He is �rebuked� but vows to appeal, and continue marriages
Cincinnati--Two weeks after standing trial before a seven-member church tribunal, a Cincinnati Presbyterian minister was rebuked for defying church law by officiating at marriages for same-sex couples.
The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Cincinnati Presbytery announced their 61 decision against Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church on April 21.
Van Kuiken was found guilty of violating the church constitution�s prohibition against marrying same-gender couples, but not guilty of a second charge of ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians as elders and deacons.
The commission cited state law forbidding same sex marriage as part of the reason Van Kuiken was �in clear violation of the Scripture and the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA.�
Since the church�s Directory of Worship defines marriage as a �civil contract� between a man and a woman, the church �expects the minister and the couple to abide by the legal requirements of the state,� the commission said.
The commission told Van Kuiken that if he performs services of holy union, he must �take special care to avoid any confusion of such services with Christian marriages.� Further, the commission told Van Kuiken to �instruct same-sex couples that the [holy union] service to be conducted does not constitute a marriage ceremony and should not be held out as such.�
Following the announcement, Van Kuiken said that he would appeal the guilty verdict. He also vowed to continue both ordaining GLBT people and officiating at same-sex marriages.
�I intend to perform same-sex marriages because I have to be true to myself and my congregation,� Van Kuiken told the Cincinnati Post. �Our congregation does not back away from our policy of inclusion. We believe that gay and lesbian people should be involved in the totality of the church.�
"I intend to appeal the guilty verdict because I believe that this decision is theologically wrong and contrary to the Scriptures," he said.
His appeal would go within 45 days to the denomination's next highest level of courts, the permanent judicial commission of the synod that oversees Presbyterian churches in Ohio and Michigan.
Several members of Mount Auburn Church stood by their pastor and his wife at Blue Ash Presbyterian Church when the verdicts were announced on Monday afternoon. Mount Auburn has a long history of full inclusion of GLBT people, and members said they would continue to support their pastor even if he was defrocked.
Prior to Van Kuiken�s trial on April 8, Mount Auburn members reiterated their church�s support for ordaining �self-acknowledged gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, sexually active or not, following the same criteria used to call heterosexual persons to our church leadership.�
Mount Auburn will also continue to authorize and conduct marriage services for same-sex couples, the church said.
More questions than answers
The �rebuke,� which was the least severe penalty Van Kuiken could have received, left people on both sides of the issue concerned that the trial�s outcome leaves more questions than answers, and keeps the door open for future charges to be filed against Van Kuiken.
Acknowledging that the rebuke was somewhat encouraging since he could have been suspended or removed from ministry, Van Kuiken added that the verdict �leaves him in limbo� since he has made it clear that he will continue to perform same-sex marriages despite the commission�s ruling.
�The Presbyterian Church constitution is every bit in conflict with the Holy Scripture today as it was when it mandated the subjugation of women and people of color, and supported slavery,� Van Kuiken said after the verdict. �I believe that my refusal to be complicit in committing spiritual violence and my resolve to challenge the unjust laws that subjugate gays and lesbians, demonstrates the utmost regard for the Scriptures and for the Presbyterian Church.�
Expects to be charged again
Van Kuiken said he expects to be charged and tried again by the tribunal because of his refusal to follow their directive to �perform marriage ceremonies only for a man and a woman.�
Elder Charles H. Brown, the commission�s lone dissenter, argued vehemently that the rebuke against Van Kuiken �does not resolve this case.�
�A simple rebuke will not correct or restrain wrongdoing, restore the unity of the church by removing the causes of discord and division or secure the just, speedy, and economical determination of proceedings,� Brown wrote in his dissent.
Predicting that the church �will be forced to go through this exercise again,� Brown added that nothing short of Van Kuiken�s suspension would resolve this case.
Van Kuiken was the first minister to be tried for marrying gay and lesbian couples after conservative Presbyterian activists filed complaints in about 20 locations around the country. Some complaints were investigated and dismissed for lack of evidence, and others are still pending.
