty of disorderly conduct while intoxicated in a series of events that neither he nor public officials can fully explain or account for.
It appears that he was tried and convicted the next day without any court appearance, and was never told that the trial was taking place.
Bird, who had moved to Cincinnati from Columbus a week earlier, said he went to Pete Rose Way along the Ohio River on March 8 to see it at night.
As he was walking up Walnut Street by the Aronoff Center around midnight, two men attacked him from behind, calling him a "fucking faggot," ripping at his clothing, and knocking out his contact lens.
Bird, who is considered disabled due to AIDS-related neuropathy in his legs and spine, then said he went across Walnut Street into the first business he saw, which was the upscale Jeff Rubyís Steak House.
Bird says he told restaurant workers that he had just been gaybashed and asked for help.
Rubyís corporate chef Jimmy Gibson says his employees tell a different story. Gibson was not at the restaurant that night, but he had all the employees who were there write incident reports telling what happened after the weekly City Beat ran a March 21 story on the incident.
Gibson said March 26 that he had not yet collected all the employee statements.
Gibson said that the bartender on duty at the time, who is a young, small woman, told him that she thought Bird was coming at her.
"According to her, he was yelling and screaming, and she expressed fear," said Gibson. "Her statement to me was that he was Ďall cracked upí."
Gibson also indicated that the area behind the bar where this took place is the service entrance to the bar, and some distance into the restaurant.
Gibson said the maitre dí stand is directly in the door and hard to miss, so he was puzzled as to why Bird didnít go there. He said the employees told him that Bird sat down in the service entrance to the bar, and would not move when asked to.
Gibson said Bird was carried out of the restaurant by three or four employees, which is corroborated by the police report.
According to police documents, one of the restaurant employees flagged down a cruiser. No emergency call appears to have been made.
Not at this address
Bird said he walked up to the bar asking for help and says he never sat down anywhere.
"I was only in there about 30 seconds when they told me to leave," he said.
The affidavit sworn by arresting officer Meader says, "Arresting officers could smell the scent of an alcoholic beverage on [Bird]. [Bird] was loud and refused to stop blocking the sidewalk."
Bird says he had no alcohol to drink prior to the incident and was not using drugs.
Cincinnati Police spokesperson Lt. Kurt Byrd indicated that it looked on the arrest report like one of the restaurant employees said Bird was drunk. But he later said, "If the officer swore to it, he would have had to have seen it."
Lt. Byrd was defensive, agitated, and uncooperative during the interview for this report. He called the City Beat report "a misrepresentation," accused the Gay Peopleís Chronicle of bias and only hearing one side of the story, and said, "Iím under no obligation to tell you anything."
The lieutenant refused to look up the full names of the arresting officers, and declined to answer some of the more difficult questions about the case saying, "I donít know. I wasnít there."
The first question asked of Lt. Byrd was about the address police listed for Bird on the complaint filed with the court. Though Bird lives on Mount Auburn, the police reported his address as 217 West 12th St., which Bird described as a drop-in center for people with AIDS. He has never been there.
Bird says they never asked for an address when they arrested him, but they took his state identification card, which had been updated with his new address earlier that day.
Lt. Byrd insisted that Bird had to have given that address for the officers to have written it down.
Asked why there was no police report taken on the assault on Bird, the lieutenant replied, "We donít take statements from people who are intoxicated as a matter of policy, but thereís nothing stopping him from coming down and filling one out now."
Lt. Byrd said that the arrest slip also says that Bird attempted to kick out the window of the police car while he was handcuffed. This was the reason given for officers spraying Bird with mace.
Lt. Byrd was asked how someone with neuropathy, which impairs neuro-motor functions, could kick windows out of a police cruiser.
At that, Lt. Byrd said he had to give interviews to "more local papers" and wanted this one to end.
But before it ended, Lt Byrd said, "[Bird] can only complain about the officersí conduct during the arrest. He cannot question the fact that they were right to arrest him, because, in my eyes, the court system found him guilty."
