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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 31, 2002

Psychoanalyts support gay parents

Sexual orientation shouldn’t affect adoption, parenting decisions, group say

 

Philadelphia--The American Psychoanalytic Association entered the fray over gay parenting at their 91st annual meeting, which was held May 1019.

The APAA released a position that the best interests of children should be the deciding factor in decisions on parenting, covering issues as diverse as conception, child rearing, adoption, visitation and custody.

“It is disturbing to hear about cases in which gay or lesbian parents are being denied custody or the right to adopt solely on the basis of their sexual orientation,” said APAA president Newell Fisher. “That’s discrimination.”

“The American Psychoanalytic Association deplores such discrimination,” he continued, “and is especially troubled when psychological findings are distorted, misrepresented or blatantly ignored, as is so often the case in these legal decisions.”

The statement came in the wake of a custody case in which Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court issued a lengthy separate decision denying a lesbian custody of her children. Moore’s concurring opinion quoted chapter and verse of the Bible, and referred to homosexuality as an “inherent evil.”

The APAA statement can also be viewed as another volley in the Florida battle over gay adoptions. The state bars gay people or couples from adopting children under a law passed at the height of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay “Save Our Children” campaign in 1977. A number of former Florida legislators, as well as assorted citizens and celebrities including Rosie O’Donnell, are seeking to have the law repealed or overturned.

“By issuing this statement, gay and lesbian parents or prospective parents will now be able to include the position of the American Psychoanalytic Association as part of their supporting documents in their legal proceedings,” noted Gary Grossman, the chair of the APAA’s Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues.

Last year, the American Psychiatric Association urged an end to gay adoption bans. Earlier this year, the American Association of Pediatrics threw their support behind second-parent adoption, allowing gay and lesbian partners of biological parents to legally adopt their partners’ children without the original parent waiving his or her rights to the child.


Adoption researcher quits, says U.S. removes gay info

Washington, D.C.--A former policy researcher contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said he resigned his position because the Bush administration is “covertly hostile” to gay adoptions and attempts to remove information about them from material it sends to state adoption professionals.

Doyle Evans had worked for three years as a researcher and editor of Bridges, a 15-page newsletter distributed quarterly to 600 adoption and foster care professionals

Evans says three gay-related adoption articles were cut from the newsletter by an HHS official.

HHS associate commissioner Susan Orr of the Bureau of Children, a Bush appointee, said she disallowed the articles because she thought they were not relevant.

Evans was an employee of Bridges’ publisher, the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance, which is made up of member states’ adoption agencies. The association is funded half by states’ dues and half through an HHS grant.

Evans resigned May 22 after contacting the gay and lesbian Washington Blade about the rift.

He said he wanted the newsletter to take on issues that states are struggling with, and provide opinion pieces for their information.

After the American Academy of Pediatrics announced its support of gay adoptions earlier this year, Evans chose one of their commentaries for Bridges, to run beside an anti-gay adoption piece by Focus on the Family. Both were nixed by Orr. A separate article Orr disallowed was a brief mention of Rosie O’Donnell’s recent campaign on behalf of gay adoption.

A gay adoption article Orr did allow has been criticized for being anti-gay.

According to American University law professor Nancy Polikoff, the accepted article was biased because it reported three cases in which appeals courts ruled against gay adoptions while failing to mention any where the courts had ruled in favor.

“I was struck by the fact that it only presented those opposed, when, in fact, there have been more rulings in favor,” said Polikoff.

Evans said he edited that piece, and only had information about the three cases presented.

“But that may have to do with why Orr chose to keep that article,” he said.

Evans said he was informed by an HHS official that the department ordered workshops on gay parenting canceled from its annual Permanency Partnership Forum conference held in March.

Evans said that since Bush took office, HHS has been trying to stifle discussion about gay adoption.

“Gay adoption is a huge issue for state adoption agencies to address,” said Doyle, “and HHS is attempting not to look openly hostile, but by controlling the debate, they covertly committing an act of hostility.”

Orr said it is “utterly a state call” about whether or not gays can adopt, and HHS is not going to set state policies.

Jerry Friedman, executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, which oversees Evans’ group, said Evans “independently and secretly went to a media source” about the rift, which is why he accepted his resignation.