But Rev. El White, the director and founder of Soulforce, Inc., a national interfaith organization that organized support for Van Kuiken during his trial, said that the Mount Auburn minister is in good company as he follows in the footsteps of some prominent civil disobedients.
�Rev. Van Kuiken is carrying on the work of people like Martin Luther King, who stated that one who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty,� White said. �We applaud his courage, his commitment to justice and his willingness to stand firm and stand tall when faced with tremendous pressure to compromise his integrity and conform to church politics.�
Lakewood, Ohio--John Farina, public policy director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, announced April 21 that he is running for Lakewood City Council.
Farina will run for the Ward 4 seat held since 1990 by Nancy Roth. Roth has announced that she will not seek reelection.
�It�s time,� she told the Lakewood Sun Post. �I think I�ve made an impact, and it�s time for new blood to come in.�
Farina could be that infusion if the voters back this run, his third for city council in the near-west Cleveland suburb with a sizable LGBT community.
�I would like to serve on the Lakewood City Council,� Farina told the Gay People�s Chronicle. �This is my third run on it and I came very close last time.�
�With Nancy not running, I think that opens up an even larger opportunity,� he continued. �Nancy Roth has served Ward 4 well and I look forward to building on her successes as a member of council.�
Roth�s decision not to run marks the second departure of a staunchly pro-gay council member in the last year. Michael Skindell left the council following his successful bid for the District 13 Ohio House of Representatives seat.
Both Skindell and Roth supported domestic partner benefits for Lakewood city employees and the addition of sexual orientation to the city�s ethnic intimidation ordinance. The benefits were defeated in January 2000, but the council expanded the ethnic intimidation ordinance less than a year later.
Farina worked closely with city council in trying to get the domestic partner benefits passed, and said that he would support them again.
Farina has served as the board president for the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, is on the boards of Ohioans for Growth and Equality and AIDS Action, as well serving on the Human Rights Campaign Northern Ohio Steering Committee. He is also a member of the gay and lesbian Republican Progressive Caucus of Cleveland.
Farina�s campaign has already been endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that seeks to increase the representation of gay men and lesbians in elected office.
If elected in November, Farina would become Ohio�s fifth openly gay or lesbian elected official. He would join Toledo City Council president Louis Escobar, Haskins mayor Kenneth Fallows, Bloomdale council member Skeeter Hunt and Oregon council member Gene Hagedorn. Dayton City Commissioner Mary Wiseman has left office.
Farina would also be the first openly gay elected official in northeast Ohio. Escobar, Hagedorn, Hunt and Fallows all hold office in northwest Ohio.
Farina, however, does not wish to be known simply as the �gay candidate.� While he believes that in a city with as prominent an LGBT community as Lakewood should have an LGBT voice on the city council, he insists that one of his main goals is to get the involvement of the entire community in municipal government and to be a voice for the entirety of his constituency.
�Having resident involvement and input, I think, is very important,� he noted. �We have a lot of infrastructure issues that are going to need consideration. Having strong physical leadership on council is a good thing.�
One of his ideas is to have a Ward 4 citizen advisory board to keep him in contact with the residents of the ward.
�A high level of service and responsiveness should be the hallmarks of an effective city council member,� he said. �Answering calls, knowing the community and citizen input would be among the most important parts of my job as a member of council.�
Farina points to his work on financial issues at other organizations with which he has been involved as proof of his ability to serve on council.
�Lakewood has many challenges when it comes to economic development in the fourth ward,� he noted. �I see these challenges as opportunities, especially along the West 117th Street corridor.�
Ward 4 is Lakewood�s eastern quarter, from Nicholson Ave. and Waterbury Rd. to the city limit at West 117th, including the Gold Coast apartment district. Three other wards and three at-large seats make up the city council.
Covington, Ky.--An anti-gay Cincinnati group has spent a large amount of money on mailings to defeat a human rights ordinance in neighboring Covington, Kentucky.
Citizens for Community Values mailed a letter and an anti-gay booklet to 20,000 Covington households on April 18 in an attempt to stop the ordinance. Another mailing targeted Catholic churches.