"There were five different systems he passed through to get to the judge finding him guilty, and you canít tell me that all five systems failed," said Lt. Byrd.
Lt. Byrd explained the five systems as "independent witnesses that saw Bird in the restaurant, the arresting officers who found reason to arrest, the prosecutor, the public defender representing Bird, and the court system that found him guilty."
System didnít work
Bird says he met with Public Defender Julie Deardorff from 9:30 to 10:00 the morning of March 9.
"I asked her what I was charged with and if I could see a copy of the complaint," said Bird.
"She said she didnít have a copy of the complaint and wanted to know what I wanted to do," Bird continued. "I told her I wanted to make bail, which she said would cost $1,500."
Bird said he thought $1,500 was too high and wanted to be released on his own recognizance.
"That was the last I ever saw of her," said Bird, "and about two hours later, the deputy came down and told me I was released."
During that two hours, Bird was tried and found guilty without his knowledge or participation. He learned of his conviction the next business day when he called the clerk of courts to find out what further action he needed to take.
Court documents support Birdís version of the story, and the people who were in the courtroom either refuse to talk or feign amnesia when asked about Birdís case.
Present at Birdís arraignment were Judge Robert Taylor, Assistant City Prosecutor Keith Forman, and Deardorff.
Judge Taylor never spoke to Bird, nor heard any testimony or evidence. It appears that Taylor decided that Birdís plea would be "no contest," and he entered it without Birdís knowledge.
A total of 62 words were uttered during the entire proceeding, including Taylor saying, "Well, let him stand by the door and Iíll say no contest. Waive reading."
Deardorff responded, "Okay, Iíll do that."
Taylor then said, "No contest. Waive reading. Guilty. Cost remit. Credit time served."
Then the proceeding ended, without Birdís knowledge that it had even taken place.
Taylor refused to comment about what went on, instead sending a message through his bailiff that he didnít remember the case. The bailiff said he wasnít present that day, but said the transcript was real.
Deardorff did not return numerous calls requesting comment for this report.
A third attorney, Michael Lyon of the firm Lindhorst and Dreidame, who appears to represent both Taylor and Deardorff, told City Beat that both contacted him for advice.
Lyon did not return calls for this report, but told City Beat that Judge Taylor was offering Bird the opportunity to withdraw his no-contest plea. And Lyon was, in fact, encouraging Bird to accept that deal.
"If he wants another lawyer, we can give him that," Lyon told City Beat. "If he wants to appeal the case, certainly he can do that. We just want to make darn sure he knows what his options are."
But Bird isnít going to do that. "How can I withdraw a plea I never made?" he asks.
Bird says he believes the police and courts treated him as they did because he is gay and is HIV positive.
"Thereís a very poisonous atmosphere here," said Bird, "especially toward people who are HIV positive."
Gay men profiled by police
Stonewall Cincinnati board member Doreen Cudnik said that her agency tracks the criminal justice systemís handling of gays. She pointed out that Cincinnati has been under order from the federal Department of Justice to take steps to curb its abusive profiling practices that led to the April, 2001 riots.
Stonewall Cincinnati has joined with other civil rights groups in an effort to reform police practices.
"The connection," said Cudnik, "is that gay men in particular have been profiled by Cincinnati police. It has gone on for years."
Cudnik also pointed out that some of what goes on in the city is about economic class. She cringed when she learned that the restaurant where Bird sought help was Jeff Rubyís Steak House, saying that Ruby is a leader of a movement to thwart the boycott of Cincinnati organized by civil rights organizations, including Stonewall, demanding criminal justice reforms.
Cudnik said that at a recent downtown demonstration, TV cameras filmed Jeff Rubyís patrons pouring drinks out windows on demonstrators while police looked on.
"If a young, cute woman went into Rubyís saying she had just been attacked, would they have put her out on the street?" asked Cudnik.
Five years for spitting
Bird has been through difficulty with the criminal justice system before.
