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August 22, 2003

Vote on marriage ban amendment is likely

Washington, D.C.--A proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is likely to come to a vote in the House of Representatives, although its chances of passage are slim.

The amendment, introduced in May by Colorado Republican Rep. Marilyn N. Musgrave, has already garnered 75 co-sponsors. The bill has been assigned to the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee.

The subcommittee contains two of the bill�s co-sponsors, Virginia�s Rep. Randy J. Forbes and Iowa�s Rep. Steve King, both Republicans. The GOP also has an eight to five majority on the subcommittee, and a 21 to 16 majority in the larger Judiciary Committee.

The amendment has yet to be scheduled for hearings in the Subcommittee on the Constitution, and Congress will be out of session until September 2.

Opponents of the measure, however, are already gearing up for a battle in the House.

Openly gay House members Barney Frank, D-Mass., Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz.,� and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is also a member of Judiciary, sent a letter to their fellow representatives opposing the measure.

They may be joined by some who would normally support an anti-gay measure.

Some conservatives believe that the high vote received for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton, indicate that the amendment should pass easily.

Other conservatives, however, have voiced concern that the measure deals a sharp blow to states� rights, usually a cause close to the hearts of Republicans. Defining marriage has usually fallen to the states, and the 1996 law established states� ability to ignore same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The weakening of states� rights by the measure may cost it votes, hurting its chances of passage in the House of Representatives. It has yet to be introduced in the Senate.

A similar measure died last year without coming to a vote on the House floor, but the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision, ruling state sodomy laws unconstitutional, was one impetus lending power to this year�s measure. Forty-nine of the amendment�s co-sponsors signed on after the June 26 ruling, which Justice Antonin Scalia warned in his dissenting opinion could open the door to gay marriage.

Vice President Dick Cheney, during a debate with Joseph Lieberman prior to the 2000 elections, said, �I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area. I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into.�

Cheney immediately came under attack from the far right of the Republican Party for his comments, which also supported states� rights.

If even a few Republicans break from the pack to vote against the measure on the grounds that it is too federalist, it is almost certain to fail.

According to the Human Rights Campaign�s political director Winnie Stachelberg, over 100 representatives have said they will vote against the measure.

A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. Only 146 representatives or 34 senators would need to vote against the measure to keep it from going to the state legislatures. There it would need to pass 38 states to become part of the Constitution.

Stachelberg said 30 to 32 senators have expressed their willingness to vote against the measure, should it ever come to a vote in the Senate.

Of the co-sponsors of the measure in the House, only one is from Ohio: Rep. John A Boehner of the eighth district, near the Indiana border. Boehner�s district includes Mercer, Darke, Preble and Miami counties and parts of Montgomery and Hamilton counties, but not their largest cities, Dayton and Cincinnati.


Support for couples rights is slipping, polls find

Washington, D.C.--Despite a summer of celebrations over Canadian same-sex marriage, a favorable U.S. Supreme Court decision and some gains in pop culture, polls suggest that Americans are becoming less supportive of gay and lesbian couples� rights as religious conservatives begin a campaign against same-sex marriage.

The most recent poll, commissioned by the Associated Press, shows that more than half of Americans now favor a law banning lesbian and gay marriage.

A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is currently in the U.S. House of Representatives with support of President Bush. The Ohio Senate is considering a so-called Defense of Marriage Act that would define marriage in the state as only between one man and one woman, and would invalidate any recognition of domestic partnerships in Ohio.

The AP poll shows that more people now favor laws banning civil unions than did three years ago, and that presidential candidates favoring either same-sex marriage or civil unions could run into trouble over it.

The poll, done by International Communications Research Media of Pennsylvania, surveyed 1,028 adults from every state except Alaska and Hawaii August 8-12, and has an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said they favor amending the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages. Fifty-three percent said they oppose allowing gays and lesbians to form a civil union.

Ten percent said they were more likely to support a candidate that favored gay marriage, while 49 percent said they were less likely, and 39 percent were undecided.

Presidential candidates favoring civil unions would do only slightly better than those favoring marriage, according to the poll, with 12 percent more likely to support them, 44 percent less likely to support them, and 43 percent undecided.