�Human rights ordinances that include �sexual orientation� are NOT really about discrimination,� wrote CCV president Phil Burress in the letter. �Such ordinances are about �normalizing� homosexual behavior.�
Burress led the 1993 effort to add Article 12 to Cincinnati�s charter, which outlaws any measure protecting gays or lesbians from discrimination.
�They are about capturing the minds of the next generation--our children!� Burress continued. �And they are intended to be one important step toward legalizing same-sex marriages in Kentucky and across the nation.�
The 24-page booklet, published by the anti-gay Family Research Council, portrays homosexuality as dangerous and predatory.
Covington�s proposed ordinance adds sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, marital or parental status and place of birth to classes protected in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. It proposed by the city�s Human Rights Commission on January 21.
The measure got its first reading April 15 following two public hearings and is expected to be voted on by the City Commission on April 29.
During the February 11 and March 25 hearings, supporters outnumbered opponents 73-14.
Those hearings led to some revisions to the original ordinance, most championed by the business community.
These include expansion of the Human Rights Commission from five to nine members; exempting businesses with fewer than eight employees; reduction of fines for violations; and removal of a business�s occupational license after three or more �willful violations� instead of one.
City Manager Greg Jarvis said most calls his office has received favor the ordinance.
The Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance, a group working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, organized �block walks� over the summer to have face-to-face conversations with residents in anticipation of the ordinance.
Jarvis said that only one city commissioner, Craig Bohman, has publicly declared support for the ordinance. But Fairness Allicance co-chair Dean Forster is confident it will pass 41.
CCV Vice President David Miller said his group chose the mailing over a full-page newspaper ad for its �longer shelf life.�
A second CCV mailing, sent to every Catholic church in the Covington diocese, was signed by Gina Bondick. Miller describes her as �CCV�s representative in Northern Kentucky for years.�
�Having been told that a majority of Covington�s commissioners are Catholic, I believe it would be a serious grievance for them and our church if they were to support a public policy that very clearly violates Catholic teaching,� wrote Bondick.
Attached to Bondick�s letter is a 1992 Vatican statement opposing legislation �which would make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal.�
In January, CCV sent 300 to 400 letters signed by Burress to churches, pastors, and elected officials. That letter was also accompanied by a Family Research Council publication and a video.
Miller would not disclose the cost of the mailings but said earlier figures he gave to other media were �not accurate.�
�I just tossed numbers out there,� said Miller, �But it is inconsequential and incidental. It just doesn�t matter what the cost is.�
The April 18 packet would cost over $11,000 to print and mail to 20,000 addresses under the bulk mail rate for a non-profit group, said Diane Stocker of Alice Paul Direct Mail Service of Cleveland.
The mailing went to nearly 80 percent of households in Covington.
�This is about education,� said Miller, �We want people to understand the risks involved in same-sex behavior and the impact the normalizing of homosexuality will have.�
Miller said if the ordinance passes, �CCV will continue to educate people so that Covington residents will want new commissioners who will repeal the ordinance.�
Two other Kentucky cities include sexual orientation and gender identity in their human rights ordinances. They are Lexington and Louisville, which include all of Fayette and Jefferson counties.
The western Kentucky town of Henderson repealed a similar newly-passed ordinance two years ago after an opponent replaced a supporter on its city council.
Ashland, Ky.--A federal judge ruled April 18 that the Boyd County school district must allow a gay-straight alliance to meet at Boyd County High School.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning ruled that the school district must treat the group no differently than the Bible club, whether reading announcements over the intercom or publishing meeting times in the campus newspaper.
The on-site school council had approved the group last October after two failed attempts and the threat of a lawsuit, igniting a firestorm of objections from anti-gay churches and a rash of organized truancy to protest it. The Boyd school board took the unusual action of suspending all clubs in the district last December.
The federal Equal Access Act, passed in the 1980s to allow Bible clubs to meet, requires schools that permit any student clubs to allow all of them, regardless of content.
