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August 8, 2003

Seven proves a lucky year for Black Unity weekend of festivities

Cleveland--The seventh annual Black Unity Celebration presented a weekend of popular events July 31 to August 3, drawing people from as far away as Washington, D.C.

For the first time, the celebration was organized by an independent board, instead of by its founding organization BlackOut Unlimited.

�I think the transition went smoothly because of the nurturing we received from BlackOut Unlimited over the previous years,� celebration co-chair Robert K. Burns said.

While the weekend�s festivities were independent overall, the state�s most prominent organization for LGBT African Americans organized three events during the weekend: the Ladies� Night Out party on Friday; the Womyn�s Empowerment Summit on Saturday, and a Sunday picnic, one of the community�s most anticipated events each year.

This year�s theme was �Bridging the Gap: Brothers and Sisters Unite,� exemplified in the array of programming presented along the course of the celebration.

The weekend started with a reception at the Museum of Contemporary Art. One hundred fifty people gathered to hear luminaries like keynote speaker Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, Cleveland City Councilmember Matt Zone, Cleveland Community Relations Board acting director Jeff Johnson and Rev. Sherry F. McCreary.

�Nobody had to twist my arm to get me to be the keynote speaker,� Jones said, paying homage to the importance and vitality of Cleveland�s African American same-gender loving community.

The number was down significantly from the attendance of last year�s opening reception. Last year, however, the opening reception was both for the Black Unity Celebration and for the African American Men United Against AIDS regional conference, which greatly increased the scope of the weekend�s draw.

On August 1, poetry, dance, illusion and singing took center stage at A Touch of Elegance party center for the Night of the Stars, the Black Unity Celebration showcase of local talent. Performances included legendary female illusionist the Lady Deception, slam poets Kevin �Kaoz� Moore and Cherina Jones, the gospel singing Inspirations and the LifeArt Youth Dancers, as well as over a dozen other performers. Connie Blair and Ren�e Matthews Jackson, for instance, performed the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance as 1 Plus 1.

Following the event, the women had a BlackOut-sponsored party at Touch of Elegance which drew 125, while the HollyHood House Ball at Cleveland Public Theatre, which brought in 250 people.

Houses, which are primarily groups of same-gender loving men, compete in various categories, including most stylish ensemble, most convincing display of heterosexuality and most convincing drag. The house system grew out of dances held in New York during the Harlem Renaissance and were one of the earliest relatively safe gathering places for gay men and lesbians in the country.

The HollyHood House Ball was presented by the Cleveland chapter of the House of Rodeo, led by CovahBoy Rodeo, the �father� of the house, who wrote in the weekend�s program, �As father or mother of a �house,� you have a lot of responsibilities to uphold. You are considered a role model to your house-kids and others as well. As being a father, I always tell the kids, �Don�t let the life run you, you run the life.��

The morning of Saturday, August 2 saw the return of the Exchange, the traditional Black Unity Celebration health conference preempted last year by the HIV and AIDS gathering. This year, the event was given over to women�s physical and mental health and safety, with presentations including Dr. Paula Mickens-English, a psychologist with the Cleveland State University counseling center, self defense with Phyllis Harris, a rights seminar on hate crimes with Cassandra Bledsoe of the city of Cleveland Human Rights Commission�s hate crime office, a sexual violence workshop with M. Carmen Lane, and safer sex and sexual health with Anthony Adkisson and Kelly Plotz.

Yvonne Pointer-Triplett, a motivational speaker whose daughter was murdered over a decade ago, presented the keynote address.

�My life ain�t been no bowl of cherries,� she told the audience. �I have paid for every step I have taken.�

She stated, however, that she was more than willing to pay for those steps.

�How are you going to make an effective change if you avoid the situation?� she asked.

Later that night, the Sweat 2K3 dance party moved to the Cleveland Public Theatre, bringing in almost 400 people, nearly three times the number that attended last year.

The weekend wrapped up with the tradition BlackOut Unlimited Community Picnic at Edgewater Park and a tea dance at Club 727 downtown. The picnic brought in around 200 people, and 150 attended the tea dance.

�With this being the first year, I though this was a huge success,� said co-chair Antoinette Barnes, �and this was an opportunity for the community to see the committee is serious, and we�ll be even better next year.�

Barnes also credited the event�s program chair for his efforts.

�Patrick Washington helped make it what it was,� she said, noting that the committee is looking forward to doing more events during the rest of the year.

Canvassing steps up to repeal Article 12

Cincinnati--Fifty-three residents went door-to-door July 27 to gather signatures to win a vote on repealing the Queen City�s unique charter component that prohibits municipal officials from protecting gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Citizens to Restore Fairness collected over 600 signatures from voters in the College Hill and Clifton neighborhoods, bringing their total to over 5,000.

