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November 8, 2002

 

Group hits the polls to find partner benefit supporters

Cleveland HeightsA group formed to fight an attempt to repeal the Cleveland Heights domestic partner ordinance last spring used Election Day to identify supporters of the measure.

According to Heights Families for Equality leader David Caldwell, 60 volunteers worked a three-hour shift and 20 more worked all day in the rain at 15 of the 21 largest polling places in the city. The volunteers were identifying the voters needed to defeat a possible initiative to repeal the ordinance.

Caldwell said the group was trained and ready to counter any petition drive their opposition may have staged that day.

�I was pleasantly surprised that they didn�t, but I would have been surprised either way,� said Caldwell.

�[Election Day] was the best day to gather signatures until next year. Having lost this opportunity, it will take them a long time standing in front of grocery stores to get enough signatures to get anything on the ballot.�

The anti-gay group, called Families First, began a signature drive immediately after the ordinance was passed April 15, hoping to have voters repeal it.

Though they hired professional signature gatherers, they failed to get enough to meet the requirements of the city�s charter.

Families First attempted to compel the city to accept their petitions anyway, with an order of the Ohio Supreme Court.

The court unanimously rejected their arguments September 17, and the ordinance remained in effect. But at the time of the court ruling, Families First leaders vowed to try again to remove the measure.

Cleveland Heights is the only city in Ohio offering same-sex domestic partner benefits to city employees. Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland are also considering the benefits.

�Usually the reason we lose these types of elections is that our voters don�t show up,� said Caldwell. �What we did lines up voters in advance, then targets them for a get-out-the-vote campaign.�

According to Caldwell, people were approached coming out of the polls after they voted, told of a possible future ballot measure, and asked how they would vote.

�This allows us to find our supporters, find more volunteers and financial donors, and make a personal contact with voters that may be undecided,� said Caldwell.

Caldwell said 131 supporters were found at a single precinct, and he expects that once they are done counting, the other precincts will give as many.

Caldwell said Heights Families for Equality is �breathing a little easier� now that the opposition has missed an opportunity to begin a new petition drive.

�We can have a little respite and plan our next step,� he added, �but we remain ready to react as soon as signature gatherers [for Families First] appear.�

Caldwell said he was most surprised by how much support from voters was found.

�Even in areas we thought would be unsupportive, there was much more than we expected,� Caldwell said.

�This was an important finding for us as well.� |

 


 

Gay civil rights upheld in four of five ballot issues

Across the country, five ballot issues were put before voters in the Nov. 5 election, and gay and lesbian civil rights won in four of them.

In Nevada, voters chose a �defense of marriage amendment� to the state constitution by a margin of 2-1. The measure, which would constitutionally define marriage as being between one man and one woman, was called mean-spirited and unnecessary by gay civil rights advocates, since Nevada law already bans same-sex marriages.

Proponents of the ban point to Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont, where courts ruled in the 1990s that not allowing gay couples to marry violated equal protection guarantees. Both Alaska and Hawaii quickly passed constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. Vermont introduced civil unions, which became an issue in a number of gubernatorial races in this election.

Few have commented on the irony of a �defense of marriage� amendment in Nevada, a state best known for legalized prostitution and quick marriages.

This was the second time voters passed the issue by a wide margin, as the Nevada constitution requires amendments to be approved in two consecutive general elections by voters to be ratified.

In Ypsilanti, Michigan, Westbrook, Maine and Tacoma, Washington, voters handily turned back challenges to local civil rights ordinances that include sexual orientation as a protected category.

The Ypsilanti issue, defeated 3,023 to 1,779, marked the second time the city ordinance has been successfully defended against a repeal attempt. Tacoma�s 2-1 margin in defeating their referendum issue was the third challenge against the city�s protections of the rights of gay men and lesbians.

Westbrook�s margin was much smaller, with an unofficial tally of 3,316 to keep their ordinance and 3,126 to repeal. The numbers will not be official until ballots that were improperly completed are hand-counted, but sources within the Westbrook city clerk�s office do not believe there are enough of them to repeal the ordinance.

The final measure, an attempt to add a gay-inclusive civil rights measure into Sarasota, Florida�s city charter, won a resounding victory, with residents choosing 3-1 to add the protections to the charter.�����


 

 

Thousands of competitors begin the Gay Games in Sydney

Sydney, Australia�Tens of thousands of people flocked to a Sydney stadium November 2 for the opening ceremony of the sixth Gay Games, a week of competition in events ranging from athletics to ballroom dancing.

