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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
August 15, 2003

Church approves
same-sex unions

But Episcopal convention stops short of
creating a ritual for them

Minneapolis--On the heels of its confirmation of openly gay bishop Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal church abandoned the parent Anglican church�s 1998 condemnation of homosexual behavior as �incompatible with Scripture� by approving same-sex unions.

The Episcopal General Convention approved a resolution 120-72 August 7 calling same-sex unions �an acceptable practice in the church.�

The measure had been approved by the House of Bishops on a voice vote the previous day.

The resolution recognizes that some dioceses and churches are already performing the unions, and that those doing so are �operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.�

The resolution does not require churches to perform the unions, nor did the convention approve of same-sex union rites to be added to the liturgy.

The development of same-sex blessing liturgies was removed from the resolution in a compromise amendment offered by Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia. A similar attempt to develop rites was defeated at the last general convention.

Churches performing the same-sex unions will be free to develop their own ceremonies.

Rev. Francis Wade of Washington state, who co-chairs the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music Committee said, �As an individual, I feel good about the way passed.�

Wade said it was important to notice that the resolution does not call for the development of rites.

�That would be a significant step for us and we did not take it,� said Wade.

Rev. Kendall Harmon of South Carolina, who is also on the committee, agrees that the church spoke with clarity, but he disagrees with what it said. He presented the committee�s minority report calling the resolution �a wolf in sheep�s clothing.�

�If we experience such liturgies and they are within the bounds of our common life, then the Episcopal church has already sanctioned and blessed homosexual behavior,� said Harmon. �While some people will stress that the church is �recognizing� rather than �authorizing� these blessing, let�s be honest, this is authorization.�

Rev. Susan Russell, executive director of Claiming the Blessing, a lesbian and gay advocacy group, called the compromise a �step forward,� adding, �We came looking for a bigger step. I was hoping for authorization for common language for rites.�

The debate over which world view will dominate the church�s positions on LGBT members and other tenets was the most pronounced since its approval of the ordination of women in 1976.

Much of the opposition to liberalization in the worldwide Anglican Communion, including the passage of the 1998 anti-gay resolution, comes from Southeast Asia, the West Indies, and sub-Saharan Africa where the number of Anglicans outnumber those in the U.S., Canada, England, and Australia combined.

In the U.S., the Episcopal church has 2.3 million members, a one-third drop from 3.6 million in 1965. Anglicans wordwide total 77 million.

In his book �The Next Christendom,� Pennsylvania State University religion professor Philip Jenkins says that in Africa, Christianity competes for converts with Islam, which means that Christians there feel compelled to dissociate themselves from any whiff of �Western decadence� that Muslims decry.

Jenkins says many Africans view homosexuality as an act of promiscuity.

�Unlike the ordination of women, changing the church�s sexual teachings involves issues of sin and salvation as far as conservatives are concerned,� says Jenkins.

In Africa, Anglican leaders fear they will lose converts to Islam and lose respect in the eyes of other Christian denominations.

World church leaders have been summoned to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican spiritual leader, in October to discuss ways to prevent the communion from breaking up over LGBT issues and Robinson�s election as New Hampshire�s bishop.

Several other U.S. denominations already perform same-sex union ceremonies, including the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian-Universalists, and Reform Judaism.

 


Rally against racism challenges police and citye

Cincinnati--The focus was racism, but homophobia, classism, and sexism were spotlighted as other curses of contemporary society as an array of social activists on August 9 urged changes in the Queen City�s administration and police operations.

The Midwest Rally Against Racism, held across from Music Hall, included a colorful soundtrack of rap, poetry, and hip-hop in Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine, a working class neighborhood on the edge of downtown where black men have been shot and killed by city police.

��What are we going to do about homophobia in a city that denies us full civil rights?� challenged Molly Seifert of the International Socialist Organization. �We must organize at the grass roots level and continue to fight for justice and equality.�

�We stand for equal rights for all regardless of race, class, or sexual orientation,� said Suhiith Wickyema, a Sri Lankan native. �We must repeal Article 12, protect women�s freedom of choice, and make structural changes in the local election system.�

Native American Vicky Whitewolf of Indigenous Cultural Advocacy in Resources and Education said Cincinnati is �not the best place to be if you�re Indian.�

Embracing �two-spirited� people, she said, �Racism is not a black-white issue, but in between are red, yellow, and a multitude of colors.�

Adding that her people are tired of being �treated like mascots,� she noted that her 16-year-old daughter was spat upon and told to go home when she protested a Cleveland Indians baseball game.