�We feel that our efforts yesterday were very successful,� said CRF field director Ryan Spaeth. �We got a lot more people really excited about the repeal effort in addition to gathering the signatures. The most common impression I got from volunteers who participated is that now people are taking the repeal effort seriously.�

Spaeth was a volunteer organizer for Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone�s re-election campaign and worked for Walter Mondale after Wellstone�s death.

At least 18,000 signatures will be needed to get repeal of the anti-gay Article 12 on the November 2004 ballot, said CRF co-chair Gary Wright at a petitioners� rally at St. John�s Unitarian Church in Clifton.

Robert Harris of the National Coalition for Community and Justice welcomed the canvassers, noting that a museum commemorating the Underground Railroad for fleeing slaves is under construction in Cincinnati.

�What you�re doing today is an extension of that great undertaking,� he said. �Go forth and conquer.�

City Council member Laketa Cole discounted Article 12 backers� contention that gays want �special� rights.

�You want, and deserve, equal rights,� she stressed. �You want just to be treated fairly.�

She cautioned the canvassers that obtaining sufficient valid signatures from voters is not easy.

�This is going to be a real struggle,� she said. �Frederick Douglass once said that nothing good comes without struggle. Canvassing is hard. I know. I only have to get 500 to be on the re-election ballot, but I tell you, even that is hard, but to stand up against discrimination, this is the best way.�

The gathering kicked off a three-step plan CRF has to put the initiative on the ballot: obtaining voters� signatures, identifying supportive voters to get them out to vote on election day, and recruit at least 1,000 volunteers to accomplish its tasks.

The group is trying to put the issue on the ballot to coincide with the next presidential election, when around 126,000 Cincinnatians are expected to turn out to vote.

A �sub-sample� of 2,767 signatures of about 4,300 collected before the July 27 event have been officially pre-certified as valid.

Article 12 was passed 62-38 percent by voters in 1993 as Issue 3. After striking down an identical Colorado measure, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a Sixth Circuit opinion upholding the anti-gay article to stand in 1998.

With help from Human Rights Campaign and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, CRF has opened an office downtown at 1546 Knowlton St. in Northside and can be reached at or 513-5913247.

NGLTF has been successful at turning back other anti-gay ballot measures, including a 2001 effort to pass a charter amendment in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that mirrored Article 12.

�Our next action will be 11 am on August 6 where folks will work to gather 1,000 signatures in one day,� said Spaeth. That canvass will again be based at St. John�s Unitarian Church, 320 Resor Ave. Smaller canvassing efforts will be out of CRF�s Northside offices from 4-8:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 10, and 5-9 pm Wednesday, Aug.13.

Spaeth stressed that one of CRF�s key goals is to overcome a lot of voters� stereotypes of gays. �We must overcome our own assumptions that people won�t support us,� Spaeth concluded. �Then, after repeal, we must remain strong so our opponents won�t mess with us again.�

Council sends registry issue to ballot

Cleveland Heights--Voters will decide in the fall if the inner-ring suburb will establish Ohio�s first registry for domestic partners.

Cleveland Heights City Council voted unanimously on August 4 to put the measure on the November ballot after receiving petitions from a group backing the registry.

The proposal would allow unmarried couples over the age of 18, same-sex or opposite-sex, to register their partnership with the city. It would be open to both city residents and non-residents. The registry would be maintained by a fee charged to the couples.

Heights Families for Equality collected signatures between March and June for a vote to create the registry. They turned in 5,732 on June 23, and 4,922 of these were certified as valid and presented to council on July 7. HFE needed 3,570 to move the measure forward.

HFE was originally formed last year to block attempts to repeal domestic partner benefits that city council had given to municipal employees.

That measure made Cleveland Heights the only city in Ohio to provide benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of city workers. A group trying to repeal it failed to get enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

Council had three options to deal with the current measure: Pass it into law, send it to voters, or put a modified version of it on the ballot after HFE agreed to the changes.

Both HFE and opponents of the measure wanted it put on the ballot unchanged. The group opposing the registry is the same one that opposed the benefits, with a new name: Cleveland Heights Families First Initiative.

Council and 73 people at the meeting heard from 11 supporters of the registry and 9 opponents before the measure was sent to the ballot.

Opponents of the registry spoke mainly about religion and perceived health perils suffered by gay men. Registry proponents mostly refuted their claims.

However, David Caldwell, who is the primary spokesperson for HFE, addressed the merits of the registry and chided opponents who didn�t.

�This election is not going to be about how people have sex,� said Caldwell. �It�s going to be about simple stuff� like visiting people in the hospital or picking up a child at school.

�We come out of love,� said registry opponent Mary Ellen Urmin of North Olmsted. �None of us hate these people, but it�s like when you go into a plumbing store, two female washers or two male washers, they don�t fit together.�

Urmin noted that she had been involved with the anti-abortion group Operation Save America.

Carlton Smith told council he was moving to Cleveland Heights soon.

