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March 8, 2002

 

P-FLAG Cincinnati founder Marian Weage with Chris Seelbach, who was honored for founding the Xavier University gay-straight alliance. Photo: Doreen Cudnik

�Out-love our enemies,�
Mel White tells P-FLAG

by Doreen Cudnik

Covington, Ky.--"Don�t give up the fight to repeal Cincinnati�s anti-gay charter amendment Article XII," was among the messages delivered by the Reverend Dr. Mel White at the tenth annual Cincinnati P-FLAG Scholarship Banquet, held March 2 at the Madison in Covington.

The event was the largest on record for the local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, with over 300 people in attendance. Roughly 180 tickets were sold last year, and that was a record for the organization. The banquet included a live and silent auction, dinner, and entertainment by Vocal Point.

Proceeds from the banquet benefit the P-FLAG Scholarship Fund.

The Gene Schmeling Advocacy Award, given in honor of one of the local chapter�s earliest supporters, was awarded to Louisville, Ky. native Chris Seelbach. The Xavier University senior is the founder and president of the Xavier Alliance, the first gay-straight alliance established on the campus of the Jesuit university. It was Seelbach�s efforts that brought Judy Shepard to Cincinnati recently to speak to over 800 people about the legacy of her son, Matthew. Seelbach is actively involved in the local chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and serves on the Stonewall Cincinnati board of directors.

"It was one of the best nights of my life, surrounded by so many supportive people," Seelbach said. He plans to remain in the Cincinnati area and attend law school next year.

The Rev. Dr. Mel White was the evenings� keynote speaker. He said much to inspire a Cincinnati community that is often divided and still hurting as a result of last April�s civil unrest following the death of an unarmed young black man at the hands of police. Calling on his audience to put divisions aside and continue working to repeal the city�s anti-gay charter amendment, White said, "The rest of the world is watching you. Don�t give up until Article XII is shelved forever."

Two Cincinnati City Council members, John Cranley and David Crowley, were present, and have publicly expressed their support for the repeal effort.

White, the author of Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America, is the minister of justice for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the only Christian denomination with a primary outreach to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. He and his partner Gary Nixon founded Soulforce, an international network that follows Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus� principles of nonviolent resistance. Much of the group�s work is focused on refuting the anti-gay teachings of the religious right.

If there was any disappointment about White�s four-day stay, it was Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken�s decision to cancel a meeting that had been scheduled with White and P-FLAG representatives.

Luken has said in the past that he supports the repeal of Article XII, but since becoming the city�s first directly-elected "strong" mayor in more that 70 years, he has seemed indecisive on the issue.

Summing up his impressions of the city, White said, "Cincinnati is a southern city in a northern state. It faces all the problems of both worlds, racial conflict, and with the presence of Article XII, homophobic conflict. It is in a time of deep trouble."

White added that LGBT people and their supporters need to learn to "out-love their enemies."

"If we don�t out-love our enemies, we won�t succeed in changing their minds and hearts. If it ever gets to be simply a war, we�ll lose--they�re simply bigger than us. What we�ve got to do is learn the secrets of Gandhi and King and Jesus, who taught us that relentless loving is relentless resistance. We can�t acquiesce to the evil; we can�t just let it stand. It�s as much our moral obligation not to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good."


Panel says Columbus broke law, must give domestic partner benefits

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--A decision by the Columbus Community Relations Commission will force the city to again take up the issue of same-sex domestic partner benefits for city employees.

The commission�s 9-3 vote on February 26 says the city is in violation of its own non-discrimination law by not providing insurance benefits to the partner of a Health Department employee.

In 1994, the city passed a civil rights ordinance saying that employers may not discriminate "with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment" by sexual orientation.

A complaint filed in 1997 by James Hartman, a city employee for 22 years, said the city discriminated because benefits given to heterosexual spouses were not available to his partner.