Some 12,000 competitors from 80 nations are in Sydney for the games, the largest sporting event the city has hosted since the 2000 Olympics.

Singers k.d. lang and Jimmy Sommerville were among the acts performing an opening show called �Fabulous� for a crowd of about 38,000 at Sydney�s Aussie Stadium.

Ignatius Jones, who coordinated the ceremony, said it celebrated Australia�s vibrant gay community.

�Australia and the gay and lesbian community is not so much a melting pot,� he said. �We are more of a mixed salad, where every part remains separate, yet adds to the wonder of the whole.�

One of Australia�s highest-profile gay men, High Court judge Michael Kirby, paid tribute to pioneering gay civil rights activists in a speech at the opening.

�The changes over 30 years would not have happened if it had not been for people of courage who rejected the ignorant denials about sexuality,� he said. �At a time when there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, this event represents an alternative vision for humanity.�

Before the show, k.d. lang, celebrating her 41st birthday, said the event was a chance to celebrate how far acceptance of gay people had come in recent years.

�As a person who has been out since I was 13 and out publicly for ten years now, you get a little bit nonchalant about the whole gay issue,� she said. �But when you see people coming into the stadium from Chad, China and Nepal, you realize what a major achievement it is for the gay and lesbian community and also Australia to have this much participation.�

Thirty-two members of Team Columbus are at the Gay Games, including 25 swimmers from the Ohio Splash swim team.����� |

--Associated Press

 


Few gay-friendly candidates win Ohio seats in election

Changes in Statehouse increase likelihood that �Defense of Marriage Act� will pass

The most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender affirming gubernatorial ticket in Ohio�s history lost a tough battle a less-friendly opponent on November 5.

In the mid-term election where only 3,300,000 Ohioans representing 46 percent of the eligible electorate voted, Democrats Tim Hagan and Charleta Tavares lost by nearly 20 percentage points to incumbent Republican Bob Taft and Jennette Bradley, running for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.

In one of Taft�s first acts as governor in 1999, he allowed the 1983 executive order protecting state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to expire, leaving gay and lesbian employees unprotected. Taft has also indicated support for the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act passed by the Ohio House last year.

Taft�s performance as chief executive was so poor on LGBT issues that no LGBT Republican organization in the state endorsed him.

By contrast, Hagan, whose sister is an out lesbian activist, made LGBT equality a cornerstone of his campaign, excoriating Taft at the third gubernatorial debate for �insulting gays and lesbians� and using anti-gay rhetoric as a political tool.

Hagan�s twin brother Jim introduced Hagan to the crowd assembled to hear his post-election speech by thanking him for being himself, spontaneous and unscripted enough to, among other things, �fight for the right of all Ohioans to love who they want, when they want.�

In his speech, Hagan promised to �keep fighting for the rights of gays, who only ask to be treated as human beings.�

Hagan said he hopes he has proven that being outspoken on LGBT issues is politically safe and not detrimental to gaining support from other constituent groups.

Hagan called the Republicans� attempts to run on the �sanctity of marriage� issue �outrageous� and said he is proudest of his effort to put LGBT issues on the statewide agenda.

Statewide offices

Republicans won every statewide office over Democratic candidates who were more gay-affirming.

Republican Jim Petro defeated Democrat Leigh Herrington to become Ohio�s attorney general. Petro has no record on LGBT issues, but was endorsed by the Republican Progressive Caucus. As a state senator, Herrington was a leader in defeating the 1999 version of the DOMA bill. Stonewall Democrats of Cleveland and Central Ohio endorsed him.

Republican Betty Montgomery defeated Democrat Helen Smith to become auditor. In 1999, as attorney general, Montgomery told Jewish groups that she favored a gay-inclusive hate crime bill introduced by Republican Amy Salerno, when Salerno had never introduced such a bill. At the same time, Montgomery actively worked to defeat a gay-inclusive hate crime bill introduced by Democrat Joyce Beatty.

Republican Joe Deters defeated Democrat Mary O. Boyle to keep his job as Ohio�s treasurer. Deters was not endorsed by any LGBT Republican groups, either. In 1998, Boyle ran for the U.S. Senate as the most gay-affirming Ohio candidate ever to do so. She had all the LGBT endorsements in this race as well.

Ohio Supreme Court

Because the LGBT community had four cases before the Ohio Supreme Court this year with more expected in the future, those seats were also of special importance.

In both races, the candidate less favorable to LGBT issues was elected.