�I want to stand here as an African-American male,� said Smith. �To see freedoms, extended to me because of what I am, extended to people on the basis of their behavior offends me.�

�The partner registry very much does reflect the family values of Cleveland Heights,� said city resident Pat Dillard. �That�s the reason I moved here. That�s the reason I stay here.�

Joseph Rothenberg of Cleveland Heights responded to opponents who had said gays don�t need protection because they can �change.�

�I don�t know if anyone knows of any ex-Jews, but religion is protected. Speech is a behavior and that is protected,� said Rothenberg. �I�m going to answer to God, but I�m not going to answer to you.�

Council member Dennis Wilcox asked both sides to confine themselves to the issues of the ballot initiative in the upcoming campaign, �not issues that demean other citizens.�

Rev. Jimmie Hicks, the only member of council who voted against last year�s benefits ordinance, took the opportunity to denounce his affiliation with the Democratic Party.

�Not one Democratic elected official has contacted me to offer support,� since the benefits ordinance passed.

�The national Democratic Party has embraced the homosexual agenda,� said Hicks. �As a 40th birthday present to myself, I am resigning as a member of the Democratic Party. I will be joining the majority of Cleveland Heights residents as an independent. The Democratic Party has taken African-Americans and Christians for granted for too long and today it ends for me.�

Hicks has mailed residents fundraising flyers opposing the registry.

He also took public aim at registry supporter Keli Zehnder, who addressed council while holding four-month-old Audrey, the daughter of Zehnder and her partner Deb Smith.

Hicks spoke of their �beautiful daughter,� then added, �But that relationship did not produce that baby.�

The measure will be on the ballot November 4.

Eric Resnick contributed to this story.

Gay bishop confirmed after charges found groundless

Minneapolis--An openly gay man was confirmed as the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire on August 5, despite eleventh-hour allegations that he �inappropriately� touched another man and was involved with a youth group whose web site allegedly linked to pornographic sites on the internet.

Rev. V. Gene Robinson, 56, was elected in June by the New Hampshire diocese to replace retiring Bishop Douglas Theuner. Because his election was within 120 days of a General Assembly, Robinson�s ascension had to be approved there.

Robinson is the first openly gay or lesbian person to become a bishop of the Episcopal church and the world Anglican Communion of which it is part.

His confirmation comes a month after another gay priest was pressured to withdraw from his election as bishop of Reading, England after Anglican primates in Africa and Asia threatened a schism. The same warnings have been made about Robinson.

On Sunday, August 3, Robinson won a tight vote of clergy and lay leaders at the assembly. In the complex voting system in the House of Deputies, had nine fewer lay people voted for him, he would have lost the election.

However, after winning the election, an e-mail was sent to some bishops from David Lewis, 51, a Vermont man who claimed that Robinson �put his hand on me inappropriately every time I engaged him in conversation.�

The accusation was coupled with a charge that Outright, an LGBT youth group whose Concord, N.H. chapter was aided by Robinson in its infancy, had links to pornography on its web site.

The allegations led to the vote in the House of Bishops being delayed until they could be investigated.

The vote was originally scheduled for August 4. The investigation took one day and completely exonerated Robinson.

Bishop Gordon Scruton, charged with investigating the allegations, spoke to Lewis about his e-mail, and decided quickly that there was nothing sexual in the contact Robinson had with him at a 1999 church event.

�The individual asked Canon Robinson a question about the order of events or the schedule of the convocation procedure or something of that nature,� Scruton�s report states. �Canon Robinson put his left hand on the individual�s arm and his right hand on the individual�s upper back as he listened to the questions and answered them. This incident was in public view and was brief.�

Lewis had another conversation at the convocation with Robinson, and Robinson again touched him in the same manner.

�[Lewis] said that, in his opinion, Canon Robinson�s placement of his hands seemed inappropriate to him, given that they did not know each other, and presumed a far greater familiarity or intimacy than was the case,� Scruton continued. �The individual said these incidents made him feel uncomfortable.�

Lewis was asked twice by Scruton whether he wished to file a written complaint about Robinson, and he refused. He has also said since the e-mail was leaked that he had no desire for the allegation to become public, and had thought that the House of Deputies would scuttle Robinson�s nomination. When that did not happen, he felt he had to bring the occurrence to the attention of some of the bishops, who he believed would close ranks, keep it quiet and support Robinson.

In the web site allegation, Scruton was quick to dismiss the charge, noting that Robinson was involved with Outright from 1995 to 1998, but the group did not get a web site until 2002.

Newspaper columnists noted that it took them six or seven clicks to get from the youth group�s web site to pornography, while they could get to erotic materials in two or three clicks from many conservative Christian or newspaper web sites.

Following Scruton�s report, the House of Bishops voted on Robinson�s ascension. Of the 107 members, 62 voted for him. A simple majority was all that was needed.

�I have known Gene for a number of years and he is an incredibly dedicated priest and most able to be our bishop,� said Peg Gage, a board member of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, as well as an Episcopalian. �He is a healer, not a divider.�

�The election of an openly gay priest as a bishop in the Episcopal church will provide healing for countless numbers in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,� said a member of P-FLAG�s national board of directors, Rabbi David M. Horowitz.