After years of delay, the city decided to move Hartman�s case forward last summer and hired Capital University law professor Shirley Mays to act as judge in the case.

Mays found that the city is in violation of its own non-discrimination law, and concluded, that the city "must allow coverage to domestic partners of homosexuals."

"The city has clearly stated its intention that no discrimination based upon sexual orientation should occur," wrote Mays, noting that the benefits have a value.

The decision puts the city in a precarious position.

In 1998, the city council passed an ordinance, which was signed by the mayor, granting benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. One of the ordinance�s backers was council member Jennette Bradley, who is now on the Republican ticket for lieutenant governor.

The ordinance was in effect for less than two months when council unanimously repealed it, with the support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, for strategic reasons.

Under the city charter, an action of council can be repealed by referendum, but once it is, the city can not address the issue again until the first referendum is repealed by another one.

Immediately after the passage of the domestic partner ordinance, religious conservatives began collecting signatures to get such a referendum on the ballot. Polling was done, and the leaders of the LGBT community and supportive members of council realized that the new law would not survive the vote, so in order to preserve their ability to pass it again at a later time, they repealed it themselves.

At that time, the city had not yet begun to examine Hartman�s complaint.

Since Mays� ruling, the city must again address the issue.

The Community Relations Commission is also part of the city charter, and its findings are binding on the city.

Mays� decision was sent to city attorney Janet E. Jackson, who is seen as supportive of the LGBT community.

"Hopefully, this will be a catalyst for some long overdue discussion on the matter, said openly lesbian community relations commissioner Mary Jo Hudson. "I hope the city will do the right thing."

But as Hudson acknowledged, there are many options the city could pursue, and the political climate will be a major factor.

Already, those who opposed the 1998 ordinance are calling for the city to solve its dilemma by repealing the 1994 anti-discrimination law.

Columbus lawyer Jay Meena told the Columbus Dispatch that either city council or the voters "could repeal the part of the [civil rights] ordinance that the CRC determined is being violated."

Meena, a social conservative, is a member of the Franklin County Democratic Executive Committee. LGBT party insiders call him "an embarrassment" and "one of the few remaining anti-gay types left in the party," though they point out that he has a great deal of money, and is therefore a force to be reckoned with.

Scott Varner, the director of communications for the city attorney said, "It is not an option now. The city must deal with this."

But Varner is reluctant to discuss any options the city might have. "As the city�s legal advisor, we have to sit down and look at all the options," he said.

Under the city civil rights ordinance, willful violation is a first degree misdemeanor.

Hudson said that the city has many choices, ranging from granting domestic partner benefits outright to prosecuting itself for the misdemeanor violation, which would lead to the city fining itself.

Other options may include negotiation with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union that represents most city employees. AFSCME favored the 1998 attempt to grant the benefits.

The city has no deadline to come to a decision. "Look how long it took to get [Hartman�s case] this far," said Hudson.

Hudson says if the city chooses to merely fine itself for the violation, it would be "a terrible message to the LGBT community that we are only worth the amount of the fine."

"We have a lot of education of the community to do," said Hudson.

Currently, no Ohio city offers domestic partner benefits to employees, but the cities of Cleveland and Cleveland Heights have proposals under consideration.


 

Gay candidates and DOMA will shape 2002 elections

by Eric Resnick

The landscape of the 2002 election in Ohio is shaping up since the February 21 filing deadline for candidates.

Following a primary election May 7, Ohioans will choose members of the U.S. House of Representatives, members of the Ohio House of Representatives, 33 of 99 Ohio senators, a governor, a secretary of state, an attorney general, a treasurer and an auditor.

It will be the first election after redistricting, which is done every ten years after the census. This year, new districts were drawn by the Republican majority in state government, which means future Ohio lawmakers are expected to be more Republican and more rural.

Historically, such representatives have been more controlled by religious conservatives and less friendly to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Yet, there will be many interesting races and GLBT-affirming candidates in the mix.