Judge Bunning granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of seven of 25 students in the GSA for an injunction to give equal access to the Gay-Straight Alliance.
The ACLU claimed in the lawsuit that the school board violated the students� rights under the Equal Access Act and the First Amendment. The suit also charged that the school board violated the Kentucky Education Reform Act by usurping the authority of the school council to permit the group.
Administrators and school board members testified last month that they feared animosity surrounding the group might turn to violence. The school board tried to calm the situation by voting to suspend all clubs.
However, Bunning concluded from two days of testimony that some student groups, including the Bible club and drama club, continued to meet on campus despite the ban.
Bill Capehart, superintendent of the Boyd County schools, said he notified the high school principal on April 18 of the judge�s ruling, letting him know that the ban on club meetings has been lifted. The school board discussed the decision at an April 21 meeting.
Bunning noted several examples of harassment, including threats, against students involved in the group.
Capehart said had testified in the hearing that tempers flared among parents when the group was created. He said he saw �true hatred� in the eyes of about 70 people who opposed the club during a school council meeting last October.
Seven of the 25 students who attended the club meeting responded with the lawsuit.
�We are absolutely thrilled at this news,� said Kaye King, the club�s faculty adviser. �I cannot tell you how proud I am of these kids for standing up for their rights in such a hostile environment.�
�As the judge noted, anti-gay sentiment is rampant at this school,� said David Friedman, the attorney for the ACLU in the case. �He rightfully recognized that the GSA serves the public interest by working to foster tolerance in a community that clearly needs it.�
At the April 21 school board meeting, members could not reach a decision on whether or not to appeal the ruling.
In a closed session with attorneys after its regular meeting, Capehart warned that, with six weeks left in the school year, time was running out for an appeal, if one was warranted.
The session was completely internal, with no representatives from the ACLU, the gay-straight alliance or the church groups opposed to it present.
Attorney Winter Huff explained the delay in a decision by telling the Lexington Herald-Leader, �It�s a big issue. There are a lot of details and factors.�
No date has been set for further board meetings on the matter.
�I am proud of the ACLU�s continued work to ensure that LGBT youth and allies are able to be themselves and form clubs like any other students in their school,� said Judy Maruszan, an ACLU community education consultant. She worked for half a decade at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center on youth issues, including the formation of the Safe Schools Are For Everyone program.
�I�m also inspired by the courage of the GSA students, advisors and supporters who have endured incredible harassment and stress.�
Washington, D.C.--The Senate�s third highest-ranking Republican found himself the focus of controversy after an Associated Press interview in which he compared consensual same-sex relationships to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., speaking about a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that may declare state sodomy laws unconstitutional, said, �If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.�
�All of those things are antitheitical to a healthy, stable, traditional family,� he continued. �And that�s sort of where we are in today�s world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I could argue, this right to privacy that doesn�t exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution.�
Gay civil rights leaders and Democratic presidential hopefuls urged the Republican Party to remove Santorum from his position as chairman of the Senate GOP conference, the third rank in the party�s senatorial power structure behind Majority Leader Bill Frist and Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Frist rose to power in the aftermath of Sen. Trent Lott�s December 2002 comments praising the 1948 presidential candidacy of Sen. Strom Thurmond, who ran on a segregationist platform. Lott was forced to step down as the leading candidate for Senate majority leader following the comments, which were decried as racist and insensitive.
Santorum�s remark drew similar comments.
�That a leader of the Republican Party would make such insensitive and divisive comments--comments that are derogatory and meant to harm an entire group of Americans, their friends and their families--is not only outrageous, but deeply offensive,� said Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. As Vermont governor, dean signed the state�s civil union law three years ago.
Sen. John Kerry, another Democratic presidential hopeful, pointed out that Santorum describes himself using President George W. Bush�s buzz phrase �compassionate conservative.�
�The White House speaks the rhetoric of compassionate conservatism but they�re silent while their chief lieutenants make divisive and hurtful comments that have no place in our politics,� Kerry said in a press statement. �The White House says Santorum is �one of the original compassionate conservatives� who �has a philosophy that�s good for the people of Pennsylvania no matter who they are.� �
The White House avoided comment on the current controversy. During an April 22 briefing, press secretary Ari Fleischer would only say that he had not spoken to Bush about Santorum�s remark, and so did not have anything to tell the media on the matter.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, however, did have a comment on the issue, supporting Santorum.