In the race to replace LGBT-favorable Justice Andrew Douglas who is retiring, Tim Black, a Democrat, was defeated by former Summit County prosecutor and lieutenant governor Maureen O�Connor, Republican. In the second race, incumbent Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, a Republican and currently the most socially conservative justice, defeated Democrat Janet Burnside.

Lundberg Stratton is hostile to LGBT issues, and provided the lone dissenting vote in two of the four LGBT rights cases before the court this year. Each time, Lundberg Stratton failed to cite any case law to back her opposition.

U.S. House of Representatives

All 18 seats representing Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives were decided. In those races, five of the six candidates endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign won. They are Democrats Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland, Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Cleveland, and Sherrod Brown of Medina. All were incumbents. Republican Deborah Pryce of Columbus will also keep her seat.

In a Dayton area an open seat vacated by Democrat Tony Hall, HRC�s endorsed candidate Democrat Rick Carne was defeated by former Dayton Mayor Mike Turner, a Republican.

Turner, an anti-gay activist, led the opposition to Dayton�s civil rights ordinance introduced by Mary Wiseman, formerly an openly lesbian city commissioner.

Ohio House

The Ohio House of Representatives will continue to be led by Republicans. Those who led the drive to pass the 2001 �Defense of Marriage Act,� will likely remain in leadership positions, and the number of gay-affirming members has not increased.

The marriage act would bar recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships, and may outlaw local partner benefits.

Of the 99 seats, Republicans will hold 62, and Democrats 37. This compares to the current session with Democrats holding 38 and Republicans, 61.

Several races are significant to the LGBT community.

Republican House Speaker Larry Householder of Glenford rallied his party around passage of the marriage act. He was re-elected, as was the bill�s sponsor Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, also a Republican.

Seitz is currently the chair of the Civil and Commercial Law Committee, where the marriage bill hearings were held. During the hearings, Republican John Willamowski of Lima, who was also re-elected, chaired that committee.

Nancy Hollister of Marietta was the only Republican to vote against the marriage bill. She was also re-elected, as was Derrick Seaver of Minster, the only Democrat to vote for it.

Republican Sally Conway Kilbane of Rocky River, a candidate endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans and the Republican Progressive Caucus because she has an openly lesbian daughter, was defeated 87-13 percent by Democrat Kevin Kennedy. Kilbane also voted for the marriage bill.

Democrat Dan Stewart will represent Columbus� Short North neighborhood, which is the gayest Ohio House district in the state according to the 2000 census. Stewart defeated Republican David Dobos. In last May�s Democratic primary election, Stewart defeated openly gay candidate Chad Foust in a hotly contested race.

Gay-inclusive hate crime bill lead sponsor Democrat Joyce Beatty of Columbus was re-elected to her Columbus seat with endorsement from the Stonewall Democrats.

Democrat Michael Skindell of Lakewood defeated his Republican opponent Ryan Demro 64-36 percent. Demro was endorsed by the Republican Progressive Caucus, Skindell by the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats.

Skindell developed a strong relationship with the LGBT community when he co-sponsored Lakewood�s ill-fated domestic partner benefits ordinance in January 2000.

Skindell was the most outspoken council member for the bill and used considerable political capital attempting to pass it.

Like Hagan, Skindell says advocating for LGBT issues is not detrimental politically �especially in a Democratic district.�

�When I brought the domestic partner benefits ordinance forward,� said Skindell, �I was told I would never win another race.�

�People told me to consider my political viability more than the issue,� Skindell added, �But tonight proves that people should not be afraid that gay issues will destroy their political viability.�

Ohio Senate

The party makeup of the Ohio Senate will change with 22 Republicans and 11 Democrats, a single Republican seat gain. However, there are changes of importance to the LGBT community coming next session.

Senate President Richard Finan, a Dayton-area Republican, could not run again due to term limits. Finan used his power as president both in 1999 and 2001 to prevent the anti-marriage bill from coming to a vote after it passed the House.

Finan�s likely successor as Senate president is Doug White of southwest Ohio, also a Republican. White was a sponsor of the 1999 anti-marriage bill in the Senate and favors its passage. Cincinnati Republican Robert Schuler, who co-sponsored the bill as a member of the House, won Finan�s seat.

Newark Republican Jay Hottinger, who sponsored the marriage bill in both 1997 and 1999, will return to his Senate seat. He was unopposed.

Democrat Ben Espy of Columbus, who was minority leader in 1999 and also helped defeat the marriage bill that year, has also retired due to term limits. Democrat Ray Miller will now represent the district.

Democrat Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, who is described by Stonewall Cincinnati as a �long-time friend of the LGBT community� will return to his seat after an unopposed re-election.