Joining Chad Foust of Columbus, an openly gay Democrat running in the new 25th Ohio House district, will be openly gay Joe Lacey of Dayton, who will be on the Democratic primary ballot to represent the new 5th Ohio Senate district on the party�s state central committee.

Lacey has been a precinct captain in Montgomery County for eight years, and says he was asked to run for the state seat by Dennis Lieberman, who hopes to unseat David Leland as the party�s chair.

Lacey, who ran unsuccessfully for the Ohio House in 1998 and 2000, said the election of the party chair is one of the duties of the 66 central committee members. The others are candidate endorsements and setting policy for the selection of convention delegates.

Lacey says if elected, he will represent the interests of the GLBT community and see to it that those voices are heard in the party. He faces opposition from the Miami County Democratic Party chair, Clinton Dorsey.

Two will not run

Two other openly gay men showed interest in running for Ohio House seats, but chose not to join the race.

Republican John Farina of Lakewood, who ran for city council in 1995 and 1999 chose not to run in the new 13th district.

"Once I investigated, I decided I wasn�t ready for it," said Farina.

Farina, who is the public policy director of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland, said he had support to run from the agency, but felt that running could hinder his work.

"How can I lobby [House Democrat leader] Dean DePiero on AIDS issues when I am running against a member of his caucus?" Farina said.

Openly gay Cleveland attorney Tim Downing also decided not to run for the new 8th Ohio House district seat.

"After analyzing the voting patterns in the last contested primary, I decided it was not a race I could win," said Downing, a Democrat.

"But I will not rule out a run for something in the future," Downing concluded.

DOMA in governor�s race

The gubernatorial race is heating up, with both candidates having to deal with GLBT issues already.

Republican incumbent Bob Taft is seeking re-election, and will face Democrat challenger Tim Hagan, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner.

Taft is generally viewed as hostile to GLBT interests, due to what he has done and what he has failed to do. Most notably, in 1999 Taft replaced a 16-year-old executive order prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination for state employees with one that did not mention gays. State agencies began to interpret that to mean it was acceptable to discriminate against gay and lesbian clients as well.

Taft, who received considerable support from the religious conservatives of his party, has also failed to speak against anti-gay Republican initiatives like the so-called Defense of Marriage Act passed by the Ohio House on October 31.

Taft responded to a February 22 Cleveland Plain Dealer question on the DOMA bill by saying, "Our staff is reviewing that bill right now. I have not had a chance to talk with them."

Joe Andrews, assistant press secretary for the governor, has been telling the Gay People�s Chronicle that the bill has been under Taft�s consideration since October, 2001.

Hagan responded to the DOMA question with, "It�s a way to target and bash gays in the state, and I don�t want anything to do with that. I don�t have to consult with anybody about that. I�m against it."

Pro-gay running mates

Both Hagan and Taft picked gay-affirming, African- American women who are members of the Columbus City Council as running mates. Hagan was first with his pick of Charleta Tavares.

As candidate for secretary of state in 1998 Tavares was one of four candidates who earned the endorsement of the GLBT political action committee Ohio PAC.

The choice of Tavares, whose views are similar to Hagan�s, came as no surprise to anyone. Taft�s choice of Jennette Bradley, however, shocked conservatives.

Bradley was the leader of the 1998 attempt to pass domestic partner benefits for Columbus city employees. Though the benefits didn�t materialize, Bradley earned a reputation as a gay-affirming public official.

Bradley is also pro-choice, unlike Taft. But it is not yet clear as to whether Taft�s choice of Bradley represents an ideological shift for him, or is just a shrewd political move, designed to make him appear moderate on social issues.

Bradley said at the press conference announcing her selection, "The governor would be the one to chart the course on issues for the state."

Anti-gay groups like the Pro-Family Network in Dayton immediately put out statements denouncing Taft�s choice of Bradley, calling her a "pro-homosexual, pro-abortion radical.