Co-keynote speaker Roger Owensby, Sr., whose son was killed when city police arrested him, said Roger Jr. was �ready to go back to college, but the police claimed he was a thug. They said I had a dysfunctional family, despite being married for 34 years. [Hamilton County Prosecutor] Mike Allen said I am a disgruntled father. The fix was on.�

An officer was acquitted of assault in his son�s death and the jury was hung on a manslaughter charge. Owensby was not deterred.

�I am working with you to correct the system so it won�t happen again. You must fight the system, don�t take the easy way out,� Owensby said. �We must fight for justice for the murder of my son. That�s my life mission.�

African-American columnist and co-keynoter Kathy Y. Wilson said that she does not identify as a lesbian, �but that�s one of the pegs people hang me on after reading �Your Negro Tour Guide�,� her column in the weekly CityBeat.

Although acknowledging that, �We are literally in [poor peoples�] living room here in this park,� she pulled no punches, but apologized to parents of young children for her colorful cursing.

�Another part of racism�s economics is people accepting the status quo,� she said. �They don�t want to be interrupted, disturbed. While they�re comfortable with a computer, the Internet, a Palm Pilot, and a refrigerator, for instance, others are getting the shit beat out of them because they�re poor whites or Hispanics. There must be mutual respect for different mindsets. Black people must stop denigrating other people of color. Any movement needs a chorus of voices. Muslims and Asians count as much as the rest of us. Everything is not black and white. There are gradations.�

�Let�s be considerate of economic issues,� Wilson said. �We may not agree with the boycott, but those who seem annoying show up and are effective. Any time the city loses even 50 cents, the boycott is economic work.�

Openly gay city council candidate John Schlagetter said he was chagrined that �not a single council incumbent is here,� noting that independent candidate Brian Garry and he were the only non-incumbents present. �Council does not take the high road. Where are the social justice candidates? We have to stop being afraid of being seen with each other.�

Endorsed by the third party Charter Committee, Schlagetter said he vows to unite Council. �If you don�t keep important issues on peoples� minds, we forget there�s a problem. We must not let issues like the ones raised today fall off their radar and lose vigilance.�

While speeches and enlightened entertainment are important to maintain or upgrade awareness, the event�s long program may have kept some people away with rain expected, Schlagetter said. �A shorter program would drive up attendance, and there was confusion over whether it would occur.�

The city park board had required that sponsors take out special insurance, but a donor paid the $1,300 bill. A short march to police headquarters was planned, but police insisted that rally planners pay for costs of officers blocking Saturday afternoon traffic. Four police officers, one of them on horseback, were on hand. No police intervention was needed.

About 120 people were at the rally an hour after start-up, and 80 people, with many newcomers and mostly made up of whites, were at the conclusion three hours later.

�White people outnumber people of color here today,� Wilson noted, saying, �We have to be off the radar a little bit. Let�s show some unity. It can be invisible. They don�t have to know. I�m tired of this classist, shit city. Close ranks in a multi-hued front line. Work gets done by the few and the mighty.�

The Midwest Rally Against Racism was endorsed by the University of Cincinnati GLBTQ Alliance and organized by the city�s chapter of the International Socialist Organization. Co-sponsors included The Rag feminist magazine at UC, Amnesty International Midwest, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, UC Anti-War Committee, Northern Kentucky University Black Men�s Organization, NKU African Student Union and others.



No timeline on partner benefits, Jackson tells group

Cleveland--City Council president Frank Jackson agreed that the mayor should be a leader when Cleveland takes up the issue of domestic partner benefits for city employees, but did not commit to a timeline.

Speaking to 24 members of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats on August 11, Jackson addressed questions about the city�s intention to take up the measure.

Former council president and Ward 18 representative Jay Westbrook told the same group July 14 that the city would take up the measure in 2003 or 2004 under the leadership of Mayor Jane Campbell in order to avoid the divisiveness other cities have experienced when debating the issue.

�I have heard the conversations,� said Jackson, �but I haven�t seen the work.�

�I caution you that things are not just going to materialize,� Jackson added. �And there are people who say they support an issue solely to cause confusion and mess at the expense of their colleagues.�

Jackson, of Ward 5, also avoided giving his opinion on the benefits.