Democrats Dan Brady and Eric Fingerhut, both from the Cleveland area, won handily. They were endorsed by the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats.

Fingerhut joined with Republican Scott Oelslager of Canton to attempt to establish an institute that would study and keep statistics on hate crimes, eventually to be expanded to those committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.

Religious conservatives lobbied Republicans to defeat the bill because of the possibility that it would help the LGBT community. It died in committee.

Due to both of their terms being limited, Oelslager was elected to the House seat formerly filled by Republican Kirk Schuring. In turn, Schuring was elected to the Senate seat held by Oelslager. Both support the anti-marriage bill. |

 


Thirty-three GLBT candidates win office nationwide

Washington, D.C.�Across the nation, gay candidates did relatively well in this year�s elections.

The Victory Fund, a national organization that supports and tracks lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates for all levels of government, backed 43 seeking office in the Nov. 5 election. On the following morning, 33 of their candidates had emerged victorious, six had lost, and for four others, results had not been released.

Arizona

Jack Jackson, Jr. and Wally Straughn, both Democrats, both move on to the Arizona House of Representatives. Jackson, a Navajo who ran unopposed, has become the first openly gay Native American to win office in the nation.

U.S. Rep Jim Kolbe (R) was re-elected with over 60% of the vote.

California

Carole Migden (D) jumps from the California Assembly to the state Board of Equalization. Migden introduced a bill last year, now law, allowing gay and lesbian domestic partners to file wrongful death suits. The bill was a reaction to the mauling death of lacrosse coach Diane Whipple in San Francisco.

Incumbent Democrat Christine Kehoe defeated her Republican and Libertarian challengers to retain her Assembly seat, and John Laird and Mark Leno became the first openly gay men elected to the Assembly.

In addition, Gail Dekreon edged out Sean Connolly for a seat on the Superior Court.

Colorado

Incumbent Jennifer Veiga (D) won her third term, handily ending the challenge of anti-gay candidate Karen Kataline.

Florida

Patrick Howell (R) and George Maurer (D) both lost their bids for the state House.

Georgia

Karla Drenner (D), who became the first gay or lesbian state senator in the deep South in 2000, was reelected without opposition.

Illinois

Larry McKeon (D), who has been in a state representative for six years, won his reelection bid.

Maryland

Incumbent Maggie McIntosh (D) and Rich Madaleno (D) both won their bids for the state House, making Madaleno the first gay man elected to the Maryland General Assembly.

Massachusetts

Jarrett Barrios (D), who ran unopposed, is now the first gay Latino elected to a state senate in the nation. Incumbent Liz Malia (D), also unopposed, kept her seat in the state House.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D) was also unopposed for re-election.

Michigan

Incumbent Chris Kolb (D) from Ann Arbor turned back his state House challenger by a margin of four to one.

Minnesota

Scott Dibble (Democrat-Farmer-Labor) is now the second openly gay state senator in Minnesota history.

Nevada

With 54% of the vote, David Parks (D) has become the only openly gay legislator in Nevada, holding on to his Assembly seat.

New Hampshire

Corey Corbin (R) and Jim Splaine (D) both retained their state House seats, but Carol Burney, Marlene DeChane and Carol Williams, all Democrats, appear to have lost their re-election bids. Three other candidates� fates were not available by press time.

New York

With over 80% of the vote each, State Sen. Tom Duane (D), Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D), and newcomer Daniel O�Donnell (D) all won their races. O�Donnell was elected to the State Assembly.

Rhode Island

David Cicilline (D) has made Providence the largest city in the nation with an openly gay mayor with 84% of the vote, which was the expected outcome in this Democratic stronghold.

South Carolina

With 41% of the vote, Charlie Smith (D) has lost his bid for the State House to incumbent John Graham Altman.

Washington

Jim Moeller (D) has taken his district�s state House seat with 57% of the vote.

Wisconsin

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) was successful in her attempt to stave off the attack of Ron Greer, an anti-gay clergyman who wasted no opportunity in bringing sexual orientation into the race. Baldwin became the first open lesbian in the U.S. House of Representatives four years ago.

Tim Carpenter (D) became Wisconsin�s first openly gay state senator.

Other races

Seven other candidates, including two Washington, D.C. city council members, won city or county-level elections, with the results of one local election in Cathedral City, Calif. not available by press time.

Governor�s races

Nine gubernatorial races saw civil unions or domestic partner benefits brought into the debate.