Senate committee considers federal job bias law

by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, making sexual orientation a class protected by federal employment law, had its first hearing in the U.S. Senate on February 27.

The Senate hearing, before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy, was the first movement of the bill in either chamber since introduction this session.

The bill is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, but fail in the Republican-controlled House.

Bills outlawing anti-gay discrimination have been introduced in Congress since 1975. The current "ENDA" version, which is limited to job discrimination, has been considered in each session since 1994. The current bill, S. 1284 in the Senate and H.R. 2692 in the House, was introduced last July 31.

Five witnesses testified in person in favor of the bill. They represented large and small businesses with sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies, organized labor, civil rights activists, and a discrimination victim.

Three witnesses, Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, Steven L. Miller, president and CEO of Shell Oil Company, and Kim Wisckol, vice president of human resources for Hewlett-Packard Co. submitted written testimony.

There were no witnesses in opposition.

Discrimination victim Larry Lane of Long Island, N.Y., told the committee of his excellent employment record with a floorcovering company, until he was outed by a member of his sales staff in 1998.

Lane described to the senators that once it was known he is gay, his underlings openly called him a "faggot" and told his supervisors they did not want to work for a gay man.

Shortly afterward, Lane was put on probation and told he was failing his responsibility of "teambuilding" within the company. He was terminated September 1, 1999 after the corporate vice president told him, "Let�s just say you don�t fit in."

Richard Womack, civil rights director of the AFL-CIO testified, "The AFL-CIO is founded on the belief that citizens should be treated equally in their workplaces and throughout our democratic society. We further believe that trade unions and employers alike have a responsibility to ensure that workers are judged based on their performance--not their real or perceived sexual orientation."

Robert Berman, vice president of human resources of Eastman Kodak, and Charles Gifford, president and CEO of Fleet Boston Financial Corp. told the senators that including sexual orientation in their job policies has worked well.

"In keeping with our statement of company values, we have included sexual orientation in our non-discrimination policy since 1986," said Berman. "By recognizing the need to protect our employees without regard to sexual orientation, Kodak was at the forefront of a rapidly growing trend in corporate America. Approximately sixty percent of the Fortune 500 companies have now instituted similar policies, and that number grows steadily."

Lucy Billingsley, a partner in the real estate firm Billingsley Co., told the senators that she is from Texas, and a lifelong Republican.

Billingsley testified that adding federal workplace protection for gays and lesbians will not be a costly burden to small businesses.

"But actually," said Billingsley, "not doing so would be the more costly route."

"Rather than being a distraction, a uniform federal law banning sexual orientation discrimination will give businesses the right focus," Billingsley added.

Matthew Coles, director of the American Civil Liberties Union�s lesbian and gay rights project pointed out that his group often represents people who have been fired for being gay. Without a federal law protecting them, most are "just out of luck" if they work for a private business in the 38 states, including Ohio, that have no law protecting gay and lesbian workers.

"But those people we represent are the tip of the iceberg," said Coles, "For most lesbian and gay Americans, survival comes down to this: Separate the two most important parts of your life, work and family, so that neither ever knows anything about the other. And then pray that you never slip up."

Kennedy told the committee, "A version of this bill was first introduced in 1975, and now--more than a quarter century later--we are long overdue in providing this basic protection to America�s workforce."

Kennedy also told his colleagues that opponents� criticism that ENDA would give special rights to gays and lesbians "have no merit."

The bill is expected to pass the committee and be sent to the Senate floor before summer. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat who is also one of the bill�s co-sponsors, has promised a floor vote this year.

ENDA has gained sponsors each year it has been introduced. There are a total of 44 Senate sponsors this year, up from 37 last time. Six are Republicans, 38 are Democrats, and one is independent. None are from Ohio.

The lead senate sponsors are Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican.