Conservative forces within the Episcopal church had threatened a schism if Robinson�s ordination went through. It is not yet clear whether they will make good on that threat. Conservatives in the church have threatened schism before, most notably in relation to the ordination of women as priests, then backed down from the threat.

However, some African, Asian and Caribbean members of the Anglican Communion have offered to take in the schismatic groups or help them set up their own communion in the United States.

Swing your partner

Joe Abraham of Berea and Aaron Patterson of Cleveland, right, swing to the jazz band Lounge Kitty at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center�s Garden Party on August 2.

The 14th benefit for the center set records for most money raised and most in attendance.

The event was held at the Holden Arboretum in Lake County, and drew 516 people, 93 more than last year and a record.

According to the center�s development director Mary Zaller, there were enough sponsorships to cover all costs, so the $51,126 raised by ticket sales and the live and silent auctions will all go toward programming. Among the sponsors were the Dr. John T. Carey Foundation and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.

This year�s theme, polka dots and stripes under the stars, provided an opportunity for a costume contest, also an event first.

�It was just a really great party and a great way for the community to come together to raise money for the programs we have here,� said Zaller, �and people have told me we really raised the bar with this event.�

--Eric Resnick

Go to Discussion Forum Top of Page

High court ruling changed landscape,
City Club is told

Cleveland--�One just needs to look at the amicus briefs in the Lawrence case to see where we are and who is with us,� Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund director Kevin Cathcart told the Cleveland City Club on the status of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement.

Cathcart addressed the club�s Friday Forum on August 1. The club has the longest uninterrupted forum series in the United States. Past speakers include sitting presidents Clinton, Reagan, Carter, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and notables such as Justice Sandra Day O�Connor, then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and civil rights leader Rosa Parks.

Cathcart�s presentation marked the first Friday Forum devoted to LGBT concerns that wasn�t a debate on an issue with an anti-gay spokesperson.

�Is there a gay agenda?� asked Cathcart rhetorically. �Yes, and that agenda is equality.�

Cathcart urged the lunch crowd of 151 to read the U.S. Supreme Court�s June 30 Lawrence v. Texas decision that states cannot outlaw gay and lesbian sex.

�It doesn�t resolve every issue that we face, but it puts us on a new legal setting with which to solve some of those issues,� said Cathcart.

Cathcart called the 17 years between the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision which upheld the constitutionality of sodomy laws and the Lawrence decision that struck them down �a blink.�

�This is a court that thinks in terms of decades, maybe 80 to 100 years,� he said. �That it would reinvent itself in a few years is remarkable.�

Cathcart said that the court�s discussion of European developments in the Lawrence decision were rare, but also used in Bowers.

He contrasted Lawrence�s references to same sex marriage in Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands to the references to Roman law in Bowers.

�We�re talking Roman law of 2,000 years ago, when there was slavery and people were being fed to lions,� Cathcart said.

Cathcart said there was no way to overturn the remaining 13 state sodomy laws without the U.S. Supreme Court.

�These were tough states with very limited civil rights jurisprudence,� said Cathcart. �We needed the U.S. Supreme Court to give baseline protection to all of us.�

Cathcart also spoke on the issue of same-sex marriage, saying he is optimistic about the pending Supreme Judicial Court case in Massachusetts and the number of same sex couples marrying in Canada.

He chided President Bush for his recent comment about directing federal lawyers to look into the best way to �codify� that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Referring to the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, Cathcart said, �Doesn�t he know it�s already codified?�

As with all Friday Forums, Cathcart took audience questions.

Asked if Justice Antonin Scalia�s dissent in Lawrence is a �call to arms� for those opposed to LGBT equality, Cathcart said, �I like to think Scalia has prophetic powers.�

Scalia speculated that the majority opinion will lead to same- sex marriage.

�He said Romer [a 1997 decision that said gays and lesbians cannot be denied rights due to the �animus� of the majority] would lead to the fall of Bowers,� said Cathcart. �Now he says Lawrence will lead to marriage. Who am I to argue with Justice Scalia?�

Following the presentation, Cathcart was approached by James Henry of Empire, Ohio.

Henry was convicted of public indecency in a 2001 case where police hid video cameras in a public restroom in a sting targeted at gay men.

The video shows him in the restroom for 47 seconds, using it normally. But the Ohio Supreme Court allowed the conviction to stand.

Lambda declined to help Henry, though Pat Logue, the attorney in charge of Lambda�s Chicago office said the case �does appear to be a classic case of selective enforcement and general harassment of gay men by law enforcement.�

Cathcart told Henry, �I�m very sorry we couldn�t help you, but we only have 14 lawyers, and sometimes that puts us in the business of disappointing people.�

Cathcart continued that theme during a later interview.

�One of my frustrations is we live in a world that wants a movement, but isn�t willing to pay for it,� he said, adding that Lambda�s budget had to be cut by $500,000 last year.