Out of the four candidates endorsing civil unions, only Jennifer Granholm (D) of Michigan was successful in her bid for the governor�s mansion, defeating former lieutenant governor Dick Posthumus (R) and returning the governorship to the Democrats for the first time in 12 years.

Shannon O�Brien (D) of Massachusetts and Myrth York (D) of Rhode Island, however, were both defeated, as was Tim Hagan (D), who lost his bid for Ohio governor.

Both York and O�Brien said that they would sign bills granting full marriage to same-sex couples.

In California, victorious incumbent Gov. Gray Davis (D) said he did not support civil unions but was in favor of various other rights and benefits for gay and lesbian couples, as did John Baldacci (D) of Maine, who was also victorious. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) of Maryland and Mark Fernald (D) of New Hampshire, however, were both defeated.

In Vermont, the only state that allows civil unions, Republican Jim Douglas beat Democrat Doug Racine in a relatively close contest. Douglas� victory means that both the governor�s mansion and the state legislature are in Republican hands. While civil unions were not much of an issue in this election, two years ago many Republican lawmakers in the state were advocating the repeal of the civil unions law.������������ |

 


Angry judge denies a marriage license again

Transsexual groom-to-be refuses to answer court questions about his genitalia

Warren--Trumbull County Probate Judge Thomas A. Swift again denied a heterosexual couple a marriage license--this time because the groom-to-be, who is transsexual, would not answer questions about his surgery and physical attributes.

Swift made his oral ruling during a November 5 hearing, after a dramatic and lengthy exchange between the judge and attorney Deborah Smith, who represents the couple, Jacob Nash, 37, and Erin Barr, 30, of Howland.

The exchange was so contentious that Swift got up and walked out of the courtroom after he ruled, forgetting to adjourn court. Nash was left seated in the witness stand.

The hearing resulted from Nash and Barr submitting a second application for a marriage license October 2, less than 48 hours after Swift denied their first application because it contained errors, he said.

The two applications are separate cases with different numbers. The first case is still under appeal. But Swift�s insistence that all the evidence presented in the first case become part of the second case drew the first objection from Smith.

The two were at odds over Nash�s uncorrected Massachusetts birth certificate, which the court obtained in 2000 as part of Nash�s name change.

That birth certificate was sealed under Massachusetts law when, following sex reassignment surgery, Nash was issued a new one with the sex marker corrected.

Smith admits that it was a mistake allowing the uncorrected birth certificate into evidence in the first case, noting that,�the court already had it anyway.�

But in this case, Smith argued that Ohio must honor the Massachusetts order according to the �full faith and credit� clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Swift admitted it into evidence anyway, above Smith�s objections.

Smith insisted that the judge �take judicial notice of the law of Massachusetts.�

�I�m not familiar with taking notice of other states,� said Swift, �If you want to file a brief, we can talk about it.�

Smith said after the hearing that taking notice of other jurisdictions is one of the basic rules of evidence that govern all courts.

Smith called Barr to the stand first to answer questions about what happened when she and Nash presented their second application to clerk Rosemary Horvath.

The couple went through the procedure exactly as Horvath would handle any couple�s application, by presenting a driver�s license for identification and answering a few questions under oath.

Smith also put into evidence Barr�s birth certificate from West Virginia, which does not have a sex designation, and her Ohio driver�s license, which does.

�Do you believe that your fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution has been obstructed?� asked Smith.

�Yes,� said Barr.

�Do you believe you have received disparate treatment from this court that violates your right under the U.S. Constitution to equal protection under the law?� asked Smith.

Smith later asked the same questions of Nash.

Barr replied, �Yes.�

�Why?� asked Smith.

�Because we have been required to produce an exponential amount of evidence to prove our gender in the state of Ohio,� said Barr.

Prior to the September 5 hearing on the first application, Smith signaled to Swift that if he denies a marriage license to the couple, her clients would bring a federal civil rights suit against him.

Smith asked Nash questions nearly identical to those asked Barr. However, Swift, who did not ask Barr anything, began questioning Nash about his Massachusetts divorce decree. His name on the document is Pamela Nash.

�When you filed your divorce petition, how did you sign your documents?� asked Swift?

�Pamela,� replied, Nash.

�How are you identified on your [uncorrected] birth certificate?� asked Swift.

�Objection!� said Smith, on the basis that Massachusetts has already settled the matter of Nash�s corrected sex, and Swift has neither the authority to overrule it nor issue an Ohio birth certificate in its place.

Swift noted her objection, but pressed Nash anyway and ordered him to answer.

�Pamela Nash,� said Nash.