The lead House sponsors are Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, and openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat. There are 190 House sponsors, up from 173 last time; 20 are Republicans and 170 are Democrats.

Seven House sponsors are from Ohio. One is Republican Deborah Pryce of Columbus, the others are Democrats James Traficant of Youngstown, Ted Strickland of Lucasville, Tom Sawyer of Akron, Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Cleveland, and Sherrod Brown of Lorain.

 


New class of drugs shows promise at HIV conference

by Anthony Glassman
with wire reports

Seattle�The Ninth Annual Retrovirus Conference, which ended March 1, brought a mix of good and bad news in the battle against HIV and AIDS.

Among the bad was a report that over a million Americans are now infected with HIV or have full-blown AIDS. That dark cloud had a silver lining, however, as the increase was due in part to the greater lifespans of people with HIV who are taking the most current therapies.

According to figures released at the conference, around 40,000 people in the U.S. contract HIV each year. The death rate from AIDS, however, has dropped in recent years from 40,000 to around 15,000, meaning that new infections are outpacing the death rate, causing the increase in overall numbers.

Protease inhibitors and heart disease

Another apparent negative was a study reporting that use of protease inhibitors increased the incidence of heart attacks five times. The use of protease inhibitors has been linked to rearrangement of body fat and metabolic abnormalities, including changes in cholesterol levels. Scientists were unsure, however, how that would effect the cardiovascular health of people on protease inhibitors, a key ingredient in the "cocktail" treatment of HIV.

Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 5,676 HIV-positive people in eight cities from 1993 to 2001. Thirteen people among the group who were taking protease inhibitors had heart attacks, compared to two among the group who were not taking them.

A University of California-San Diego study of the medical records of 36,766 HIV positive veterans, however, showed a slight decline in heart disease and strokes following the introduction of protease inhibitors to the patients� treatment, leaving the connection between the protease inhibitors and heart disease in dispute.

A caution on drug holidays

A report by European scientists indicated that "drug holidays," temporary halts in medication to alleviate the often-serious side effects of antiviral drugs, can be quite harmful in people in advanced stages of infection.

In the European study, those with CD4 levels below 200 were five times as likely to die or develop serious complications when they went off drugs as those who stayed on them, and were still twice as much at risk for complication or death after returning to the therapies. CD4 cell counts are used to judge overall immune system health; the normal count is about 800.

A University of Washington study indicated that an early start to treatment, though, might be quite beneficial. The study found that patients beginning antiretroviral therapy in the first year of infection had half the risk of complications or death as those who put off treatment for more than a year. The results held true for people at various CD4 levels, according to researchers.

A Johns Hopkins study, meanwhile, found that the antiretrovirals were especially important when treating people over the age of 50, who make up 11% of those infected with HIV in the country. In the trial, those over 50 who refused antiretroviral treatment had double the mortality rate of younger people who decided not to take the drugs.

Progress on vaccines

Merck�s experimental HIV vaccine, which completed simian testing, is showing promise in stimulating the immune systems of humans. The vaccine did not prevent HIV infection in monkeys, but preliminary human testing has shown that it triggers the same immune system response that it did in the monkeys, enough to almost indefinitely suppress viral replication.

The National Institutes of Health, meanwhile, announced that they will not hold a large domestic study of Aventis Pasteur�s vaccine followed by another drug, but that a Thai-based study will go on.

Entry inhibitors on the way

Meanwhile, another class of drugs are showing promise in the fight against HIV and AIDS, called entry inhibitors.

Entry inhibitors make it more difficult for HIV to gain access to human host cells. Drugs presently in use block a pair of enzymes, protease and reverse transcriptase, that the virus uses to take over a cell after it enters.

The new compounds attack enzymes that the virus uses to attach to and fuse with human cells.

The furthest along of these drugs is T-20, being tested by Roche and Trimeris. The company hopes that the wide-scale testing currently underway will enable it to seek Food and Drug Administration approval for distribution later this year.