He was released from Richland Correctional Institution two years ago after serving five years for assault with a deadly weapon--spitting on a Columbus police officer while resisting arrest in October 1993.
The felony charge was added because Bird is HIV positive. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 1998 because Bird had pleaded no contest, but did not rule on whether the saliva of an HIV positive person can be a "deadly weapon." The officer did not become infected.
Bird and his attorney Siobhan OíKeeffe of the Ohio Public Defenderís office have filed a habeas petition in the southern district federal court of Ohio, demanding that the sentence be nullified.
by Anthony Glassman
Columbus--The board of directors of the Ohio State University Alumni Association voted at their February meeting to officially charter the schoolís Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Alumni Association.
The move makes the association the first officially recognized gay alumni group at a state university in Ohio.
"It took a lot of diligence on our part and the help of a lot of committed people over the past two years to make it to this point," said organization president Jim Ryan.
During those two years the group was active, sponsoring events like a homecoming pep rally and a luncheon with outgoing university president Brit Kirwan.
The move gives the organization freer access to the resources of the university to pursue their goal, to provide greater opportunities to LGBT students and alumni.
"The alumni society offers great opportunities for alumni, students and the staff of OSU to increase their visibility, network and raise fund to support the education of GLBT students," Ryan noted.
While other state universities have tried to organize LGBT alumni groups, OSU appears to be the first out of the gate with an official charter. Kent State University, for instance, attempted to get an organization going. But the LGBT alumni at the school were difficult to track down and records from the registrarís office do not include non-athletic extracurricular activities that might indicate sexual orientation, so officials had trouble getting enough people together to get the group going. Efforts continue.
Some private colleges around the state have chartered gay alumni groups, like Oberlin College in 1989. Kenyon College organized a steering committee to get their Gay and Lesbian Alumni chartered in 1992, and now have a group of GALA members in New York trying to organize events there.
In addition to the social aspects of an alumni association, one of the central pillars to its existence is charitable giving to the university. Alumni groups often raise money to endow specific scholarships.
The OSU GLBT Alumni Association has been calling on its 75 members and mailing list of around 400 people to raise money to establish a $25,000 scholarship endowment for LGBT students. Most university scholarships are created by donations to schools for that purpose. The fund currently stands at around $22,000.
"The university has been extremely supportive of our scholarship efforts," said scholarship chair Jack Miner. "The university has never been able to target scholarships for GLBT students because our community had never stepped forward to help identify need and to raise the necessary funds."
The group has been giving out scholarships in partnership with P-FLAG for the last few years, but when the fundraising for the endowment is complete, they will have a self-sustaining annual scholarship for GLBT and supportive students.
The organization has a half-dozen other scholarships pending the successful completion of the first endowment, according to Miner. Subsequent grants will be more specific, for example, a scholarship for a gay man or lesbian in a certain field. The group would also like to endow a scholarship for transgendered students.
"Alumni have really welcomed the opportunity to meet other GLBT alumni," Chad McCoury, the programming chair, noted. "One of the most successful programs was a bowling night with current students and alumni."
Yale professor Cathy Cohen, one of the researchers behind the
by Rhonda Smith
New York City--The three most important issues facing black gays in the U.S. are AIDS, hate crime violence and marriage and domestic partnership matters, according to the largest multi-city survey of this population to date.
Mandy Carter, a longtime gay civil rights advocate in North Carolina, said it is politically significant that so many of the respondents who took part in the Black Pride Survey 2000 identified marriage and domestic partnership matters as priorities.
"Marriage and domestic partnership appear to be issues that resonate in communities of color," she said. "Therefore, letís make sure that the faces and voices of the Freedom to Marry movement reflect that diversity."
"And letís not make the mistakes made with the gays in the military issue," she said, "where there were almost exclusively white faces and voices when we know that the military services are full of tons of lesbians and gay men of color."
The Black Pride survey results appear in a report titled "Say it Loud, Iím Black and Iím Proud," which was released this week by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in New York City. The survey represents the largest national, multi-city sample of black gay people ever gathered, the reportís authors said.