“From my perspective, this is a tempest in a teacup,” said Friedman, adding that there have been no directives from HHS saying gay adoption is a taboo topic.

“This only became an issue because Evans decided to create one,” said Friedman.

Friedman said Evans’ association is a “hired gun” that produces a product for HHS.

“We were in the process of getting a sense of the terms of our agreement and concerns over the editorial level HHS had over the publication, when Doyle overreacted,” said Friedman.

Evans said he began working for the association because he thought he could help make meaningful policy changes to help children get homes.

“I knew I would have to resign after I went to the media, but I thought it was the only way to bring attention to what is going on,” said Evans.

Evans said the association wasn’t doing anything meaningful to clarify their contract with HHS for fear that HHS would stop funding their project.

“I hope they change how the grant is written,” said Evans. “Right now, [HHS] is supplying 50 percent of the funding, and demanding 100 percent of the control without regard to the member states.”


Former U.S. official to head P-FLAG

Washington, D.C.--Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays will get its first openly gay executive director on June 1, when David Tseng assumes the post left vacant with Kirsten Kindon’s May 15 retirement.

Tseng will also be the first person of color to head the 29-year-old organization, being of mixed Asian and Latino descent.

Tseng is a nationally recognized pension and health care expert who has served benefits policy advisor for the federal Department of Labor, chief assistant treasurer for the city of San Francisco, and an attorney.

“I am delighted that P-FLAG has selected today an outstanding Californian . . . to be its next leader,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. “David’s exceptional skills and knowledge, combined with his perspective as a gay Latino Asian American, equip him well to lead P-FLAG in its vital mission of securing full civil rights for all American families.”

“David’s outstanding experience in government and public policy, as well as his dedication to civil rights, will contribute greatly to our nation’s struggle toward equality and fairness for all Americans,” Human Rights Campaign executive director Elizabeth Birch said.

Under Kingdon’s four-year stewardship, the organization grew from 416 to 486 chapters in the country. Kingdon decided to cut short her tenure following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, citing a desire to spend more time with her family.

The group put out a call in January and received over 50 applications for the position.

Tseng’s central goal for the group is to have a stronger voice in forming national public policy, a task in which his previous governmental experiences and personal relationships with politicians will be a great asset.

He also wants to continue P-FLAG’s safe schools program, which works to make the education system more respectful and inclusive of sexual minority youth.

“I have known David throughout his career to be an effective leader and coalition-builder in our communities, and in the halls of power in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.,” said former U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights Bill Lann Lee. “He is a superb choice to head a civil rights organization for a community whose time has come.”


High court won't hear case of HIV+ dental hygienist

Washington, D.C.--The United States Supreme Court on May 28 let stand a lower court’s dismissal of a suit by an HIV-positive dental hygienist who was demoted when his employer discovered his HIV status.

Spencer Waddell was demoted to an administrative position that paid much less than his hygienist job when his supervisor at Valley Forge Dental Associates in Atlanta, Georgia, found out that Waddell was positive.

Waddell filed suit alleging that Valley Forge violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which bans employment discrimination based on a number of disabilities, including HIV status.

A federal district judge dismissed the suit in 1999, and the decision was upheld by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. Both courts reasoned that there was a theoretical risk that Waddell could transmit the virus to patients.

Both the American Dental Association and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed friend of the court briefs supporting Waddell. The ADA has guidelines in place on use of gloves and other safety gear that reduce the risk of transmitting HIV in a dental setting to almost nothing.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, who represented Waddell, argue that the courts put an impossible burden on Waddell by requiring him to prove that something could never happen in the future


.

Student convicted in slaying at Gallaudet University

Neither homophobia nor ‘gay panic’ was motive

Washington, D.C.--A former student at Gallaudet, the nation’s oldest university for the deaf, faces the possibility of life in prison after a jury rejected his insanity defense and convicted him of murdering two classmates.

One of the victims was the head of the prestigious university’s gay organization.

Jurors deliberated for three hours on May 21 before finding Joseph Mesa Jr. guilty of the murders.

Eric Plunkett, who was gay, was killed Sept. 28, 2000. Benjamin Varner was killed Feb. 1, 2001. Each was found battered and bleeding in a freshmen dormitory.