 

Actor is set on fire, burns to
death in hate crime

by Anthony Glassman

Santa Barbara, Calif.�A man has confessed to dousing a gay actor with fuel and setting him on fire as he slept in his bed. Clint Risetter awoke in flames and died on his apartment patio before firefighters arrived on February 24.

Martin Thomas Hartman, 38, turned himself in to police two days later, and was charged February 28 with murder, arson and a hate crime.

"Marty Hartman said he has ill feelings toward gay people and decided to put the person out of his misery," said police Sgt. Mike McGrew. "He said he thought it was the right thing to do . . . He said he felt this person deserved to die."

Hartman, whom Risetter had befriended, entered his apartment through an unlocked door.

Hartman was a suspect in a string of arsons over the last ten years, but police lacked enough evidence to charge him for the crimes. Charges for them will not be filed now, since the statutes of limitation on most of the arsons have expired. Hartman has also been arrested numerous times for minor offenses like indecent exposure and public intoxication.

Risetter, 37, was raised on a farm near the small town of Wolsey, South Dakota. He went to California to pursue a dream of acting and modeling. He landed bit parts in a number of films, including as a dancer in the 1991 comedy Doc Hollywood.

According to friends, Risetter had been depressed lately, returning to alcohol after being sober for several months. Acquaintances acknowledged that he had been known to drink heavily.

Hartman said he had known Risetter for half a year, but recently found out that he was gay. Risetter was a friend of Hartman�s mother, who had divulged Risetter�s sexual orientation to Hartman.

Hartman first told police that he had killed Risetter because the man was unhappy, and that he was taking him away from the world. He later, however, admitted to killing him because of his sexual orientation.

Hartman was questioned in 1997 when a tenant living in his mother�s house was injured because someone set his mattress on fire. Police did not have enough evidence to arrest Hartman.

The tenant was later found dead in a creek. Police believed he was fatally shot at Hartman�s home. Hartman was again questioned and released, and two other tenants were later convicted of the murder.

Police brought in a tracking dog to verify Hartman�s confession of burning Risetter. The dog smelled Hartman�s clothing, then followed a trail through the victim�s apartment that confirmed Hartman�s account of events.

In the last year, Risetter�s father died of a stroke and another close friend died two months ago, leading to his depression.

According to neighbors, Risetter was known to bring homeless people to his apartment, where he would sit and drink with them and give them canned food and other non-perishables.


 

News Briefs

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

Hospital keeps man from his partner�s deathbed

Baltimore�A gay man filed a complaint February 27 against a hospital that kept him from his partner�s bedside because he wasn�t family, although he had a durable power of attorney for his lover�s health care decisions.

William Robert Flanigan Jr. filed the complaint with a state agency that must rule on it before his civil suit against the hospital can go forward.

The complaint and lawsuit stem from the October 16 death of Robert Lee Daniel. He and Flanigan were registered domestic partners in California, where they lived, and had durable powers of attorney dating back to 1996.

While on a car trip to visit Daniel�s sister, his breathing became labored, and they checked him in to Harford Memorial Hospital north of Baltimore. Flanigan provided doctors there with a copy of the document allowing him to make health care decisions for his partner, which they honored.

When his condition deteriorated, Daniel was transferred to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, along with his medical records. There, the doctors and nurses refused to let Flanigan see Daniel and would not update him on the status of his partner until Daniel�s mother and sister arrived four hours later.

By that point, staff had inserted a breathing tube, contrary to Daniel�s wishes which were expressed in his legal documents. When he tried to remove the tube, they tied him down.

By the time Flanigan was allowed in, accompanied by Daniel�s mother, Daniel had slipped into a coma and his eyes were taped shut. He died soon after.

Flanigan charges that the staff of the center ignored Daniel�s wishes and the power of attorney documents which should have been in his medical records. Flanigan also noted that he had another copy of the papers in his car, which he could have provided if asked.