Cathy J. Cohen, a professor of political science and African American studies at Yale University and one of five researchers who assembled the report, said 10,000 copies of it would soon be distributed to public officials and various organizations and individuals nationwide.
"We want to generate discussions about the lives of black gay people, about the politics of both black communities and gay communities, and about how to improve the living conditions of black gay people in this country," said Cohen.
A total of 2,645 black gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people completed the 35-question survey in 2000 at Black Pride events in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Houston. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents were male, 40 percent were female, and 2 percent identified as transgender.
Cohen said the data in the report is not representative of all black lesbian and gay people and focuses on a small, targeted group of individuals who attended Black Pride events in 2000.
"In the past, we could say, ĎI know ten black gay people and this is what they think,í" she said. "Now we can say that across the country weíve talked to 2,600 people. It gives us a little more power in terms of making claims about what this population feels."
The survey results show 51 percent of respondents had a college degree or more, 29 percent had some college, 17 percent had a high school diploma, and 3 percent had less than a high school education.
Two-thirds of respondents said they were registered Democrats and one in 10 said they were registered Republicans. The respondentsí median household income was between $30,000 and $40,000.
The survey results also indicate that less than a third of respondents (31 percent) owned their homes, which the reportís authors said is much lower than the 47 percent overall black home ownership rate, based on 2000 Census data.
Gerard Fergerson, a researcher for the project and the openly gay director of research, planning and evaluation in the office of Washingtonís Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth and Families, said the study provides more authoritative data about black gays, especially about health-related issues such as HIV and AIDS.
"Weíre going to be able to dispel a lot of rumors about our community," he said.
Many survey respondents agreed that racism is a problem in the white gay community and homophobia is a problem in the mainstream black community. Fifty percent of survey respondents said racism is a problem for black gays in their relations with white gays. Two thirds of the respondents said homophobia is a problem among the general black population.
Respondents ranked drugs, education and HIV as the three leading issues facing the general black population in the U.S.
"Black people understand that while we share a general experience, being black and gay or being black and a woman or being black and poor means we can have very different experiences," from each other and from white gay people, Cohen said.
"Thereís not one black experience or one black political agenda," she added. "So we need organizations that represent the diversity of how black people live their lives in this country and abroad."
Cohen is author of The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics, published in 1999, in which she argues that if mainstream black organizations like the NAACP ignore the needs of poor African Americans or black gays, those people should hold the organizations and its leaders accountable.
"If issues such as HIV/AIDS and marriage/domestic partnership are not showing up as important to our national black organizations like the NAACP," Cohen said this week, "we need to figure out ways to have those organizations change their agenda to include these issues or to develop new organizations."
In addition to holding mainstream black organizations such as the NAACP accountable, Cohen said predominantly white gay organizations must also be held accountable when they fail to address all the needs of gay communities of color.
The Black Pride survey also revealed that almost 40 percent of women said they have at least one child. In contrast, 18 percent of men and 15 percent of transgender people reported having one child.
The report highlights why anti-gay adoption and foster parenting policies might pose a particular threat to black gays and blacks generally. Sean Cahill, director of NGLTF Policy Institute, noted that the three states with explicitly anti-gay adoption or foster care policies--Florida, Mississippi, and Arkansas--have larger black populations.
"Anti-gay adoption bills may threaten the black community as a whole," the report concluded, "by significantly reducing the potential pool of foster and adoptive parents."
The report also noted that 20 percent of transgender respondents reported a lack of health coverage, the highest percentage of any group in the survey.
The Black Pride survey also explored the terms that black gays use most often to identify their sexual orientation.
The report noted that 42 percent of respondents self-identify as "gay," while 24 percent describe themselves as "lesbian." About 11 percent of respondents said they are bisexual, while 1 percent identify as transgender. Eight percent of respondents, more men than women, identified as "same gender loving."
