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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 24, 2002

Well-known performer Brazon
is stabbed to death

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus--Gary McMurtry, better known to LGBT Ohioans as his alter ego Brazon, was stabbed to death in his Clintonville home on May 17.

Police charged Michael Jennings with aggravated murder later that day.

A man dressed "like a ninja" in black clothing broke into McMurtry�s house through a glass back door at around 6:45 am, said Columbus police spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio. McMurtry�s roommate Brian Bass tried to stop the masked assailant but the attacker cut Bass� hand with a katana, or samurai sword.

Mercurio said that Jennings then went upstairs, where he attacked McMurty.

"His roommate heard screaming, and then the screaming stopped," she said.

Bass called police and both he and McMurtry were taken to Riverside Hospital, where the former Miss Gay Ohio was pronounced dead. According to police, the sword with which he was stabbed did a large amount of damage.

Police picked up two men, Jennings and a younger man who was in the area and dressed all in black. The other man was released when police confirmed that he was simply a high school student who had skipped classes.

"I don�t think he�ll do that again," Mercurio noted.

Bond was set for Jennings at $1 million on the morning of Saturday, May 18, and a preliminary hearing was set for May 24.

Christy McCleary, the public information officer for Franklin County prosecutor Ron O�Brian, said that if investigators get information to the prosecutors before the preliminary hearing, the municipal court will be dismissed, the information will be brought to a grand jury and an indictment will be handed down.

McMurtry was a regular performer at the Columbus Eagle, whose owner, Eric Jundt, was struck hard by the murder.

"Obviously we�re incredibly dismayed, saddened, shocked, all the adjectives you would normally associate with something this horrific," he said. "I�m numb right now."

Police sources said that Jennings was a stripper who performed under the stage name Devon. McMurtry, who often booked other acts to appear on the bill with Brazon, had hired Jennings to perform at the Eagle.

Jennings often carried the sword used in the murder with him in a case, telling people that it was a pool cue. According to associates, he was afraid of having it stolen.

Those who knew him, though, also said that Jennings was a gentle person, and expressed disbelief at the violence of the murder.

 


 

 

Dayton will have its first
Pride parade on June 1

Gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan to march

by Anthony Glassman

Dayton--The city will have its first Pride parade on Saturday, June 1, kicking off Gay Pride Month for the state two weeks before Dayton�s traditional Pride Dinner and Expo.

"We decided Dayton didn�t have enough of a Pride celebration," Dayton Pride Partnership coordinator John Gantt.

The parade will step off at 4 pm at Coopers Park, 2nd St. and St. Clair, and participants will then head on 2nd to Main and then on to Courthouse Square, where the march will let out into the Gay Pride Kickoff Celebration at 5 pm.

The following weekend, Dayton will send marchers to Cincinnati to participate in their Pride parade. A week after that, the Dayton Pride Partnership�s annual dinner and expo will be at the Dayton Convention Center on Saturday night, followed by a Pride Family Picnic the following afternoon at Carillon Park.

Daytonians will rest up the fourth weekend in June, then head up to Columbus to march alongside the Dayton Pride Partnership float in the Pride Holiday Parade.

The theme for this year�s Dayton Pride celebrations is "True Colors: Shining Through," dedicated to the partners and friends of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"Our focus is on all the victims, but the event is for LGBT awareness," Gantt said.

Toward that end, the parade�s grand marshals will be Ann Cregan, president of the Gay Officer�s Action League for the New York Police Department, and Francis Coppola, a New York police officer whose partner, a firefighter, was killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

"The devastating toll that hate can take is evident all around the country," Gantt said. "We must show our true colors, reflecting the fact that we are an LGBT community and we are Americans."

Rev. Raeanna Biddle of Eternal Joy MCC will conduct a service at the festival in memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks.

Mayor Rhine McLin signed a proclamation, given to Dayton Pride Partnership, declaring June as Gay Pride Month in Dayton, and reaffirming the city�s dedication to equality for all its citizens. McLin herself will not be able to attend the parade and festival, although she has committed her attendance at the Pride Dinner and Expo on June 15.