 

House panel kills hate crime bill

Charleston, W. Va.�For the third straight year, the House Judiciary Committee has killed a bid to expand the state hate crime law to add protections for gays and the disabled.

By a 14-10 vote, the committee approved a motion by Delegate Tom Coleman, D-Taylor, to "postpone indefinitely" consideration of the expansion bill. The move effectively stops action on the bill for this year.

After passing the Senate each of the last two years, similar bills died in the House Judiciary Committee, on an 11-11 vote in 2000 and last year by being left off the agenda.

West Virginia�s hate crime law adds punishments for criminals who target victims for their race, religion, nationality, political affiliation or gender. The bill would have added to the list the classes of sexual orientation and disability status.

Opponents say the bill would create "special rights" for gays and the disabled and that existing criminal penalties should be applied to all lawbreakers.

"It�s a very sad day for West Virginia," Cheri Heflin Montgomery of the West Virginia Lesbian and Gay Coalition said. "We are sending a message that it is okay to discriminate, harass and abuse gays and lesbians and people with disabilities."

 

Adoption stand may help Pa. case

Erie, Pa.�A gay couple seeking to adopt their children is hoping a policy statement by a national pediatrics organization in favor of second-parent adoptions will help.

Two men in Erie--unidentified in court records--have been together for 19 years and have raised a boy, 10, and a girl, 9, since the children were infants. While one of the men was allowed to legally adopt the children, his partner is barred by state law from doing so.

Pennsylvania law allows only a spouse to become the adoptive parent of the other spouse�s children and does not recognize same-sex marriages.

Two years ago, the state Superior Court ruled that one man could not adopt his partner�s children, despite his claim that he wants to be recognized as a parent, in part, to provide joint medical and insurance benefits to the children.

The couple appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the issue. The men hope a recent policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics will help sway the court�s decision.

In this month�s edition of the journal Pediatrics, the group said legalizing second-parent adoptions is in a child�s best interest because it guarantees the children will receive the same rights and protections afforded those in heterosexual families.

The organization said there is "a considerable body of professional literature that suggests children with parents who are homosexual have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment and development as children whose parents are heterosexual."

Last week, the couple�s lawyer, Christine Biancheria, filed legal documents with the Supreme Court, citing the academy�s announcement. She said she expects a decision in the case sometime this year.

 

Helms: I meant African AIDS, not gays

Raleigh, N.C.�Sen. Jesse Helms says a comment he made last month that he was ashamed about his inaction on the AIDS epidemic didn�t mean he had altered his views on homosexuality or his belief that government spending on AIDS research is excessive compared to spending on other illnesses.

During a Christian conference in Washington last month, Helms said he was "so ashamed that I�ve done so little" and had been "too lax too long in doing something really significant about AIDS."

But on March 5, Helms said those comments were about the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and didn�t apply to domestic AIDS issues involving homosexuals.

Helms pledged to work during his remaining months to direct more attention and funding to the epidemic in Africa, where more than 28 million people are HIV-positive. However, he said his views hadn�t changed about U.S. funding priorities for medical research.

At last month�s conference, sponsored by a Christian organization called Samaritan�s Purse, Helms said, "You can�t avoid the seriousness of HIV/AIDS. Whether it be in Africa or in the United States, the treachery is the same. And the treachery is in ignoring it."

 

No pension for slain officer�s partner

Tampa, Fla.�The life partner of a lesbian police officer killed in the line of duty is planning to sue because she is being denied pension benefits paid to survivors.

The Tampa Fire and Police Pension Board denied the request February 26, instead awarding the pension to the mother of slain Tampa police officer Lois Marrero. It was the second time the board turned down the request.

The decision followed an emotional day of testimony in which fellow police officers testified that Marrero and her life partner, Tampa Officer Mickie Mashburn, were in a committed relationship.