Pointing to his right under Ohio law to determine matters of fact in marriage license applications, Swift inquired about the process of correcting a Massachusetts birth certificate.

Nash said it required a statement from a physician.

Then, Swift made what Smith called an �unfair surprise� by changing the controlling issues in the case. These had been previously agreed to in a journal entry made by Swift, and in Smith�s pretrial report. Both outlined the issues to be addressed at trial.

Swift�s journal entry indicated that the 1987 Stark County probate case In Re Ladrach would be the controlling case law here.

In that case, the court denied a male to female transsexual the right to marry on the basis that chromosomes at birth determine sex.

But during the hearing, Swift said that the standard for determining sex he was applying was last year�s Kansas Supreme Court ruling In Re Estate of Marshall Gardiner, which lists eight areas that affect sex designation including hormones, gonads, chromosomes, phenotype, and sex assigned at birth.

�The court finds that the holdings in [Gardiner] are more contemporary than Ladrach,� said Swift. �We are not going to rely on chromosomes.�

If allowed to pursue that line of law, Swift would have been able to ask Nash about his surgeries and his current anatomical structures. Smith said later that had she known the judge was going to do that, she would have brought a medical expert to testify.

Smith objected again, telling Swift that Massachusetts has already settled the matter of Nash�s sex and this case was about whether or not the judge was going to grant full faith and credit to it. She instructed Nash not to answer the judge�s questions.

Swift argued that he has the right to make the inquiries according to Ohio law and that full faith and credit does not need to be given if doing so would violate a state�s public policy--in this case, against what he perceives to be a same-sex marriage.

Smith shot back that the judge was invading Nash�s privacy, and in doing so �causing harm you should not cause.�

�All I attempt to do is look into those issues,� said Swift, �Jacob is a post-operative female-to-male transsexual and this court has the opportunity to determine what has been completed and what has transpired.�

Smith then charged that Swift was violating canons of legal ethics by �unnecessarily prying into a private matter.�

At that, Swift said, �The court has no alternative but to deny the application.� As he left the courtroom he told Smith, �You may submit a brief or you have the right to appeal.�

Smith said she will appeal.���������� |

 


Stonewall celebrates 21st year with party and politics

Columbus�On Nov. 2, Stonewall Columbus hosted the 21st �A Night Out� celebration at the Columbus Athenaeum. Over 400 guests lived it up and watched as the organization honored several community leaders.

The evening was politically charged by the elections, and several candidates, including Statehouse candidates Dan Stewart and Lori Tyack, candidate for treasurer Wade Steen, and Court of Appeals candidate Deborah O�Neill, turned out to show their support of the LGBT community.

After a silent auction and informal reception, guests made their way into the Olympic ballroom for hors d�oeuvres and the beginning of the awards ceremony.

Stonewall executive director Kate Anderson gave the opening address, reminding everyone of the importance of voting.

�When you are alone in that voting booth, you are on equal footing with your oppressors,� Anderson said. �Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, an independent, a Libertarian, or a member of the Green Party, do not give up that power.�

Anderson later introduced Mer�l Crane, who received the prestigious Rhonda H. Rivera Human Rights Award for her dedication and service over three decades. Crane gave workshops at the Ohio State University�s Mental Health Clinic for a greater understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

In the mid-1980s, after then-governor Richard Celeste made an executive order banning discrimination against gay and lesbian state workers, Crane traveled across the state with Rivera and Joan Wurmabrand, giving training sessions to employees. (The order was dropped by Gov. Bob Taft in 1999.)

Crane also runs the Gender Dysphoria Program of Central Ohio, a nationally recognized program for transgender people.

�I would like to thank everyone here tonight. This celebration shows how far we have come as a community,� Crane said.

Stonewall board president Rob Berger introduced partners Jim Hartman and Bob Ramsey, who received the President�s Award. In 1997, Hartman, an employee with the Columbus Health Department, filed a complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Commission to follow through on its promise of equal health benefits for city employees.

Last year, the commission found that discrimination did occur and called for a resolution. The city is now considering a �household benefits� measure.

Bob Gordon received the Volunteer of the Year award for his efforts at Stonewall, Pride and the Speakers Bureau. Gordon has not missed a shift since 1998.

Next, the Tobias Project was honored for community service. The Project works to eliminate stereotypes about African-American men who have sex with men and provides HIV prevention education and a peer support group. Volunteer Eddie Jones accepted the award on the Project�s behalf.

Other recipients included Mary Ann Brandt Enterprises, the Columbus Metropolitan Club and The Other Paper.

�Tonight represents new life and growth for Stonewall,� event co-chair Dooley said.