In her place will be police chief William McManus, continuing the theme of honoring police officers. Mary Wiseman, openly lesbian former city commissioner, will also attend the festivities.

According to Gantt, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan has also committed to marching in the parade.

Among all the other events and notable firsts surrounding Dayton Pride this year, another fact is quietly making history in the city: Dayton Pride Partnership just brought U.S. Airways on board as its first national sponsor.

Gantt is pleased with the way Pride Month is shaping up. Although the Dayton Pride Partnership is run entirely by volunteers, over the last five months it has raised $12,000, in addition to its fundraising efforts from the second half of 2001, enough to keep most of the events free to the public.

"We�re showing the entire Dayton community what a dynamic force the gay community is," he noted.

This is Gantt�s second year organizing the city�s Pride events, but he will be wearing a second hat this time around: Gantt was selected to be the co-director of the Dayton Lesbian-Gay Center, of which the Pride Partnership is a program. He is also involved with the Miami Valley Community Coalition, a locally-organized LGBT advocacy organization that is currently halfway to its goal of getting the signatures of 1,000 registered voters on a petition asking the city commission to add sexual orientation to Dayton�s non-discrimination ordinance.


Signatures fall short,
Heights benefits now in effect

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland Heights-An ordinance offering health benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of city employees took effect on May 15, making Cleveland Heights the first city in Ohio to offer such benefits.

Opponents of the measure, however, have hired an attorney and are challenging a ruling by city law director John Gibbon that they didn�t gather enough petition signatures to send the measure back to council.

City auditor Thomas K. Malone served the five organizers of the petition drive with letters on May 17 rejecting the petitions for insufficient signatures.

Two days earlier, organizer Tracie Moore and city council member Jimmie Hicks, Jr. had presented Malone, who is also the clerk of City Council, with the petitions.

Hicks was the only council member who voted against the ordinance when it was passed April 15, and is the self-described "catalyst" of the opposition group, calling itself Families First.

Hicks and Moore presented 5,271 signatures, 84 short of the 5,355 required by the city charter.

The charter requires that 15 percent of voters in the last municipal election, on November 6, 2001, must sign petitions to send an ordinance back to city council. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections certified to Gibbon on May 13 that Cleveland Heights had 35,699 registered voters then.

Families First disputes this number, saying that board workers gave lower figures to them and to the press in April.

Board of Elections spokesman John Stilliana said the letter sent to Gibbon has the only certified figure, and any others would have been unofficial and unauthorized.

If the number of signatures initially submitted had been sufficient, the charter would allow a 15-day "cure" period for gatherers to make up for any disqualified later because of duplication or not being from registered voters.

However, Gibbon also disqualified 649 of the signatures because they were gathered too soon.

According to Gibbon, Ohio law forbids petitions to be circulated before the ordinance is certified and delivered to the city auditor. That did not happen until April 26, so all signatures collected before then are invalid.

Families First organizers have hired anti-gay activist attorney David Langdon of Cincinnati to attempt to force Malone to accept the petitions through a court action.

Langdon represents the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati and American Family Association of Ohio.

CCV organized the 1994 petition drive that put Issue 3 on the ballot in Cincinnati. The measure, now Article 12 of the city charter, bans any ordinance protecting gays and lesbians. AFA of Ohio has opposed parenting agreements by same-sex couples and name changes by a transgender woman and a lesbian couple in Butler County near Cincinnati.

Both groups are headed by Phil Burress, who has been advising Families First.

Langdon is also the author of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act now under consideration in the Ohio Senate.

Gibbon said that he has told Langdon that Families First didn�t get enough signatures, so the benefits became available May 15, and the matter is concluded.

"So he might as well go ahead and sue us," said Gibbon.

"They have three issues of disagreement with me," said Gibbon. "First is the count. They say they have enough signatures. Then, they claim they have another 15 days to collect signatures [the "cure" period], and they disagree with my reading of the Ohio Revised Code on when they were allowed to start gathering signatures."