Shortly after Plunkett’s death, police arrested Thomas W. Minch, but he was later released for lack of evidence. Rumors circulated that Minch had killed Plunkett to keep him from revealing that they had engaged in sexual activity. Varner’s death and Mesa’s subsequent arrest, however, eliminated a homophobic or “gay panic” motive for Plunkett’s murder.

Along with the murder counts, Mesa was convicted of stealing from the dead men.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeb Boasberg and prosecutor Jennifer M. Collins helped turn back efforts by Mesa’s attorney to portray Mesa as a victim of mental illness who had a pair of “black hands” telling him to do bad things.

The jury sat through three weeks of testimony and viewed 80 exhibits of evidence, including Mesa’s videotaped confession.

Members of the victims’ families embraced and shook hands with prosecutors in the courtroom after the verdicts were announced.


An award-winning lineup

Cincinnati Pride’s two-day music festival is
‘a Who’s Who of Cammys

Cincinnati--Ken Colegrove is a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. He was perfectly at home as the producer of Alternating Currents, a long running lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender music and education program heard every Saturday on WAIF 88.3 FM.

As the organizer of last year’s Pride parade and festival, Colegrove’s efforts helped make the event the most successful ever with over 4,000 people present. Without his efforts, the festival would never have turned into the exciting event that it is in 2002.

Described by his fellow Pride organizers as “a relentless ambassador for Pride and a total control queen,” Colegrove has turned the Pride Music Festival into a two-day affair with acts ranging from jazz to choral to hip-hop and boogie-woogie blues.

“I am most excited about the music this year!” Colegrove exclaimed. “It’s probably the most diverse line up of acts ever assembled for one evening.”

There will be almost ten hours of music both on Saturday evening and Sunday after the parade. The line up, said Colegrove, “is a Who’s-Who of the recent Cammys and Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. And the coolest part is that all this talent performs for free to support Pride!”

Here is the complete line up for both Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9, 2002.

Saturday

Queen City Rainbow Band. This will be the first public performance of Cincinnati’s own GLBT marching band and flag corps. They’ve been practicing for months and they’re ready to come out.

Carol Sherman-Jones with Sherry McCamley. There wouldn’t be a “Carol’s on Main” without Carol Sherman-Jones. Her long-time support of the LGBT community has been unwavering, and many evenings have included her unique vocal stylings.

Muse Womens Choir. (Tentative as of May 10.) Singing songs of peace, justice and freedom, this Cincinnati women’s chorus is one of the most well-respected in the country.

Cincinnati Men’s Chorus. Like Muse, the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus is a Cincinnati institution with a stellar national and international reputation for excellence. Always a crowd-pleaser.

IsWhat?! “This is one of the acts I am most excited about!” said Colegrove

IsWhat?! is a hip hop and rap trio featuring rapper Napoleon Maddux, Matthew Anderson on upright bass, and Jack Walter on sax. IsWhat?! will finish out the Saturday show with special lighting from Big Bang Productions. The group had two Cammy nominations, and was the winner of a Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for best urban/hip hop band.

Sunday

Belinda Scroggins. Acoustic folk.

Annette Shepherd. Awesome pop/rock. Shepherd will perform with her five-piece band.

Ryan Adcock. One of the favorites of the last two Pride festivals, Adcock was the winner this year of two Cammys for best alternative rock, and best rock vocalist.

Chris Collier. A local favorite, and veteran of the last two Pride festivals, Chris and Ryan Adcock will do some duets in addition to their solo sets. Collier won a Cammy this year for best folk/bluegrass vocalist.

Tonefarmer. Winner of this year’s Cammy for best new artist, Tonefarmer is a three piece band playing original British pop style music.

Beatrice. This folk duo consists of Amy O’Meara and Michael Lang.

Jake Speed and the Freddies. Bluegrass/country band playing folk standards and original songs about life in Cincinnati. Very topical, as well as entertaining. Winner of a Cincinnati Entertainment Awards for best country band, and nominated for several Cammys.

Vicki D’Salle. It wouldn’t be a Pride festival without Vicki. In case you weren’t aware, Vicki is also known in the region as boogie-woogie blues pianist Ricky Nye, who has won numerous Cammy and Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, is always a favorite at the Blues Fest, and was a founding member of the legendary Cincinnati band The Raisins. She is also a proud member of Crossport.