Jay Dascenzo, the other co-chair, pointed out that corporate sponsorship doubled in the last year.

��Tonight is an incentive to be out and to honor the heroes in our community,� Anderson concluded.����� |

 


News Briefs

Hundreds protest derogatory e-mail, cross-burning

Oxford, Ohio�Hundreds of students, faculty members and residents rallied at Miami University on Oct. 29 to protest a cross burning at a home and a derogatory anonymous e-mail sent to a campus gay and lesbian group.

On Oct. 20, 12 members of the campus LGBT organization Spectrum received an email saying its members �weaken the moral foundation of this country.� It went on to suggest that they �should go find [themselves] a ceiling rafter and a sturdy piece of rope. You know the rest.�

Officials have not indicated whether the incidents were connected.

�We want to show how strong our support is and make it known that these acts of homophobia and racism are an attack on all of us,� Ross Meyer, a member of Spectrum, told the rally crowd.

Because the e-mail did not suggest that the writer intended to harm the recipients, university officials concluded that it could not be investigated as a crime. The administration denounced the message, calling it despicable.

The e-mail was fictitiously signed, and school officials said they do not know whether it came from within the university.

Hate crime is up 7%

Washington, D.C.�The FBI�s crime statistics for 2001, released on Oct 28, show a 2.1% increase in all crime from the previous year, but a 20% leap in hate crimes.

According to the report, a total of 9,726 hate crimes were reported, involving 11,447 offenses, 12,016 victims and 9,231 known offenders.

Of these, 1,392 were based on sexual orientation, comprising 14.3% of all hate crimes. That marks a 7% increase over the data from 2000.

�The numbers are even more troubling when you consider that it is widely known that hate crimes based on sexual orientation are underreported,� said Human Rights Campaign political director Winnie Stachelberg.

Misguided retaliation for the September 11 attacks accounts for much of the increase in racially motivated crimes, which were 44.9% of the total. Many victims were of Indian, Pakistani, or Arabic descent.

Panel recommends state rights law

Allentown, Pa.�The state Human Rights Commission recommended on October 28 that Pennsylvania add sexual orientation and gender identity as two protected classes under three state laws.

The commission voted 6-3 to urge the legislature to add the categories to the Human Relations Act, the Ethnic Intimidation Act and the Fair Educational Opportunities Act. They currently include race, color, religion, age, national origin, disability and sex.

Seven municipalities currently offer gay civil rights protections in the state, including Allentown, Lancaster, York, Harrisburg, Erie, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Commission members will now lobby the legislature to make the additions.

420 students skip to protest gay group

Cannonsburg, Ky.�More than one-third of Boyd County High School�s students missed a day of school to protest a decision to let a gay-straight alliance meet on campus, the district superintendent said.

Four hundred twenty of the school�s 990 students were not in school Nov. 4. They will be counted as absent for the day, Superintendent Bill Capehart said.

Most of the absent students were boycotting because of last week�s vote by the school�s teacher-parent council to allow the gay-straight alliance, Capehart said.

The council�s 3-2 vote was its third this year about the group. It rejected the group�s application twice before student organizers contacted the ACLU, which sent a letter in September to the council saying it was violating the federal Equal Access Act by denying the alliance permission to meet at the school. The act says if schools allow some extracurricular groups to meet at school, it must allow all groups to do so.

James Esseks, litigation director for the ACLU�s lesbian and gay rights project, said the boycott represented �the first time I�ve heard of a reaction of this kind or this size� to the creation of a gay-straight alliance at a school.

�The level of reaction or resistance they�re encountering illustrates the need for a safe place for these kids to meet,� Esseks said. �Can you imagine being a gay or lesbian student in a community where people feel so free in expressing their intolerance? That must be a difficult place to be.�

The alliance held its first Boyd County meeting Nov. 1, with 19 students in attendance, teacher-adviser Kaye King said.

The school is in eastern Kentucky, 15 miles south of the Ohio River.

Police chaplain will stay

Ferndale, Mich.�City Council on Oct. 28 opted not to dismiss a volunteer chaplain at the police department, deciding instead to issue a resolution condemning him for his anti-gay views.

Rev. Tom Hansen has been serving as a chaplain for the police department for five years, counseling prisoners and giving out Bibles. This fall, however, gay civil rights advocates protested his involvement with the police department in light of his vocal opposition to gay gatherings and businesses in downtown Ferndale, as well as his references to homosexuality as a sin. Hansen is also an outspoken opponent of LGBT civil rights.