Langdon said the only defendant in the suit will be Malone in his capacity as clerk of council.

"We are seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the council clerk to certify the petitions," said Langdon, adding that Malone "rejected the petitions for no legitimate reason."

Langdon said that right now there was no cause for action against the Board of Elections, though they will be deposed, and may be added to the suit later.

Since this is an election matter, Langdon said, a suit could be filed in a common pleas court, an appeals court, or taken directly to the Ohio Supreme Court. He has not yet decided where he will file it, but said it will be filed before May 31.

Langdon said the case could become one of first impression and set standards for boards of election to report actual numbers of registered voters.

"This could be a larger principle of law--one of reliance," said Langdon. "At what point can anyone rely on the [the Board of Election�s] numbers, and why is the city able to rely on this particular number while others cannot rely on the numbers they were given? Which one is real?"

Langdon has instructed Families First to continue to gather signatures until May 31, as if they had collected enough to get the "cure" period.

Gibbon is optimistic that his legal interpretations will prevail in court, so he and Malone will ignore any more signatures that are submitted.

Another petition drive may come

Whichever way the court rules on this petition drive, benefit opponents say the fight will continue.

During the May 20 city council meeting, Hicks said, "The city is not going to be the final authority on this. The petition process is not over."

"If this fails," Hicks added, "the residents are willing and able to start another petition process."

Hicks praised Families First for collecting as many signatures as they did, and took responsibility for the group not coming together sooner.

"I knew about this ordinance prior to April 1, and I didn�t get the word out soon enough," said Hicks. "I take full responsibility for their slow start. I failed my duty."

Following the meeting, Hicks noted that Families First could attempt another petition drive for a ballot initiative, or an amendment to the city charter.

"The charter can be amended by petition and a vote," said Hicks, indicating the group knew it was an option.

"I tried to do the councilman-like thing," said Hicks, "by stopping the ordinance before anyone got the benefits and we would have had to take them away. A referendum would have done that, but maybe I was wrong about how to go about it."

Cleveland Heights� charter allows citizens to change law two ways. As in this case, an ordinance passed by council can be returned for a ballot referendum before it takes effect.

An initiative allows a new measure to be put on the ballot. It can also repeal any ordinance already in effect.

Signatures are only required from 10% of the registered voters for an initiative, instead of the 15% required for a referendum.

Council members applauded

Heights Families for Equality, a group organized to defeat any attempt to prevent the benefits, will remain active as the litigation develops.

Sixty supporters of the ordinance showed up to cheer for Mayor Ed Kelley, sponsor Nancy Dietrich and the rest of the council members who voted for the ordinance as they entered council chambers for their May 20 meeting.

During his remarks, Kelley followed Hicks� praise of the signature gatherers, declaring, "I am proud of the 85 percent or more of the voters who did not sign the petitions."

Council member Dennis Wilcox used his time to explain why council did not refer the ordinance directly to the ballot for a vote, as Families First has insisted they should have done.

"This is a representative form of government," said Wilcox. "The charter designates council to enact legislation. Council cannot ignore or undermine the charter or Ohio law by referring bills directly to the public. If it could, what would be the point of an elected council?"

Dietrich added that, according to the city�s administrative code, the wages and benefits paid to city employees are to be set by council.


Two indicted in Fiffe beating

Huntington, W.Va.--Two Huntington men accused of beating a man they thought was gay nearly to death were indicted by a Cabell County grand jury.

Eric Paul Young, 20, and Jonathan Scott Hensley, 21, were both indicted on felony charges of aggravated robbery and malicious wounding. Hensley also was indicted on a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver in indictments released May 17.

Michael Fiffe was walking home from a gay bar on Nov. 18 when he was attacked in an alley by a trio that drove up in an SUV. He was kicked, punched and beaten with an unknown object and left for dead. A nearby bank security camera recorded the incident.

Fiffe 28 at the time of the beating, was found unconscious several hours later by a neighbor and taken to a local hospital. He remained unconscious and hospitalized for several months. Doctors do not expect him to recover fully.