�People don�t understand how much having a case before the Supreme Court impacts your resources,� said Cathcart. �We went big, but that limits our capacity to do other things.�

Cathcart said Lambda grew in the years following Bowers v. Hardwick.

�People were frightened into getting involved,� said Cathcart. �Now what we need is for the community to understand the opportunity [Lawrence] presents, if we can do the work.�

On law enforcement misbehavior, Cathcart said Lambda has not forgotten that there are victims who need help, and that a revised edition of their Little Black Book on those issues will be published this fall.

�There will be some resources going to cases like this, but I don�t want to overstate it,� said Cathcart.

Lambda recently sued the Los Angeles police department, resulting in a 75 percent drop in entrapment of gay men.

�L.A. is a big police department that presented big opportunities,� said Cathcart, �but to get control of police department by department, that�s where we don�t have attorneys to do it all.�

Cathcart said he is surprised at the sudden interest in same-sex marriage over other issues of LGBT equality.

�But I think if there is a grassroots movement right now, it is about about marriage,� he said.

But Cathcart cautioned, �As a movement, we have depended too much on legal remedies. We have no strong political infrastructures anywhere, and much of what needs done requires legislative action.�



AVOC honors volunteers at 20th anniversary affair

Cincinnati--AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati turned 20 years old and celebrated with a mixed-media acknowledgement of the continuing threat of AIDS and the value of local efforts to better serve people living with HIV.

In an elegant atmosphere in historic, art deco Union Terminal, over 100 volunteers, staff members, clients, and the public attended AVOC�s� annual meeting July 28. The ceremony recognized AVOC�s army of citizen caregivers, and invited all to join in its 14th annual AIDS Walk on Saturday, Sept. 20.

The train station provided a perfect metaphor for keynote speaker Steve Townley.

�Being here is most fitting,� the veteran AIDS activist said. �The old Union Terminal housed an otherwise chaotic transportation system in a central place. It accepted all baggage, provided an enormous place of navigation to thousands who went through here, much like AVOC.�

At the celebration, a slide show documented AVOC�s work and an exhibition of its Tile Project helped mark personal statements that honor the memory of people important in tile makers� lives. Hors d�oeuvres with Chilean wine also highlighted the evening in the station, now home to the Queen City�s Museum Center.

The small tiles �are amazing works of art,� said AVOC volunteer coordinator Barbara Levine, who has been on the agency�s staff for four years after serving as a volunteer. �We are blessed to have this personal peek, a lasting memorial to the ones we love.�

Despite AIDS �dropping from the public�s radar screen,� AVOC has already raised half of its $1 million capital campaign, Levine said. �We faced tough competition for a shrinking availability of money and an unexpected obstacle, lack of community recognition of who we are, but the board of directors accounted for our success - a testimony to the success of our prevention programs to stop AIDS� spread here.�

AVOC began 20 years ago when ten people met in response to the first AIDS-related death in the Cincinnati area. As the number of HIV-positive people grew, so did the agency�s services. Its mission is to provide support services for HIV-infected individuals, their families, friends and loved ones, and to provide HIV prevention education in the Cincinnati area through volunteers and a professional staff. AVOC works with a staff of 29 fulltime workers and a $2 million budget.

AVOC has always been one step ahead of similar projects in Ohio, said executive director Victoria Brooks, who has been at the organization for ten years. AVOC was the first volunteer-based AIDS group to form in the Buckeye State, but is not known as the oldest because another group filed its corporate papers first.

It was the first to institute a women�s program and did outreach into communities of color early on.

�We believed that AIDS would be short-lived and that a cure was ahead, but seeing light at the end of the tunnel has not occurred. There still exists,� cautioned Brooks, �a perception that AIDS is a gay man�s disease. One in three newly diagnosed cases are among women; one half are under the age of 25.�

AVOC has 30 outreach volunteers in the area�s fast-growing Hispanic community. African-American clients make up 53 percent of its clients; 85 percent of all clients are under age 45.

AVOC is the only Ohio group to use the new, 20-minute oral OraQuick HIV test, Brooks said. After testing 200 people with it, the first positive result was in a six-year-old child, she noted.

She thanked President George Bush for �focusing the nations attention on AIDS,� noting that �none of us can afford to look the other way.�

�If current trends continue, by 2005 there will be 62 million people living with AIDS, and by 2010, 40 million children,� Brooks warned. �Every hour, two youths are infected. AIDS is the leading cause of death in Americans aged 25-44.�

At least 58 percent of AVOC�s clients are at or below the poverty level, 41 percent are middle class, and one percent is upper class.