A similar poll was conducted in May 2000, by the same pollsters for AP. That poll showed 51 percent opposed to same-sex marriage, and 41 percent favoring domestic partnership rights.

The difference between the two polls is that people who were undecided are moving against GLBT equality, particularly among those who attend church and those living in rural areas.

�The public clearly draws the line at gay marriage,� said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

�There�s often a bit of rethinking� on an issue �after a big development like a Supreme Court decision,� said Bowman.

A CNN/USA Today poll taken by Gallup one month after the U.S. Supreme Court struck all remaining sodomy laws showed that people who think homosexual conduct should be legal dropped to 48 percent from 60 percent two months earlier, supporting Bowman�s analysis.

AP�s findings spanning three years are more consistent with national polls taken by Pew Research and Gallup in recent months, and less consistent with a July poll by Zogby International that was limited to New Jersey.

The New Jersey poll, taken for Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, indicated 55 percent favoring same- sex marriage in that state. However, a public campaign for same-sex marriage has been waged there by groups allied with gay and lesbians couples suing the state for the right to marry.

That poll quickly became controversial for its unusually wide 14-point difference between those supporting and opposed to same-sex marriage.

Two other July polls, one done for the Human Rights Campaign by Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart Research and Republican pollster American Viewpoint, and the other a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, showed significant support for equal rights and protections for gays and lesbians, 63 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

But the numbers drop in both those polls when people are asked if they approve of same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships.

No shortage of power at the Michigan Festival

Drummer, storyteller and teacher Ubaka Hill leads celebrants in a dance to the the Drumsong Orchestra on August 17, the final day of the 28th Michigan Womyn�s Music Festival. Photo: Patti Harris

Hart, Mich.Held each year on 650 acres of private land, the 2003 Michigan Womyn�s Music Festival drew nearly 4,000 women from across the country and around the world for a week of widely diverse musical concerts, comedy, dance, spoken word and theatrical performances, all outdoors.

Because of its remote location and primitive facilities powered by generators, the festival was unaffected by last week�s widespread power failure that included parts of Michigan and Ohio. News of the outage was relayed to attendees by late arrivals that were delayed by traffic jams or long lines at gasoline pumps.

The 28th annual festival, which opened on August 12, provided women with an unspoiled wilderness in the middle of a quarter million acres of national forest. Festival-goers could select their campsite from a wide choice of amenities, from none for those who like to �rough it� in a setting far away from other campers, to sites designated �chemical free,� to ones near warm showers, portable toilets and the center of activities, concerts and meals.

For one activity-filled week, the festival becomes a totally self-contained and self-reliant community built by and for women. Each is encouraged to participate in two 4-hour work shifts. These include helping with traffic and parking, driving shuttles, food preparation, security, child care and a wide variety of other chores that help the event run smoothly and give participants a greater sense of involvement with the festival.

Musical highlights included performances by Sweet Honey in the Rock with special guest artist Toshi Reagon and her band Big Lovely, country folk star Cheryl Wheeler and the group Betty, fresh from the off-Broadway run of their autobiographical rock opera.

For many festival goers, performances by musical pioneers Holly Near, Cris Williamson, Ferron and legendary pianist Adrienne Torf felt like spending time with old friends, while gender-bending rockers Bitch and Animal, along with Kitty Kill and Chi Chi Palace gained the crowd�s full attention at each of their shows with their forceful energy and intensely powerful lyrics.

Other crowd-pleasers included Alix Olson, Gretchen Phillips, C.C. Carter, Susan Werner, Nedra Johnson, Magdalen Hsu-Li, Catie Curtis and Pamela Means

A singer-songwriter spotlight showcased four of tomorrow�s up-and-comers Laura Blackley, Kerrianne Cox, Holly Figueroa and Libby Kirkpatrick.

The exuberant beats of Women of the Calabash, the honky-tonk bluegrass of the Dolly Ranchers and the eclectic influences brought to swing, tango and Yiddish folk by the band Isle of Klezbos provided festival goers with music inspired by cultures from around the world.