Young, Hensley and a 16-year-old boy are accused of kicking Fiffe in the head several times before robbing him of about $20, according to the indictment. A hearing to determine whether the teen should be tried as an adult is scheduled for May 30.

Friends of Fiffe had worried that Young and Hensley�s families might pull strings in the case; Young�s father owns a large insurance agency and is politically connected.

Hensley and Young have records of violent crime as juveniles, and have served time in the Davis juvenile detention facility in Blackwater Falls, W.V. The duo, who were on their high school wrestling, football and basketball teams, served only two months of their six-month sentences in Davis. This was due, according to those close to Fiffe, to Young�s family connections.

According to a source who was in Davis in 1999 with Hensley and Young, they were preoccupied with gays during their time there.

"All the two talked about was hating fags," he said.

Fiffe�s beating spurred Mayor David Felinton to propose a hate crime ordinance that includes sexual orientation for the city. City Council rejected the proposal. West Virginia, like Ohio, has no state law enhancing the punishments for crimes committed with anti-gay bias.

Young and Hensley are in the Cabell County Jail. Both of their bonds have been revoked.

Huntington, population 58,000 and home to Marshall University, is across the Ohio River from the southern tip of Ohio.

--Associated Press

Eric Resnick contributed to this story.

 


Same-sex marriage foes seek
to amend Constitution

by Eric Resnick

Washington, D.C.--A constitutional amendment defining marriage as being only between a man and a woman was introduced in the House of Representatives May 15. It is the first time an amendment relating to gays and lesbians has been considered.

If passed by two thirds of the House and Senate and ratified by 35 states, the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution would prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages by any governmental jurisdiction in the United States.

"Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose, but they do not have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society," said Matt Daniels, executive director of Alliance for Marriage, the group behind the proposal.

Daniels said that the proposed amendment was in response to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy groups like Lambda Legal Defense and and Freedom to Marry, who he says have been trying to overturn same-sex restrictions in state marriage laws.

The legislation is sponsored in Congress by Mississippi Democrat Rep. Ronnie Shows. He is joined by co-sponsors Ralph Hall of Texas, and David Phelps of Illinois, both Democrats, and Republicans Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Jo Ann David of Virginia, and Chris Cannon of Utah.

Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, the conservative Republican who sponsored the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act that is now the law of the land, joined openly gay Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, who led the opposition to the federal DOMA, in denouncing the constitutional amendment on MSNBC cable news.

Barr says a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage goes too far by violating the principle of states� rights.

Saying it was one of the rare times he and Barr ever agreed on an issue, Frank added that no nexus could be made to link gay marriage to problems associated with marriage and the family.

Frank said the amendment would "go nowhere" in Congress, but would be used by anti-gay groups as a fundraising point to advance their efforts against LGBT equality.

President Bush will not push for passage of the proposed amendment, according to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleisher. Bush supports the 1996 federal DOMA law.

The U.S. Constitution has been amended 26 times, the most recent in 1992. Since its inception, Congress has considered over 11,000 amendments, and had as many as 170 under consideration at any given time.

 



Stonewall Columbus forms
political lobbying group

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus--Two months after stepping into the role of board president at Stonewall Columbus, one of Rob Berger�s three goals in the post has come to fruition: The community center will now have a formidable political voice in the state capital.

The board of trustees voted unanimously at their May 15 meeting to form a 501(c)(4) lobbying group. The number refers to the IRS tax code that governs such groups, which, unlike the non-profit community center, are able to endorse and campaign for candidates and funnel donations to them.

The new group is expected to incorporate by the end of June. Stonewall Columbus board members Michael Council, Mary Ann Horton and Joe Davy will serve on its seven-member board. Stonewall executive director Kate Anderson will function in the same capacity for the new group. The remaining board members will be selected from the central Ohio LGBT community.

"There�s an immediate need to move forward because of the city looking at health benefits and the risk of referendum," Anderson said. Columbus is looking at extending health care benefits to a variety of dependents of city employees, including same-sex domestic partners.