�Rick is a consistent voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party and in the Senate, and to suggest otherwise is just politics,� Frist said.
Gay Republicans disagreed.
�There is nothing conservative about allowing law enforcement officials to enter the home of any American and arrest them for simply being gay,� said Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. �I am deeply troubled that Sen. Santorum would divide America in a time of war. Mainstream America is embracing tolerance and inclusion.�
�I am appalled that a member of the United State Senate leadership would advocate dividing Americans with ugly, hate-filled rhetoric,� Guerriero continued.
�Unless Rick Santorum has the wherewithal to fully apologize, to take back his statement from yesterday, and to commit to going forward to being a person who will help support fairness and equality in America, he needs to resign from his leadership position,� he later said on a satellite-radio LGBT talk show.
No one commented on Santorum�s other statement, that there is no right to privacy in the U.S. constitution.
On April 22, Santorum released a statement clarifying his position. In it, the senator said that his comments were �specific to the right to privacy and the broader implications of a ruling on other state privacy laws� in regards to the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas.
�I am a firm believer that all are equal under the Constitution. My comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles,� he said, claiming that the Associated Press story had been �misleading.�
The Associated Press later released the full transcript of the interview between Santorum and reporter Lara Jakes Jordan. In it, Santorum said, �I have no problem with homosexuality, I have a problem with homosexual acts.�
When talking about the definition of marriage, he said, �That�s not to pick on homosexuality. It�s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that, you have a dramatic effect on the quality.�
Columbus�Four Columbus City Council members discussed domestic partnership benefits for city workers and gays in the electoral process at a Stonewall Columbus town meeting.
About 35 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens attended the April 22 meeting at Stonewall�s Community Center.
Introduced by Stonewall executive director Kate Anderson, council members Patsy Thomas, Rich Sensenbrenner, Charleta Tavares, and Maryellen O�Shaughnessey took questions and outlined their work on lesbian and gay issues.
A city Joint Committee on Household Benefits, headed up by Columbus Medical Association CEO Philip Cass, is expected to be done this summer.
Stonewall board president Rob Berger asked the council members about their stance on domestic partnership benefits.
�Are all of you supportive of domestic partnership benefits?� he asked. �Would you sign legislation that approved them?�
Tavares said that she would support household benefits if it comes through the Task Force, but she noted that she has a dual duty in city government.
�I have to separate myself as a member of the Health Committee and my role as City Council member,� she said.
The council is using the term �household benefits� as a less controversial option than �domestic partnership benefits,� which the council passed for city employees in 1998. The measure was repealed two months later when conservative religious groups opposed to the benefits threatened a referendum.
Sensenbrenner said that he supports domestic partnership benefits and would like to ensure the integrity of the process.
�This Task Force study has to be done diligently and quickly,� he said. �We are all at fault, as the issue was raised five years ago.�
He pointed out that an education program on the benefits could make the difference in securing passage.
�If we can roll up our sleeves, get an education program, and pull this off by the end of the year, then let�s do it,� he said.
Questions followed about the potential results of the study. O�Shaughnessey said that the end of 2003 is the likely time that the council will act on the study.
�If we get recommendations this summer, it�s reasonable to expect that we will have some action on this by the end of the year,� she said.
Anderson talked about the Ohio �defense of marriage act� which could nullify local partner benefits. Senate Bill 65 was introduced in the Ohio Senate on April 1, but has not yet been assigned to a committee. It mimics H.B. 234, which passed the Ohio House last session but died in the Senate.
�This bill uses some of the most conservative, hate-filled language,� she said. �And it goes against the state�s explicit goal of recruiting high-technology and creative services firms to Ohio.�
Anderson also said that domestic partnership benefits could translate into economic growth for the city, which translates into more jobs and revenues for the city. In response, council members acknowledged the importance of progressive public policy.