The festival ended mid-day Sunday with a line of dusty cars criss-crossing along back roads toward highways, many with bumper stickers showing the festival logo of a moonlit piano in the trees that declared, �See you next August!�

Officials, voters enjoy lake shore Stonewall Dems picnic

Amy Hurd of Bedford chats with Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty at the Edgewater Park pavilion. Photo: Eric Resnick

Cleveland--Elected officials, candidates, and members of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats met at the group�s annual picnic August 17 at Edgewater Park to schmooze and talk about LGBT issues.

According to Stonewall Democrats president Patrick Shepherd, 125 members ate, took in the sun, and bent the ears of a dozen elected officials and candidates.

Openly gay Ray Zeller of Miami, Florida was the special guest. Zeller is the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.

Zeller and his partner Alan Zeller are formerly of Cleveland where he, Jack Campbell and Charles Fleck formed the corporation that has since become both the Flex and the Club national chains of gay bathhouses.

Elected officials in attendance were U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown; State Senator and U.S. Senate candidate Eric Fingerhut; State Reps. Lance Mason, Shirley Smith, Dean DePiero, and Dale Miller.

Miller also represented presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. DePiero is running for mayor of Parma.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty attended, as did Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court judge Peter Sikora and Cleveland Municipal Judge Jazmine Torres-Lugo. They were joined by Cleveland Ward 16 city council member and municipal court candidate Michael O�Malley and municipal court candidate Anita Laster Mays.

Lakewood city council Ward 4 candidates John Farina and Mary Louise Madigan met with possible voters. Farina, a Republican, is openly gay.

Also meeting voters was East Cleveland School Board candidate Eunice Jones.

Howard Dean�s presidential campaign was also represented.



Church blames homosexuals for assault on its janitor


Westlake, Ohio--When its volunteer janitor was assaulted by three men shortly after dawn Sunday morning, the Church on the Rise quickly issued a press release blaming �homosexuals� for the incident.

However, police in this Cleveland suburb say they have no way of knowing the sexual orientation of the unidentified suspects.

The church followed the press release with appearances on local TV stations claiming that the suspects were gay men angry with the previous Sunday�s sermon �against the sin of homosexuality.� The TV stations and a daily newspaper repeated the charge.

The victim said he knew the attackers were gay because of their appearance and mannerisms.

Richard Bilski, 49, of Sheffield Lake told police that he was attacked outside the 2,000-seat non-denominational church while taking trash to the dumpster at 6:45 on the morning of August 17.

Bilski, a letter carrier, told police that four men approached him in a white Firebird or Camaro wanting to know where senior pastor Rev. Paul Endrei was. When Bilski told them he didn�t know, a fight broke out between him and three of the men.

According to reports, Bilski was struck in the face with a tennis racquet, punched, and had his shirt torn off.

The church�s press release says that, as the attackers ran from Bilski, one shouted, �That�s for Pastor Paul.�

Westlake police took Bilski�s statement at the church at 8:38 am, two hours after the incident. Bilski told police he went home after the attack and was �too upset to call� sooner.

Bilski and church spokesperson Mary Ellen Urmin refuse to say if Bilski spoke with church officials before calling police.

�Well, I was at the church,� said Bilski.

Westlake Police Lt. Ray Arcuri said Bilski was to talk more about the incident with him August 19. He added that he was concerned that the media had more details than Bilski initially gave to police.

Bilski said he knew his attackers were gay �by their appearances and how they acted. It was their mannerisms and the way they talked and acted that made me think so.�

Asked what the attackers said that would indicate that they are gay, Bilski objected.

�You�re trying to pick my story apart,� he said.

�I don�t know how they made that assumption,� said Lt. Arcuri of the church�s belief that the men are gay.

Arcuri said he doesn�t know what it means if a victim describes an attacker as looking gay or having gay mannerisms.

Urmin and the church�s voluntary ministry pastor Ricardo Johnson also refused to elaborate on Bilski�s �appearances and mannerisms� statement.

�The press release speaks for itself,� said Urmin.

That release, written by Urmin, says, �It is believed these men were enraged with the message Pastor Endrei preached against the sin of homosexuality last Sunday from the church pulpit.�

Many other groups might be angry with Endrei�s August 10 sermon. Urmin gave a tape of it to the Gay People�s Chronicle.