Anderson also emphasized the need for supporting candidates who take a positive stand on LGBT issues, while keeping the political organizing separate from the community center.

"We didn�t want Stonewall Columbus� programs and services to suffer from the political action," she said, noting the possibility of a backlash from the right wing.

"We want the message to be out there that Stonewall is getting ready to stand up and fight for gay rights," she continued. "We need to be in a position to battle those organizations a little more effectively."

Stonewall Cincinnati, the foremost gay civil rights organization in southwest Ohio, formed a political action committee alongside its non-profit human rights organization at its inception in 1982. Stonewall Columbus board members, however, did not consult the Cincinnati group.

"People on the steering committee have done this with other organizations," Anderson noted.

The groups in Cincinnati and Columbus are not connected.

Doreen Cudnik, a former executive director and current board member of Stonewall Cincinnati, believes that the formation of a political arm will benefit the community served by Stonewall Columbus. While she was executive director, the PAC hired her from the main organization from time to time when it was needed.

"It provides you with an instant filter, having a group that is LGBT-specific," she noted, pointing to the ability of the organization to keep track of candidates� and politicians� stands on gay issues.

She noted that groups like the National Organization for Women often endorse gay-friendly candidates, but support of "women�s issues" like freedom of choice does not necessarily equal support of "gay issues" like sexual orientation anti-bias laws or health benefits for domestic partners.

"On our candidate questionnaires, we ask: If endorsed by this PAC, are you willing to put this endorsement on every document you list every other endorsement on?" Cudnik said. "It�s one thing to take money from our community, and another to put it on your campaign literature. It�s the courageous candidate that will even seek out the endorsements."

Cudnik believes that Stonewall Columbus� location, both geographically and politically, can be used to great advantage by the group.

"I would encourage them to look at using their position in the center of the state, the state capital, to become the hub of the wheel that will eventually spread into a strong statewide organization," she said.

"If a statewide organization does form, we will be happy to join them," Anderson said, noting efforts underway to re-establish a statewide LGBT political organization.


 

Fusion trounces Jaguars
in their first home field game

by Anthony Glassman

Bedford, Ohio--The Cleveland Fusion, northeast Ohio�s professional women�s football team, opened their home season with a decisive win against the Southwest Michigan Jaguars on May 18.

Both the Fusion and the Jaguars have beaten the South Bend Golden Hawks and lost to the veteran Detroit Danger, bringing them to Bedford Stadium on equal footing.

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, however, the home-field advantage proved too potent to overcome, and they went back to Michigan with an 18-0 defeat at the hands of the Fusion.

In the first quarter, the Jaguars were forced to punt from their 19-yard line. Shortly thereafter, Mary Dietrich ran the ball in for the game�s first touchdown. Maria Zubko missed the extra-point attempt, ending the quarter with Cleveland up 6-0.

The Jaguar�s defense kicked in for the second quarter, fending off the Fusion while their offense was unable to breach Cleveland�s defensive line.

In the second half, however, the Fusion brought in touchdowns in both quarters, although both attempts at extra points were doomed. At the end of the day, however, the extra points did not matter as Cleveland shut out Southwest Michigan.

Despite the chilly, rainy evening, the two-hour game brought 1,863 people to watch the trouncing.

On May 25, the Fusion gets their shot at revenge against the Danger, the only second-season Great Lakes Division team in the National Women�s Football League. Victory over Detroit will widen Cleveland�s lead in the division standings where the Fusion, with nine openly lesbian members, are currently number one.


News Briefs

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

Detroit will pay $170,000 to men entrapped in parks

Detroit--The city will settle a lawsuit brought by a gay advocacy group and several men who say police used vague city ordinances to unfairly entrap gay men at Rouge Park.

City Council approved the $170,000 out-of-court settlement May 15.

The Triangle Foundation and the ACLU of Michigan filed suit in December in U.S. District Court against the Detroit Police Department. The suit alleged that officers enticed, arrested and impounded the cars of about 500 men during four months of sting operations at the park. They were often charged with being "annoying persons" under a 1964 ordinance meant to deter obnoxious, indecent or lewd behavior in public places.