Karen Andermills asked whether the council members would bring the issues raised at the meeting back to Mayor Michael Coleman.
Tavares said she would not wait to meet with the mayor, but would call him.
One audience member asked why it has been so difficult to elect a gay candidate to city council or the state legislature. Activist Mary Jo Hudson was screened for a council post in 2002, but was not selected.
O�Shaughnessey and Tavares said that the community should not take it personally, and they encouraged the audience to continue to apply and to put people on the ballot.
Stonewall to hire public health nurse
In other news, the city development office has approved an operating grant for Stonewall Columbus equal to the 2002 grant of $40,000.
Stonewall is also becoming involved with sexual health issues. With funds from the Department of Health, they are opening a part-time public health nurse position.
The hiring of a nurse would increase testing time for diseases such as HIV and syphilis, which has reached epidemic proportions in Columbus.
According to health department statistics, the rate of syphilis is currently four times higher in Columbus than in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron, and Toledo combined.
Put the flawless in
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Man who got �diversion� for killing gay activist is sued
Knoxville, Tenn.--A Virginia man who received no prison time for the strangling death of a gay activist now faces a $2 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by the victim�s family.
Chad Allen Conyers, 32, was sentenced to 15 years on diversion for the April 2002 death of Joseph Camber after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter last month. If he stays out of trouble, he won�t be jailed and the case will be dismissed.
Conyers had been charged with second-degree murder in the 36-year-old Camber�s death after the two men left a nightclub.
Camber�s father, James R. Woodcock, filed the lawsuit in Knox County Circuit Court. Camber�s mother and brother also brought the suit against Conyers, a loss prevention manager for a clothing store chain.
The family seeks damages from Conyers for several different reasons, including a contention that Conyers deliberately killed Camber.
Court testimony showed that Conyers was in Knoxville to visit a sick relative when he went to the gay Carousel II nightclub and met Camber, a bartender who was celebrating his birthday. They left together at about 1:30 a.m., and Camber�s body was discovered in a parking lot about six hours later.
Conyers has never given an explanation for what happened that morning.
Camber had been a president of Knoxville Pride, helped found a gay computer message board and had worked with people with HIV and AIDS.
Canada argues against marriage
Toronto--The Ontario Court of Appeal began hearing the Canadian government�s case against same-sex marriage April 22.
The federal government is appealing last summer�s ruling by the Ontario Divisional Court that prohibitions against same-sex marriage violate the guarantee of equality provided by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. Bill of Rights. The Canadian charter explicitly bans discrimination by sexual orientation.
Roslyn Levine, representing the Attorney General�s office, told the court that marriage had not changed from being, at its core, the union of opposite sexes built on childbearing, fidelity and permanence.
Levine also argued that the Ontario Divisional Court had erred by considering the emotions of the couples involved in the suit more than the facts of the case.
The divisional court suspended its ruling for two years to allow the Parliament to change the marriage laws.
A similar case in Qu�bec�s high court also ruled that the proscription against same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The judge in that case countered the childbearing argument used by Levine.
�We don�t deny marriage to elderly women!� Justice Louise Lemelin noted in her decision for same-sex marriage.
Probation for Pride Day beating
Tampa, Fla.--A man convicted of attacking three men as they left a gay Pride celebration was sentenced to house arrest and probation, a decision that angered the victims.
Devin Scott Angus, 21, had faced up to 30 years in prison. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to charges of aggravated battery and a hate crime.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe said he worried that sending Angus to prison could make him worse. He sentenced him to two years of house arrest followed by four years of probation.
The assault happened July 7, on the last day of PrideFest, a six-day event celebrating gays and lesbians.
Before attacking the men in a parking garage, Angus taunted them by dropping his pants and screaming obscenities. Steven Hair, 26, suffered a skull fracture, a split sinus and tooth damage; Sonny Gonzales, 35, received a head laceration; and Scott Boswell, 25, got a split lip.