The American Family Association of Michigan and its president Gary Glenn offered to pay Hansen�s legal fees if he sued the city.

�His threats of lawsuits are never going to make a decision at this table,� Mayor Robert Porter said at the meeting, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Openly gay councilmember Craig Covey noted that Ferndale, a small suburb immediately north of Detroit, has 22 churches and that the police department should open its doors to all of them.

Arabic linguist fired

Monterey, Calif.�Despite a shortage of Arabic linguists, the military has fired a number of specialists.

The latest case, brought to national attention by the gay advocacy group Servicemember�s Legal Defense Network, involves Private First Class Patricia Ramirez, who recently came out to her superiors at the Defense Language Institute, run by the military.

The institute�s command originally informed her that, despite her revelation, she would be retained in the military and should report for duty. Her commanding officers then reopened the case and began investigating her, questioning others about �homosexual conduct� and threatening disciplinary action for those who did not cooperate. Ramirez and SLDN say this is violates the Pentagon�s �don�t ask, don�t tell, don�t pursue, don�t harass� policy.

Ramirez was later notified that she was, being fired under �don�t ask, don�t tell.�

The General Accounting Office, which monitors staff and finance for Congress, noted in a report that a shortage of qualified Arabic linguists had gotten worse since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. |

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

 


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Like popular music, there
is also gay classical music

Cleveland--For its fall production, the Opera Department of the Cleveland Institute of Music offers a work of particular relevance to gay audiences, Poulenc�s The Dialogues of the Carmelites. Set during the French Revolution, the work tells the story of a convent of nuns who suffer persecution for something that a bigoted outside world sees as wrong.

Though some are tempted to hide their faith and avoid persecution, in the end all of the members of this community decide to keep their eyes on who they are, to remain true to themselves. Sticking to this position is not easy, they learn: It takes a willingness to give up certain things in order to have what really counts. Still, they persevere, leading to one of the most powerful conclusions in modern musical theater.

Two members of the production are openly gay. Tenor Michael Bragg, who will sing the role of the Chevalier de la Force, and stage manager Brent McGee discussed this work and the whole issue of gays in the musical world, and the nature of gay music itself.

Bragg, a graduate student at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he studies voice with George Vassos, was born and raised in Richmond, Indiana. Having started singing in high school, he went on to Westminster Choir College, which offers its students a chance to become involved in the professional world of music while still studying. Though he enjoys all types of singing, he sees himself as headed toward a career as a recitalist and, perhaps, eventually, a teacher of voice.

For Bragg, recital offers a special challenge, in that the recitalist has nothing behind which to hide: no costume, no scenery, no props, no chorus or other singers. He stands there face to face with his audience, telling a new story with each song, sometimes to a particular individual whose reactions he can observe. In part because of this intimate relationship, Bragg, an African-American gay man, stressed the importance of including all of his heritages, all of who he is, in his choice of repertory.

McGee expressed a similar view with regard to his future as a composer. A native of Rapid City, South Dakota, McGee began composing in high school, and early on chose to focus on works with gay themes. He is currently working on a one-act opera, Hothouse, that deals with a gay couple who face problems when one of them wants to raise a child. Like Bragg, McGee wants to draw on his own heritage, that of a gay man, both in the choice of future subject matter and, which is even more challenging, in his musical language.

This lead to the most fascinating part of the interview, McGee and Bragg�s discussion of what constitutes gay classical music. As both of them were quick to note, there is very clearly a distinct, unique �gay� sound in popular music. The more they talked, however, the more they concluded that there is also, already, a specifically gay classical musical language. Citing Tchaikovsky and Barber among others, Bragg and McGee agreed that these and other gay composers of the last century or so have developed a particular musical style that they both felt to be uniquely gay.

For Bragg, composers such as Tchaikovsky and Barber put their own most personal feelings out in front with their very choice of harmonies and rhythms, allowing them to convey these feelings to the audience, to be out to the audience, in the only way that society allowed. For McGee, this means that their music touches him in a very direct and personal way, in a way that makes him feel completely at home listening to it, completely involved in it.

Creating this atmosphere of being at home, of total ease and comfort, is what both of them seek to bring about in their future careers, Bragg through his singing and choice of repertory, McGee through his compositions.

Meanwhile, gay lovers of music and theater can appreciate a kindred spirit of another sort November 13, 15, and 16 at 8 p.m., when the Cleveland Institute of Music presents, in English, The Dialogues of the Carmelites. For more information and tickets, call 216 791-5000, ext. 411 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Richard Berrong is a free-lance writer in Hudson, Ohio.

 

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