Some of the men said they were arrested for simply sitting in a car and talking with another man, or blowing kisses at undercover officers--sometimes aware that they were officers. In one instance, a man was arrested for giving an undercover officer a phone number.

Many of the men ticketed under the ordinance also had their vehicles impounded and had to pay at least $900 to reclaim them.

 

Philadelphia outlaws TG bias

Philadelphia--City Council approved on May 16 an ordinance that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The measure, passed 15-2, protects people who have completed gender reassignment surgery, as well as those who have not but see themselves as belonging to the opposite gender.

Minnesota, Rhode Island, eight counties and 33 cities, including Pittsburgh and Toledo, have enacted similar measures.

 

Alabama sodomy law challenged

Birmingham, Ala.--A lawsuit filed May 14 on behalf of two gay men and two lesbians is challenging the state�s sexual misconduct law as unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs allege that the measure violates equal protection and free expression rights, among others.

The Alabama "sexual misconduct" law makes oral or anal sex between adults not married to each other a misdemeanor offense.

The statute makes no reference to lesbians, gay men or homosexuality, but the Alabama Supreme Court has twice interpreted the law to mean that homosexual conduct is illegal.

The suit refers to State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore�s statement earlier this year that homosexual conduct is an "inherent evil."

It says Alabama has "fostered a statewide atmosphere in which anti-gay discrimination and violence can and does flourish, and has endorsed the notion that lesbians and gay men are second-class citizens."

 

Airman guilty in closet-panic murder

Tokyo--A United States military court sentenced an American airman to life in prison May 21 for strangling a fellow serviceman last year on the Japanese island of Okinawa, apparently to avoid being outed.

A panel of officers convicted Damien G. Kawai of premeditated murder May 17 in the strangling death of Airman 1st Class Charles F. Eskew Jr. in his base dorm room on Nov. 17.

Kawai testified last week that the crime took place after he walked in on Eskew having sex with another man. Kawai said he had also been sexually intimate with the third man and feared his own homosexuality would be exposed if he didn�t silence Eskew.

Kawai, 19, will be eligible for parole in 20 years. The maximum possible sentence was life without the possibility of parole.

 

Fortuyn�s party wins 26 seats

Amsterdam--The party of slain gay politician Pim Fortuyn came in second in national elections on May 15, putting Pim Fortuyn�s List in the forefront of parties forming a coalition government with the Christian Democrat party.

Fortuyn�s May 6 murder by a lone gunman outside a radio studio stunned the country, although the 17% of the vote captured by the party was far from unexpected. The Christian Democrats came away with 43 seats in the 150-member legislature, with Fortuyn�s followers taking 26 seats.

The election has dismantled Prime Minister Wim Kok�s left-leaning coalition, although officials are already stepping back from Fortuyn�s demands for a zero-immigration policy.

Volkert van der Graaf, the man charged with Fortuyn�s murder, is an animal rights activist. It is believed that he had been stalking Fortuyn on the day of the murder.

Although no motive for the killing has been confirmed, it has been speculated that van der Graaf shot Fortuyn because of his proposal to lift a Dutch ban on fur farming.

 

Marriage case moves to appeal

Boston--Seven couples whose suit to force Massachusetts to grant them marriage licenses was dismissed by a trial court May 9 are pressing ahead with an appeal.

"We believe we have a very strong case on appeal," Jennifer Levi, the attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders who is representing the gay and lesbian couples, said.

It is possible that the state Supreme Judicial Court will hear the case directly, without an appeals court hearing it first.

According to GLAD, the appeal will argue that civil marriage is a fundamental right under the Massachusetts constitution, and that it is meaningless if people cannot marry the person they love. It will also hold that refusing marriage to same-sex couples violates equal protection based on sex and sexual orientation.

The trial court cited having children as a central pillar to traditional marriage, but also noted that a number of the plaintiff couples are raising children.

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