Keynoter Townley, who is living with AIDS, noted that these numbers are so staggering they can become numbing. He cautioned listeners to remember that �these numbing numbers represent individuals and that, although as a society we pigeonhole every trait, we need to remember that each digit is a person.�

Townley, who Brooks introduced as �a very courageous, loveable, dedicated individual,� said he redefines the far right�s �family values� phrase as �family valuing family,� and praised AVOC workers. �You are here for noble purposes for which no one needs an explanation. With your work�s economic, social, and political dimensions what you do is much less about being charity work but are really human rights work.�

Brooks agreed, saying, �AVOC provides essential life-saving services for those most at risk. We must keep AIDS on the radar not only in this city and county but among friends, family members, and others in spheres of influence.�

�We must talk about transmission even though [such talk] is called inappropriate. We need to insist on compassionate, loving, dedicated care to those among us.�

Brooks quoted Ernest Hemingway, who wrote �Life breaks all of us, and many of us are strongest at the broken places.�





News Briefs

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

California becomes 4th state to ban TG discrimination

Sacramento--Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill banning housing and job discrimination against transgendered people, making California the fourth state to extend such protections.

The new law has long been a goal of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists in the state, said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco. The measure, signed August 2, will take effect next January 1.

California already prohibits housing and job discrimination against gays and lesbians, but now becomes only the fourth state to extend that protection to transgendered people, joining Minnesota, Rhode Island and New Mexico.

The law will probibit discrimination against people whose �perceived gender characteristics are different from those traditionally associated with the individual�s sex at birth.�

The measure passed the legislature earlier this year, the first time such a bill had reached the governor�s desk.

LGBT groups join march anniversary

Washington, D.C.--For the first time, LGBT organizations will actively and openly be part of an anniversary celebration for the 1963 March on Washington.

Southerners on New Ground and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have put out an invitation for LGBT organizations to come to Washington for the 40th anniversary of the march, being held on Saturday, August 23.

The principal organizer of the 1963 event was Bayard Rustin, one of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.�s most trusted lieutenants, and an openly gay man.

As part of the celebration surrounding the anniversary march, an August 21 panel entitled �Queering the Color Lines: LGBT Communities of Color and Our Allies� will be held at the Thurgood Marshall Center, and the following day the Kennedy Center will host a screening of Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin.

Other weekend LBGT-themed events include a Bayard Rustin Commemorative Rally on Saturday morning, and an evening reading and signing by John D�Emilio of his book Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin.

Equal benefits ordinance upheld

San Francisco--The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 29 upheld a San Francisco ordinance that requires contractors doing business with the city to give the same benefits to domestic partners that they give to married spouses.

The court rejected an argument by S.D. Myers Inc. of Akron that the ordinance conflicts with a 1999 statewide domestic partner law.

Other challenges against the ordinance by Myers and the airline industry were ruled on in 2001, with all decisions upholding the ordinance. Myers had also argued that it violated the company�s moral and religious beliefs.

�This is the last nail in the coffin of the religious right�s challenge to San Francisco�s ground-breaking Equal Benefits Ordinance,� Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart told the Bay City News.

A representative of the Alliance Defense Fund, a far-right Christian legal organization that represented Myers in the case, said they were contemplating appealing to the Supreme Court.

Man pleads guilty to park slaying

Vancouver, B.C.--A 19-year-old man pleaded guilty July 30 to manslaughter in the 2001 beating death of a gay man that shocked and galvanized Vancouver�s LGBT community.

The teen cannot be identified by name because he was under 18 when the crime occurred.

While no other charges have been filed in the case, the guilty plea to a manslaughter charge was considered a likely deal for information on other participants in the attack on Aaron Webster. Police Inspector David Jones said more arrests could occur.

Webster, 41, died in the arms of his friend Tim Chisholm early on Nov. 17, 2001 in Vancouver�s Stanley Park. He was in an area frequented by gay men seeking casual sex, and was naked except for a pair of boots.

Police believe four attackers were involved in killing Webster by hitting him in the throat with a baseball bat or pool cue. It was considered a hate crime, with Webster targeted because of his homosexuality.

The maximum sentence is three years in prison.

Court affirms 2nd-parent adoption

Sacramento, Calif.--The California Supreme ruled that a birth mother could not try to prevent her former lesbian partner from adopting a child the two women had planned to raise together, upholding the institution of second-parent adoptions.

The state�s high court ruled 6-1 to overturn an appellate court�s decision that there was no statutory basis for second-parent adoptions.

Second-parent adoptions allow a parent�s unmarried partner to adopt their child without requiring the parent to surrender the child, as is normally the case in adoptions.

The lower court ruling had threatened to undo thousands of existing adoptions.

The plaintiff in the case was the birth mother of two children conceived through artificial insemination while she was in a committed relationship. When it ended, she moved to terminate her ex-partner�s adoption of one of the children.

Her attorneys argued that there is no law on the books authorizing such adoptions. State adoption laws stem from an 80-year-old state supreme court decision on married couples, they said.

Judges in California, the first state to permit second-parent adoptions, began approving them in 1986. New York, Massachusetts and Vermont followed. Ohio, Colorado and Wisconsin forbid them.