Marrero�s family, though, has said there was trouble in the relationship and the officer had named her mother as beneficiary on two life insurance policies and on her deferred compensation plan.

The pension benefit is worth about $50,000 to Marrero�s family, and would be worth $28,000 a year to Mashburn if she wins the same benefit as a surviving spouse.

Marrero, an 18-year veteran, was shot and killed by a fleeing bank robber July 6, just three days after the pension board changed its policy to allow unmarried officers to name beneficiaries.


 

Unclipped wings

Film brings Sophie B. Hawkins to the screen

by Heather Gmucs

Whatever happened to Sophie B. Hawkins?

She had that one hit back in, what was it . . . 1993, "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover." That was a great song and then, whammo, she just seemed to disappear. After a quick Google search and a click or two of the mouse it was really easy to find out what Sophie B. Hawkins has been up to. Hawkins hasn�t disappeared at all; as a matter of fact, she�s been really busy.

Hawkins broke free from her contract with Sony Records (which is an almost unheard-of feat) because Sony didn�t believe her third album Timbre would generate enough revenue as her platinum release Tongues and Tails. This "artistic wing-clipping" seems to be a pervasive problem with most major record labels.

Hawkins started her own label, Trumpet Swan Records, with Gigi Gaston. They released Timbre from an unreleased Sony recording made in April of 2001 with songs like "Walking in My Blue Jeans" and "Lose Your Way."

"It�s not that I wanted to have my own label, I really couldn�t get out there what I needed to get out there with Sony," Hawkins told the Gay People�s Chronicle. "As artists you can�t sit there and wait to make it . . . you gotta keep doing your work. You gotta get it out there because it�s part of your soul."

She has a new album slated for release in June 2002, completely Hawkins, unedited by the censoring of a major label.

The current news and excitement for Hawkins revolves around The Cream Will Rise, a DVD documentary about her tours, her life and her family. The film begins with Hawkins reciting her poetry, dubbed over flashes of tour performances and snippets of life on the road. Slowly, the camera moves from an opening shot through Hawkins� toes, zooming to her face while she laughs, a little annoyed by the intrusion. It then takes the viewer to the rehearsal space where Hawkins, like a queen bee, is in command of every honeyed nuance. Next is an emotional phone call with a friend, where Hawkins is crying about the frayed connection with her mother. The reality of Cream brings Hawkins to life.

Gigi Gaston, director and filmmaker, met Hawkins by chance at a restaurant in Los Angeles. Gaston was invited to one of Hawkins� rehearsals and got the idea for the documentary during that session.

"This [rehearsal] was like the inner dialogue in movies, like what actors say in their heads, the stuff that�s in between the lines . . . That�s what makes it so interesting," says Gaston. "I was so fascinated by the interpretation. I started listening to the lyrics. She [Hawkins] was so interesting that I decided to do a documentary on her."

"At first, the film was kind of threatening, like the more she [Gaston] did it, the more worried I got," admits Hawkins. "It covers a lot of shit that I still have a hard time dealing with. I didn�t have an ultimate goal for the film. I really believed in Gigi and I trusted her and she believed in my work. The goal now is that if this can inspire someone to dig into their history, then this is out there and hopefully it can help them. I�m a survivor, and I�m out there making a really good living doing what I believe in."

Cream has an "indie" feel to it, although it is not obvious that it was Gaston�s first filming project. The film goes from polished and slick with selenium wash and interesting fades to a jerky, chaotic and home-movie-esque vibe while Hawkins is interviewing her mother, as if denoting the nature of their relationship. It�s candid, behind the scenes, and completely uninhibited.

Cream allows the viewer an intimate look and a rather disconcerting keyhole view into the private, personal evolution of Sophie B. Hawkins. With blurred memories of sexual abuse, strained family ties, and the inner workings of Hawkins as a struggling musician, the film creates a meatier rendition of Behind The Music than anything you�ll get on VH-1.

 

 

 

 

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