"In contrast to the high levels of agreement on the labels gay and lesbian," the reportís authors said, "Black LGBT people do not readily, or even remotely, identify as Ďqueer.í" The term "queer" received 1 percent of the responses.
In addition, more than half of those surveyed said their church or religion viewed homosexuality as "wrong and sinful," while 25 percent said their church was accepting of homosexuality.
Rhonda Smith is a news reporter for the Washington Blade.
Congregation is focus of national effort to move Presbyterian Church away from gay equality
by Anthony Glassman
Cincinnati--An open Presbyterian congregation that welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people finds itself in the crosshairs of a movement of religious conservatives trying to rid the denomination of pro-gay leaders.
A Virginia lawyer has filed disciplinary complaints against two ministers of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church after the church issued a pair of letters saying it would not comply with two anti-gay church rules.
The church released the two letters in February. One outlined its policy on inclusive marriages and the other announcing its intention to defy the ban on sexually active gay clergy. Both statements were approved by Mt. Auburnís session, or governing board, in a unanimous vote of the members present.
The statements, similar to ones made by other open and affirming congregations in the nation, brought an immediate response from the speaker of the Presbyterian Church USAís governing body, the General Assembly. Two disciplinary complaints came from a Reston, Virginia lawyer under the auspices of a congregation in California.
According to Rev. Stephen Van Kuiker, the pastor of Mt. Auburn, the response to his churchís statements, and the rules they address, are part of a larger movement in the church. This is an attempt to rid the denomination of progressives and shift the entire organization towards the religious right.
"I think thereís definitely a battle going on inside all of the denominations," he said. "I would view this as a takeover attempt in the larger church to impose a Ďbiblicalí view."
Leviticus doesnít apply
Referring to the movement as a fundamentalist takeover attempt, Van Kuiken argued against the traditional proscription against gays, the chapter of Leviticus which has been translated to call gay male sex an "abomination."
"Thatís a wrong interpretation of Levitical law," he said. "Reform Judaism has made similar statements [refuting] Levitical law. Thereís a lot in Leviticus that we conveniently donít mess with."
Van Kuiken also noted that, according to the apostle Paul, Leviticus is not valid as law for Christians. Paul said that it was not necessary to be a Jew, as Jesus was, to be a Christian, which is interpreted by most biblical scholars to mean that Jewish law does not apply to Christians. This was also noted in Mt. Auburnís letter of non-compliance with the ordination rule.
The denominationís own Confessions, collected texts of interpretation of the Bible which the Presbyterians use as law, call Levitical law "expired" and "abrogated under the New Testament."
ĎAll human kindí includes LGBTs
Mt Auburnís second letter, "Statement on Inclusive Marriage," begins: "We hold that our policy of inclusion implies and requires equality in terms of consideration and entitlement in society, and that marriage between two person, man and woman, or a man and a man, or woman and woman, is the same in the eyes of the Session of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church."
"For it is written in our Constitution, section W-4.9, ĎMarriage is a gift God has given to all human kind for the well-being of the entire human family.í We hold that Ďall human kindí includes Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered people."
According to Presbyterian law, ministers are allowed to consecrate same-sex unions as long as they do not refer to them as marriages.
Mt Auburnís statement was issued on February 28. Both it and the statement of dissent and non-compliance, issued the day before, were passed unanimously by the Mt. Auburn session.
Churches that leave lose buildings
Mt. Auburn is not the only Presbyterian congregation in the nation issuing such statements. First Presbyterian Church in Anaconda, Montana, issued a letter signed by its elders and pastor, who is also the presbytery executive, taking exception to the ordination rules. Presbyteries are the denominationís local governing bodies.
One of the options open to congregations that do not agree with the rulings of the denomination as a whole is to "peacefully withdraw" from the Presbyterian Church, USA. Normally, since the presbytery owns the church buildings and the operating funds, any congregation that left would give up their home and treasury. However, there has been talk of letting congregations keep their buildings.