Two plead innocent of torture slaying
Salinas, Calif.--Two men have pleaded innocent to killing of a bisexual Salinas man, and a defense attorney said the trial should be moved from Monterey County.
Dominique England and Daymon Schrock pleaded innocent April 18 to the December 2002 torture and murder of Robert Maricle, who was last seen entering the apartment of a third suspect, Jeanne Soja, who pleaded innocent earlier.
According to documents filed with the court by police, however, both Soja and England confessed to involvement with the murder.
Bud Landreth, England�s defense attorney, said the case should be moved.
Police have said they believe Maricle was killed because he was bisexual, but the three defendants are not charged with a hate crime.
Soja�s lawyer said Soja was present during the assault, but did not participate.
Europe tells Egypt: Stop jailing gays
Cairo, Egypt--Egypt�s parliament speaker accused the European Parliament of unwarranted meddling April 18 after it passed a resolution accusing the Egyptian government of persecuting gays.
�No one has the right to give lessons to the other,� Ahmed Fathi Sorour wrote in an open letter to Pat Cox, president of the European Union assembly.
Sorour called the April 10 resolution �an arbitrary judgment� and accused the lawmakers of �oversimplifying.�
Other cultures must �respect the right of the people [Egyptians] to choose freely their legal system, and to protect their religious and cultural values,� he wrote.
A criminal court sentenced 21 men to three years in jail last month on charges of practicing debauchery. They were arrested in a May 2001 police raid on a Nile boat restaurant on suspicion they had taken part in a gay sex party.
Another 14 men were convicted April 17 and given prison sentences of one to three years on similar charges.
The European Parliament resolution called on Egyptian authorities to stop persecuting gays and to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
Sorour insisted that the Egyptian criminal code does not punish �private sexual relationships,� but only �public practice or contempt of religion.�
Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in the Egyptian legal system, but laws covering obscenity, prostitution and public morality are used to jail gay men.
Assembly passes TG anti-bias bill
Sacramento, Calif.--The California Assembly on April 21 approved a measure to add gender identity to the state�s law preventing discrimination in housing and employment.
The bill was introduced by openly gay Assembly member Mark Leno, who urged his colleagues to steer away from religious arguments, noting that the only �religious� documents that should be referred to in discussion of the measure are the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Gender identity bills have passed the Assembly twice before, only to die in the state Senate. This year, the bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by the governor, putting California in line to become the fourth state after Minnesota, Rhode Island and New Mexico to pass transgender rights laws.
A similar New York measure was introduced April 14, in keeping with a promise by legislators who last year passed a sexual orientation anti-bias bill without including gender identity.
Lisa Cholodenkos latest film continues
Laurel Canyon is the type of film which could easily slip deep under one�s skin. It has an interesting premise, a vibrant menagerie of characters and superb performances. Yet, sometimes, the writing falls flat and the situations seem markedly forced.
Hence, as much as it tries to, the film never works its way completely under one�s skin.
This is the sophomore outing for lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko, whose first feature High Art was a sultry and enigmatic story of finding attraction in unexpected people and places. The exploration of love, status, and clash of cultures continues, but often it does so with less resonance and gratification than High Art did.
The title refers to a Los Angeles suburb which has a vibrancy to its culture clash. The old and dilapidated coexists with the new and trendy. New money and suburban decadence mingle with hippie leftovers and upstart celebrities. This is a world in which boundaries are murky, often stretched, and always intriguing.
Jane, the central matriarch of the film, is a very successful record producer who lives a life of bohemian abandon. She has been in and out of love on numerous occasions and each time she idealistically (or stupidly) believes that �this is the real thing, the only one!�
Jane makes no apologies for her hedonistic proclivities, which include bedding the much younger lead singer of the band she is currently producing. She enjoys the frequent bong as well as frank and unabashed sex.
Her son Sam, who has been estranged from her, is his mother�s antithesis. He is uptight, orderly, anal-retentive, and extremely repressed in many of his ways. His girlfriend Alex, a New England Brahmin of old money and impeccable breeding, is similarly disposed to properness and constricted desires.