United Way chapter ends Scout funds

Philadelphia--The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, citing its nondiscrimination policy, said July 31 it will no longer fund an urban school program of the local Boy Scouts chapter in the city and three suburban counties.

The Philadelphia-area United Way group had stopped funding the chapter itself after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts of America could exclude gays.

On July 31, the United Way said it would also pull funding for the Learning for Life program, which it had continued to support because the program was not subject to the ban on gays. The local group�s president, Christine James-Brown, said the board of directors decided there wasn�t enough separation between the two groups.

The group gave about $400,000 for the Cradle of Liberty Council to operate Learning for Life in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Delaware counties and also funded it in Chester County.

In May the council defied the national organization by adding �sexual orientation� to its nondiscrimination policy. But, facing pressure from the national organization, the chapter rescinded that position in June and ousted an openly gay Life Scout.

Fired music director has new job

Rockford, Ill.--A gay music director fired from a Roman Catholic church for refusing to take a vow of chastity has been hired by a United Methodist congregation.

Bill Stein was chosen for the new position from a pool of 16 candidates from around the country.

�He was, and is, the most qualified candidate that our search committee interviewed,� said the Rev. Michael Mann of the Court Street United Methodist Church. �He was hired based on his credentials and his interview process.�

Holy Family Catholic Parish, Rockford�s largest Catholic church, fired Stein in June after some parishioners objected to his desire to adopt a child with his partner of ten years. After the firing, other parishioners rallied to his support.

At the time of the firing, a spokeswoman for the Rockford diocese said the decision reflected the church�s prohibition on sex outside of marriage.




Goodnight, cowboy

Director John Schlesingers mark on
Hollywood is indelible

Cowboys epitomize a certain independence, the loner who explores unknown vastness in search of self and some greater ideals. Cowboys are people of new frontiers, going forth with chutzpah and savoir faire to find new things in new places.

John Schlesinger was indeed a cowboy of the cinema and his death leaves behind a body of work that is a testimony to his pioneering spirit.

He was often acknowledged by colleagues and stars as a generous and energetic film director and actor whose independent reputation was bolstered by Hollywood successes and sometimes hurt by commercial flops, most recently The Next Best Thing with Madonna and fellow gay Brit Rupert Everett.

Schlesinger, who died July 25 at 77 years old, once noted that, �I couldn�t bear the idea of not working.� It was this hunger to always be working that sometimes led to his involvement with less stellar projects.

Schlesinger�s longtime companion, photographer Michael Childers, was with him at the time of his death.

Although most celebrated for his film directing--best among them Midnight Cowboy, Sunday, Bloody Sunday and Marathon Man--he was also a man of the theater, the opera, and lent his creative energies to television and to the slick world of advertising.

Born in London on February 16, 1926, into a comfortably well-off Jewish family, he went to school at Uppingham. From there he performed his national service and even had a brief stint as a magician. He attended Balliol College at the prestigious Oxford University between1947 and 1950.

Schlesinger got his cinematic start in childhood with a 9.5mm camera. From this he graduated to a 16mm camera and his two earliest efforts include Black Legend (1948) and The Starfish (1950).

Schlesinger, who was an actor in the 1950s and started his directorial career with the BBC, was able to begin making feature films after he won first prize at the Venice Film Festival for a 45-minute documentary that he made.

His subsequent career has been filled with awards and acclaim as well. The following is a list of his most notable works, most of them seminal, some of them less well received.

A Kind of Loving (1962) Schlesinger�s first feature film, according to many scholars and critics, remains one of the most remarkable debuts in British cinema. Here he dealt with issues of regionalism and working-class people in a manner that was not overtly political, and yet remained relevant. In a dreary northern English town, a draftsman and a co-worker must marry when she becomes pregnant. Together they persevere to enjoy �a kind of loving.� Schlesinger was also exploring the burgeoning style of naturalism here.

Billy Liar (1963) This is a film that blends fantasy, comedy and social observation. Billy, a young man with a dreary life, spends most of his time daydreaming about a land where he is a hero. A number of minor indiscretions causes Billy to lie in order to avoid the penalties. As these events start catching up with him, he finds himself telling bigger lies to cover his tracks. Soon, he has a difficult decision to make in this tale about the perils of crying wolf.

Darling (1965) Following the success of Billy Liar, this film compounded Schlesinger�s reputation, especially when Julie Christie won an Oscar as best actress for it. The film captures the hedonism of the period in London. Young, attractive and vivacious, model Diana Scott is determined to become rich and famous as well. To succeed, she does not hesitate to take bold steps. She meets a well-known TV journalist who not only introduces her into new social and professional circles, but also abandons his family to live with her. Will she abandon him, however, to get even more?

Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) Schlesinger decided to produce a big-budget version of Thomas Hardy�s novel about a 19th century Wessex woman who is not supposed to be as independent as she is. Bathsheba Everdene�s willful behavior has unexpected results in the lives of three men who love her. He was reunited with Alan Bates and Christie, and was introduced to Peter Finch.