Van Kuiken said that the conservatives were trying to throw liberal congregations a bone by allowing them to keep the property, thus allowing them to take over the denomination.
"This is a crucifixion," he said, referring also to the disciplinary complaints filed against him and pastor emeritus Rev. Harold G. Porter. "Part of the strategy is, if they kill the congregations, it will cow the rest, cast this pall of fear over everyone else. There have been only a few [complaints] so far, but more are coming."
Cannot ignore rules
Clifton Kirkpatrick, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian churchís General Assembly, replied in a March 13 letter: "Clearly Mt. Auburn welcomes our Lordís Gay and Lesbian children; surely they are vital to Mt. Auburnís mission and ministry. Clearly you have answered the call to provide a welcoming place."
He goes on, however, to state that the church is not entitled to ignore "mandatory provisions of the Book of Order."
Paul Rolf Jensen, an attorney in Reston, Va. and a member of the St. Andrewís Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, Calif., on March 13 filed a disciplinary case with the denomination against Rev. Porter and Rev. Van Kuiken for performing, or allowing to be performed, what was called a "marriage" ceremony for a same-sex couple.
Jensen also sent letters of complaint to a number of top denominational officials complaining about the notices from Mt. Auburn, urging the denomination to remove Porter and Van Kuiken from their positions regardless of the outcomes of the disciplinary cases he filed.
Jensen referred to Mt. Auburn in his letters as a "church in schism."
"I would just say thatís wrong," Van Kuiken noted. "We are very deliberately and consciously staying connected with the church. We are not seeking to leave, we are standing up for the best parts of our tradition and highlighting inclusion, diversity and respect."
Van Kuiken charged the forces against him and other progressive churches with being fundamentalists and engaging in spiritual violence. He also said that the conservative elements in the denomination are trying to establish "imperial Christianity," where the only proper belief is in Jesus, the only way to Heaven is through Jesus, and there is no respect for other faiths.
"This really gives Christianity a black eye, portrays it in a negative light," Van Kuiken noted sadly. "Not many people know there are a lot of progressive religious people standing up for justice. We donít want to abandon our faith to right-wing bullies."
by Anthony Glassman
Cincinnati--Southwest Ohioís first summit for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and allies was held March 16 and even the organizers were surprised at its success.
"We were really surprised by how smoothly the day went," said Dan Mess, chair of the organizing committee for the event.
The Greater Cincinnati Youth Summit was sponsored by the cityís chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; the University of Cincinnatiís LGBT Alliance and Northern Kentucky Universityís Common Grounds, another gay-straight alliance.
Fifteen workshops were presented in three sessions along the course of the day, including ones on topics as diverse as a session on P-FLAG, coping strategies for LGBT youth and safer sex education. All of the sessions were open to both youth and adults, with the exception of the safer sex workshops. Those were closed to adults other than facilitators to ensure the privacy and comfort of the attendees.
Between presenters and participants, the event drew around 150 people to the campus of the University of Cincinnati.
"Not only was the summit a place where youth could make connections, but also a safe place for youth to be surrounded by other youth," said Chris Seelbach, Stonewall Cincinnati board member and founder of the gay-straight alliance at Xavier University, the first GSA at a Jesuit college in the country. "Most of the time, the exposure gay teenagers have to other teens is at school where they feel threatened, so the summit provided a place, similar to a school environment, where everyone could be safe and accepted."
"This event would have been great for me growing up," he continued. "Even if I didnít have the courage or the chance to go, it would have been great to know it existed."
LGBT youth were there in force, but some of the people there were impressed at the number of supportive heterosexuals in attendance.
"As a straight ally, I was absolutely thrilled to see all the straight, supportive youth and adults at the event," said Kathy Laufman, co-chair of GLSEN-Cincinnati. "People came from all over Ohio and northern Kentucky."
It took six months to plan this first youth summit, but the success of the event means that it will not be the last.
"Weíve already started talking about the next one," Mess said. "Thereís a good possibility weíll have it in November."