Alex and Sam met at Harvard medical school and they have decided to go live in Laurel Canyon, where Sam has taken on a prestigious medical residency and where Alex will be completing her doctoral dissertation on the breeding habits of fruit flies. They plan to live in Jane�s house by themselves, since Jane herself will be away, taking a respite from her most recent record.
When Sam and Alex arrive at Jane�s the find out that the record is behind schedule and that these two uptight East Coast WASPs will be forced to cohabit with the bohemian Jane and an all-male British band of equally unorthodox rockers. The disparate worlds collide quickly and the film is an examination of what happens when such clashes occur. Who changes whom? Why? And is this change for the better or worse?
Cholodenko has created an amazingly intricate world of cultures, but the way in which she forces them to collide seem sometimes artificial and alienating to the audience. Most of the twists and turns are consistently and sometimes annoyingly predictable. The script writing is often smart and insightful, but falls prey to the same shortcomings of over-simplification and predictability.
Nevertheless, Cholodenko needs to be praised for creating a vivid film with some outstanding performances. It is also great to see a central relationship between an older woman and a much younger man. The tired Hollywood tale of the older man getting the way-too-young woman has always needed a counterpoint and Cholodenko delivers it with emotional punch. As a result, the relationship between Jane and Ian is the best thing about this film.
The flirtation that Jane and Ian have with Alex is interesting as well. When Alex is seduced, not by any overt means but by the drive of her own deep repression, she explores a steamy threesome with Jane and her boy-toy. The fact that Alex is drawn to Ian is shocking but nothing in comparison to her desire for Sam�s mother.
Cholodenko and the actors treat this triangular relationship without judgment, no nudge, no wink. It is what it is and in that, the filmmaking is mature, deserving many kudos.
As Alex, Kate Beckinsale turns in a richly textured and subtle performance. It�s nice to see that she can act after turning in a disastrously stupid performance two years ago in a disastrously stupid film called Pearl Harbor.
Equally pleasing is the always-amazing Christian Bale (American Psycho, Velvet Goldmine). Unlike his scary and evil performance in American Psycho as a sexual predator, here Bale turns inwards and creates a confused, scared and repressed boy who is trying to become a man. The only thing standing in his way is his constant judgment of his mother�s lifestyle and that her role modeling as a parent (or lack thereof) is what has turned him into who he is today.
As Sam�s love interest, a second year medical intern he meets at the hospital, Natasha McElhone, an actress of great emotional depth as displayed in such great films as The Truman Show and Solaris, is forced to create a three-dimensional woman out of an ethnic stereotype playing the �other woman� in Sam�s life.
But the film belongs to Alessandro Nivola as Ian and Frances McDormand as Jane. Together they have created a sexual energy on film that is so hot one can almost see the steam leave the screen and waft towards the audience.
Both turn in brazen performances, baring body and soul, creating a beautiful juxtaposition to the repressed, Banana Republic world of Sam and Alex.
Nivola (Jurassic Park III), who is American, plays a bad-boy Brit rocker with such ease and sense of comfort within his skin that he sizzles in every frame. His British accent is impeccable and the sheer delight he brings to playing this bad boy is infectious and endearing. Nivola has a dangerous combination of good looks and acting chops, making him a combination of Russell Crowe and Collin Farrell.
And then there�s McDormand, who never disappoints. As Jane, she is the antithesis of the mother she so brilliantly played in Cameron Crowe�s Almost Famous, as well as the complete opposite of the hilarious Marge from the Coen brothers� masterpiece Fargo.
Here she creates an earthy woman so in touch with her sexuality and her visceral instincts that she brims with danger and sensuality. McDormand�s performance is unapologetic as she flashes her breasts, tokes deeply on a fat doobie and as she undresses the sultry flesh of her tempestuous boy-toy.
Cholodenko makes a valiant stab at examining the dangers of sublimating our true feelings, our deepest desires, and our frail fumblings in the search for happiness. These characters remind us that it is better to have failed at love and living than to have succeeded at never loving or living at all.
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