�If I was just here representing my ward, I would tell you,� he said. �But because I am council president, I won�t tell you because if I made a statement, it would be seen as a statement by the president and that I was speaking for the other 20 members of council.

Ward 17 council member Matt Zone introduced Jackson to the group.

�Work needs to be done,� Zone said, before council is ready to take up the issue of domestic partner benefits.

Mayor Campbell issued a written statement in response to the comments of the two council members.

�We are aware of the increasing concerns of individuals, not only in Cleveland but throughout the region, affected by the issue of domestic partner benefits, and whether or not employers should provide employees with this option,� said Campbell.

�The administration and City Council will work together to address this issue in a manner that is responsible, financially feasible given our current economic conditions and responsive not only to our employees, but to the entire Cleveland community,� said Campbell.

�If you have issues, it�s your job to promote them,� said Jackson. �No one else is going to do it.�

Jackson told the group why he believes politics is honorable, and gave advice on how to negotiate with leaders.

The art of politics is not as much compromise as it is getting your stuff on the table,� said Jackson. �The struggle is always there. Any time you disengage the struggle, you fall behind.�

�You have to take power,� said Jackson. �It isn�t lying around. It�s that simple.

Also attending the meeting were Cleveland Municipal Court judicial candidates Lauren Moore, Hollie Gallagher, and Anita Laster Mays.


 

Pansies in bloom

Seminal queer punkers Pansy Division
return with a new album and live shows

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say, and when a band goes five years without releasing a new album, the fans start clamoring.

Those with a love for the wave of queercore that surged across the American psyche in the early �90s will be pleased, then, to know that one of the seminal gay punk bands is back with their first new album in five years.

Pansy Division�s Total Entertainment! is like a breath of fresh air, despite half of the songs being reminiscent of something else. The similarities, however, are a tribute to the band, songs bringing to mind Public Image Limited, Sloan, Frank Black, Squeeze, Cowboy Junkies and even a riff or two from the Doors flash through the mind�s ear as the disc plays.

�Between the four of us, we have a lot of influences,� singer and guitarist Jon Ginoli says. �Generally, it�s a combo of �60s British Invasion and garage rock, �70s rock and punk, and various underground and alternative stuff from the �80s and �90s. Basically, we�re the combination of a lifetime�s worth of stuff we like.�

�Too Many Hoops,� for instance, is reminiscent of Squeeze as it tells the tale of a boy too difficult to capture, while the danceable �No Protection� brings to mind what happens when punkers go disco, like when the Sex Pistols� Johnny Lydon formed Public Image Limited or the Pixies� Black Francis went solo, flipped his name around and covered the Beach Boys� �Hang Onto Your Ego.�

Some of the real standouts on the album, which blends the satirical silliness of the group�s earlier work with the maturity of their last album, include the aforementioned �No Protection,� �Alpine Skiing,� which, despite being Californian, has nothing to do with cocaine, and the anthemic �Not Good Enough For You,� which brings to mind some of the best early �90s alterna-rockers like Sloan.

�First Betrayal� has that new-wave-cum-country Cowboy Junkies feel to it, while �Spiral� has to be the most mellow song about crystal meth ever recorded.

�Sleeping in the Cold� is so moody, it almost requires black clothing and heavy eyeliner, while �Total Entertainment,� the eponymous final track on the album, exemplifies everything that can be right and good in pop-punk.

In fact, if any true complaint is possible in relation to the album, it would be the vocal effects in �No Protection,� similar to the ones used by the harpy-like Cher in her song �Believe.� There is absolutely no reason to use anything that would remind someone of that melodic monstrosity.

One thing that is clear in most of their songs is a new-found maturity lacking in most of their earlier work, much of which was the gay equivalent of geek-rock like They Might Be Giants or Barenaked Ladies.

�Our lyrics have gotten more serious, though there is still a humorous element in many songs,� Ginoli said. �The band began wanting to play simple, direct music with a direct message. As time has gone on, our musical palette has broadened to accommodate different moods and sounds.�

The most direct way to get the music across is through a live show, and PD are going to be playing two concerts in Ohio to support the album. The first show will be in Cleveland Heights at the Grog Shop on August 31, with opening act the Vermin. For more information, log onto www.grogshop.gs, or call 216-3215588.

The following night, the band plays the Cincinnati area at Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky, with guests Deceiving Ralph and the Stunned. More information is available at www.southgatehouse.com or by calling 859-4312201.

For more information on Pansy Division, log onto www.pansydivision.com.

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