With the flood of positive feedback coming in from the event, few changes are expected for the next event. Mess said, however, that they would like more people to be involved in planning and staging the event, along with a more diverse planning committee.
by Veerle Opgenhaffen
Columbus--A few months ago, Stonewall Columbus program coordinator Angie Wellman started putting together a informational seminar on the topic of gay adoptions.
Since then, talk-show host Rosie OíDonnell came out as a gay adoptive parent and the American Academy of Pediatrics made a formal endorsement of gay adoptions, asserting that gay couples can provide the stable and emotionally healthy family life a child needs.
Members from A Childís Waiting, one of several central Ohio regional adoption centers, were present at the March 21 Stonewall Columbus adoption forum to answer questions about adoption specific to the LGBT community.
"One of the great incentives for doing this informational seminar," said Jen Bessemer-Marando, a co-owner and adoption coordinator of A Childís Waiting, was to recruit interested families by dispelling the misconception that gay couples or individuals cannot adopt.
"Ohio law is actually quite progressive," said Bessemer-Marando, and only Cuyahoga County requires psychological counseling for gay parents trying to adopt. Those in other counties use the same process as their heterosexual counterparts.
The lack of prospective adoptive parents, coupled with the open attitude of the agency, has led it to deliberately seek out and encourage gay parents to consider adoption.
A Childís Waiting tries to help educate, train, and guide people through the foster parent and adoption processes. Many of the staff members are in gay partnerships themselves. The organization believes strongly that "A family is a family," regardless of gender and sexual orientation.
Stonewall Columbus also wrapped up its Winter Food Tour at Dragonfly on March 28. A number of area restaurants donated a portion of their sales to the center if diners mentioned that they were friends of Stonewall.
For more information on Stonewall Columbus and its programs, call 614-299-7764 or log onto their web site, www.stonewall-columbus.org.
A Childís Waiting can be reached at 330-665-1811, or toll free 866-937-2367 (866-YES-ADOPT), or online at www.achildswaiting.com. In Cleveland their number is 440-886-3553.
Veerle Opgenhaffen is senior editor of the Stonewall Journal in Columbus.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Complaint against Alabama chief justice is dismissed
Birmingham, Ala.--A state judicial panel said March 21 it dismissed a complaint filed against Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore over his written opinion calling homosexuality an "inherent evil."
The Judicial Inquiry Commission, in a two-paragraph statement, said it had thrown out a petition filed by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York City gay group.
Lambda alleged that Mooreís comments about gays, made in a written opinion in a child custody case involving a lesbian mother, violated judicial canons that require judges to be impartial.
The organization filed a complaint against Moore last month after he wrote a Supreme Court opinion that referred to homosexuality as an "inherent evil against which children must be protected."
Senator halts anti-bias measure
Dover, Del.--An anti-discrimination bill that includes sexual orientation was stalled March 21, despite the support of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.
State Sen. Robert Venables announced that he would keep the bill in the Small Business Committee, which he chairs.
The bill squeaked by the House last spring with a one-vote margin. It will officially die if it is not passed by the Senate by June 30, the end of the legislative session.
Partner bill misses deadline
Hartford, Conn--A key legislative committee missed a deadline on March 25 to advance a bill that would expand legal rights for same-sex couples, such as health benefits and end-of-life medical decisions.
The Judiciary Committee approved the bill 29-11 at about 5 p.m.--its deadline to act on new bills this year. But a clerk was unable to deliver the vote tally before 5 p.m., and the bill was rejected by the Legislative Commissionerís Office.
Rep. Michael Lawlor, the panelís House chairman, said he believed the bill still would be debated on the House floor. Democratic leaders have expressed support for the bill, which may be added to another bill as an amendment, he said.
The bill--a compromise within the committee--did not mention gay marriage, civil unions or registration of domestic partners. Instead, it focused on legal documents regarding medical and burial decisions, and visitation rights at hospitals and nursing homes.