In the sermon, Endrei called Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism �sick faiths,� and railed against former president Bill Clinton, the U.S. Supreme Court, Canada, �Adam and Steve� and public school teachers with �liberal tendencies.�

Most of the sermon was aimed at the Episcopal church for its recent election of openly gay Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire.

By comment count, the sermon is more anti-Episcopal than anti-gay.

�People that go to Gene Robinson�s church are not going to be radically saved,� said Endrei, also calling the Episcopal church a �great whore.�

At one point Endrei got a response from the congregation by speaking in a lisping falsetto.

�How many of you know that if we all become homosexuals, the world will become extinct?� he asked.

Neither Urmin nor Johnson would say how the attackers heard the sermon that allegedly enraged them.

�Well, somebody must have told them about it,� said Johnson after a long pause.

Johnson added that in order to be a member of the church, one must renounce a sinful lifestyle.

�There are no practicing homosexual members,� said Johnson.

The church is affiliated with the anti-gay Promise Keepers group and anti-choice groups.

Urmin represented herself as a spokesperson for the anti-gay, anti-choice Operation Save America when she spoke to the Cleveland Heights City Council against a proposed domestic partner registry on August 4.

According to Urmin, the church has an �ex-gay� ministry in the planning stages.

Bilski said he would apologize for his comments if his attackers turn out not to be gay.

Urmin and Johnson would not agree to that.

�We�ll cross that bridge if we get to it,� said Urmin, ending the conversation.

�This is typical of how we�re attacked,� said Cleveland Lesbian and Gay Center director David Smith.

�There is no truth or fact as to what they�re claiming,� said Smith, �only the stereotypical notions of gender that these people suffer under.�



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Davis says he will sign sweeping partner bill

Sacramento--Embattled Gov. Gray Davis, facing an October 7 recall election, said August 16 that he will sign a sweeping domestic partner bill into law if it comes to his desk.

California already has a domestic partner registry which provides hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights, wrongful death, inheritance and child adoption rights. Twenty thousand couples have signed up.

The current bill, AB 205, would extend to registered couples virtually all the state privileges and responsibilities granted to married opposite-sex couples, including community property, child custody and support, alimony, funeral and autopsy arrangements.

The bill would also establish a court procedure for dissolving a domestic partnership after at least five years.

However, the measure confers no federal rights, such as joint income tax or inheriting a spouse�s Social Security benefits.

The bill passed the state Assembly earlier this summer. A Senate vote is expected in the next few weeks.

Opponents of the measure argue that the measure is an end-run around Proposition 22, the �Protection of Marriage Initiative,� which was passed by voters in 2000. They contend that, when the voters decided to �protect� marriage, that included all the governmental benefits that marriage includes, and that granting them to same-sex couples violates the will of the voters.

Conservatives opposed to the bill posit that Davis� support will result in a backlash against him in October�s recall election.

The two front-runners to replace Davis, should he be recalled, are Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat who has already said he supports the domestic partner legislation, and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who claims to be a gay-friendly, socially moderate Republican but has a number of anti-gay leaders working on his campaign. These include some of the prime movers behind the campaign to pass Prop. 22.

Some opponents believe that Davis� support for the measure is an attempt to lure gay voters into opposing the recall attempt, which was primarily organized by conservative Republicans.

�Gray Davis is jumping from the frying pan into the fire,� said anti-gay leader Randy Thomasson of the Campaign for California Families. �Apparently willing to offend average voters, he�s turning marriage and the people�s vote upside down in a desperate attempt to save his political skin by appealing to liberal activists.�

Davis supporters, however, point out that the governor has signed other gay civil rights measures into law.

Gay advocates in California are not downplaying the significance of the legislation, however, noting that one-sixth of the same-sex couples in the 2000 census live in the state.

�When this bill is signed, it will be a truly historic day for everyone who supports civil rights, not just in California, but throughout the country,� said Jeffrey Kors, the executive director of Equality California.

The bill, if passed, would put California on fairly equal footing with Vermont and its civil unions law, currently the most wide-ranging same-sex couple legislation in the nation.

Vermont civil unions are open to all unmarried couples who are not biologically related, the California domestic partner bill is also open to heterosexual senior citizens.




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