Midnight Cowboy (1969) This is Schlesinger�s first American film, and it turned out to be the most significant of his career, bringing him many awards, including the 1970 Oscar for Best Director and Best Film. Midnight Cowboy remains the only X-rated Best Film. A cowboy, Joe Buck, moves to New York City from Texas to make his fortune as a hustler servicing rich Park Avenue women. Shortly after arriving, he is hustled by homeless con man Ratzo Rizzo. Buck finds the rapidly deteriorating Rizzo, ends up feeling sorry for him, and moving into Rizzo�s room in an abandoned building to care for him.

The two remain hopeful of striking it rich with Rizzo managing Buck�s career, but it soon becomes obvious that they are no match for the urban jungle.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971) Very autobiographical, Sunday, Bloody Sunday stars Finch as a gay doctor in love with a young man who also shares his favors with a woman (Glenda Jackson). Set in the middle-class homes of Hampstead, this brilliant work is shaped greatly by the heartrending nuances of Finch�s performance. This film also allowed Hollywood to begin a maturation process vis-a-vis the treatment of gay themes and characters on the big screen.

Day of the Locust (1974) An ambitious yet critically reviled film, it is a seamy portrait of Hollywood. An art director in the 1930�s falls in love and attempts to make a young woman an actress despite Hollywood who wants nothing to do with her because of her problems with an estranged man and her acoholic father.

Marathon Man (1976) Starring Dustin Hoffman as the victim of the sadistic Nazi dentist played by the inimitable Laurence Olivier, this film put Schlesinger back on top of the box office. Members of a covert US government group called �The Division� begin to be murdered one by one. When the brother of a Division member sees his brother knifed to death, it is revealed that former SS dentist Szell, �the White Angel� of Auschwitz, is wrapping up loose ends to smuggle priceless diamonds from the United States.

Yanks (1979) Here is a story of American soldiers in Britain during the second world war and their love affairs with British women.

Madame Sousatzka (1988) An adaptation of Bernice Ruben�s novel, it stars Shirley Maclaine, veteran Indian actress Shabana Azmi (Fire) and Naveen Andrews (The English Patient). Manek, a brilliant 15-year-old pianist in modern London, is the son of a poor divorcee from India. His school arranges lessons for him with Mme. Sousatzka, a formidable, dedicated and eccentric spinster. She takes him completely under her wing, teaching him how to live as well as how to play, because everything is connected.

Pacific Heights (1990) A return to the thriller genre, Michael Keaton�s over-the-top performance made this a moderate success. Based on a true story, a couple buy their dream house in San Fransisco. They decide to rent out the ground floor apartment to help out with the mortgage payments. Charming Carter Hayes initially seems to be an ideal tenant, but after he moves in things begin to go wrong. He doesn�t pay his rent, refuses to leave and barricades himself in. When he is tired of playing his psychological games, he leaves to find another victim. Patty goes after him and wants revenge.

The Lost Language Of The Cranes (1991) Schlesinger plays Derek in this story about a young gay may who comes out of the closet. His friends support him, but when he comes out to his parents, he stirs up a wealth of hidden feelings and secrets in their relationship.

Cold Comfort Farm (1995) Schlesinger enjoyed great acclaim for his colorful and insightful film. It was a surprise hit in the US, where he allegedly paid for prints to allow it a theatrical release. Like many of his other films where his relatively unknown actresses cemented their fame, here to Kate Beckinsale got to be noticed and has gone on to become a huge success in her own right.

The Celluloid Closet (1995) Schlesinger is a great interviewee in this definitive documentary about gay cinema, and being one of the pioneers of openly queer Hollywood, he is deservedly given good attention here.

The Twilight Of The Golds (1997) Schlesinger played a doctor in the teleplay with Faye Dunaway and Brendan Fraser. The film deals with the future of genetic engineering and the fate of gay foetuses. The film is actually very strong and Schlesinger�s performance is solid and dignified.

The Next Best Thing (2000) A dramac-comedy with Madonna and Rupert Everett, this film was lethally criticized by the critics. The two stars play best friends - one a straight woman, Abbie, the other a gay man, Robert - who decide to have a child together. Five years later, Abbie falls in love with a straight man and wants to move away with her and Robert�s little boy Sam, and a nasty custody battle ensues.

Schlesinger was known for his professionalism, his enthusiasm for film and people, and his utter dedication to the art and craft of cinema. He was also said to be incredibly loyal to his fellow artists throughout his career, and he often worked with the same composers, cameramen, editors and production designers all spanning decades of his work.

Schlesinger�s mark on Hollywood is indelible. He was a celluloid frontiersman and many of his works will live on. He made it easier for many in Hollywood today to be more open not only about their own queerness but also about the need to tell queer stories that are complex, insightful and utterly human.

On behalf of those of us he influenced, directly or indirectly, I say, with utmost love and respect, �Goodnight, cowboy.�


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