ĎKissing Jessica Steiní is a refreshing break
by Anthony Glassman
Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen, to use a phrase as clichéd as most of the films it is describing. Even the gay and lesbian movies that fall into that genre follow the same basic pattern: Meet, fall in love, nearly lose the love, live happily ever after.
Whatever the combination of genders involved, boy-girl, boy-boy, girl-girl, or, in the case of films like Threesome, boy-boy-girl, thereís seldom a surprise, seldom a happy ending truly worthy of the name, seldom anything truly worthwhile.
Then came Jessica Stein.
Kissing Jessica Stein, written by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt as the eponymous Ms. Stein and Heather Juergensen as the sexually precocious and intellectually deadly Helen, should do for the romantic comedy what Bound did for the erotic thriller: become an instant lesbian classic and make thousands of heterosexual men try to get their significant others into a ménage à trois.
When the film starts, Jessica is a typical Jewish copy editor working for a large newspaper in Manhattan, while Helen is the successful curator of a gallery in Chelsea. Jessica canít find a man who will meet her standards, while Helen canít whittle her selection down to just one man.
Helen decides to "walk on the wild side" and explore her Sapphic side. She puts a personal ad in the "women seeking women" section of the paper and, on a whim, Jessica responds to it.
After a few faltering steps when they first meet up in a café, they hit it off and decide to really explore what it would be like to be in a relationship with a member of the same sex.
Of course, they are not living in a vacuum. They both have friends and family who they do or do not tell. One of them has a Jewish mother, and everybody knows that specific breed of human is nearly omniscient. If the filmís backbone is the relationship between the two women, the rest of the bones, muscle and flesh are the supporting characters, from Tovah Feldshuh as Jessicaís mother Judy to Jackie Hoffman playing the Fran Lebowitz-like wit Joan.
Helen has two gay male friends. One is all behind her in the grand exploration, and the other thinks she is an absolute affront to the gay community. They are a nice representation of some of the arguments going on in the real world as the result of the movie.
Juergensen and Westfeldt did not intend to carve into stone the results of the battle of nature vs. nurture.
"We were interested in exploring the notion of a sexual continuum," the friends said. "The truth is, there is a unique bond and intimacy that exists between women in friendship, that leads most of us to ask at one point or another: How is this relationship different from the one I have with my lover, or boyfriend, or spouse?"
Grace Jones, the antediluvian dance diva, made the same point when asked if she were a lesbian. She told the reporter that she was attracted to women, but who was to say where the emotional or psychological attraction ended and the sexual one began?
"We simply wanted to explore what happens when we drop our preconceived notions of who we are, who weíre supposed to be, and who weíre supposed to be with," the writers noted. "At the end of the day, the movie is about taking a risk and diving into life, rather that saying no based on Ďcorrectnessí or myopia or fear."
Hmm . . . they mention a continuum of sexuality, kind of a poke in the eye both for the "ex-gays" and the mainstream gay organizations who tend to ignore the existence of bisexuality when dealing with the concept of "conversion" therapy.
Helen starts out with three boyfriends, and avoids them all to date Jessica. Jessica starts out with no boyfriends and some really bad possibilities, and starts dating Helen more or less out of desperation. Does that make them lesbian, or straight, or "ex-straight," or bisexual?
In the end, does it even matter?
The answer is, no it doesnít. What does matter is that producer Eden Wurmfeld, by engaging in some creative nepotism in hiring her brother Charles Herman-Wurmfeld to direct the film, did a great service to humanity. It takes a nice Jewish gay boy to direct a film about a nice Jewish girl exploring the full range of sexual self-expression, one supposes. His handling of the material is deft, to say the least, and he brings out the humor in the script to the fullest effect.
The audience, in fact, made it almost impossible to catch everything. Gales of laughter crashed against the screen quite often, drowning out the actors.
Of course, the film is worth the price of admission solely for watching heterosexual women mimicking lesbian bed death.
If this is the direction that romantic comedies will take in the future, then When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle will not mark the genreís grave. Perhaps there are stories left to tell.
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