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February 21, 2003

 

Couples across Ohio ask for marriage licenses

Valentine�s Day courthouse events put county officials on the spot

Columbus--Joining a nationwide protest organized by Metropolitan Community Churches, at least three same-sex couples in Ohio went to their county courthouses on February 14, trying to get marriage licenses.

In the state capital, Byron Yaple and Stephen Watson, members of New Creation MCC, applied for a marriage license and were turned down.

�My reason for going Friday to the courthouse was an attempt to raise awareness of the need to change the laws of this land to be equitable to all, especially the GLBT community,� Yaple said. �In my opinion, a law that is not equal to all is a law that is not equal at all.�

Watson and Yaple, whose internet site www.a-gay-christian-testimony.com functions as an online ministry to the gay community, were joined by Daria Schaffnit and Jeannene Page in Xenia and Tom and John Meinecke in Toledo.

�We had a very positive experience,� Schaffnit said. �When we went in Friday and told them we�d like to apply for a marriage license, the clerk leaned out her little window and looked at Jeannene to ascertain her gender.�

�She then said, �You�re both female, correct?� We said we were and she told us that she didn�t think marriage between two women was allowed in Ohio,� Schaffnit continued. �She stopped Judge [Robert A.] Hagler, who was on his way out the door. He affirmed that the law didn�t allow us to marry in Ohio.�

�He was very nice and friendly and somewhat apologetic,� Schaffnit noted. �No one there seemed to think it was weird or wrong for us to want to marry and they seemed pretty apologetic about it. Too bad they have to go by state law, because I think if it were up to the folks in that office, we would have left with a license.�

In Toledo, television reporters spoke to the Meineckes as they tried to get their marriage license. Pastor Edwin Yates of New Life MCC told of the history of marriage ceremonies, pointing out that the current concept of marriage was established in the ninth century.

�It seems very strange that the Christian marriage services are based scripturally on the need to reproduce and obey, whereas the same-gender commitment services are based scripturally on the love passages in Scripture, such as 1 Corinthians 13,� said Yates.

Rev. Marj Creech, a friend of Yaple and Watson and the pastor of God�s Promise MCC in Granville, Ohio, pointed out that marriage is a necessary next step for gay and lesbian couples.

�Among conservatives, it is immoral to have sex before marriage,� Creech said. �That is how they define fornication, a bad translation for some of the New Testament�s admonitions about sex. If gays are granted the right to marry, the conservatives will have to stop saying our sex is immoral, by their own definition.�

She also pointed to the hundreds of benefits that married couples enjoy that same-sex couples are denied, including legal, financial and more ephemeral advantages.

�Marriage can give stability to raising children, provides economic and other legal advantages, and makes people think twice about making--or breaking--a commitment to another person,� she argued.

�Despite all the pro and con arguments, I am very much in favor of letting gay and lesbian partners marry for one overriding reason,� she said. �It will allow our young people just coming out to see themselves as normal. No matter how their conservative churches, pastors, schools or parents have bashed them and made them think they are abominations, they will look at the state law and say, �I must be okay. There are others like me.� �

Same-sex couples sought marriage licenses in 120 other cities across the country on Valentine�s Day, according to the MCC�s national organization. They joined the denomination�s founder Rev. Troy Perry, who went to a Los Angeles courthouse with his partner of 18 years, Philip Ray DeBlieck. Like the Ohio couples, Perry, DeBlieck and all the others were politely turned down.


 

Activists set out to repeal Cincinnatis Article 12

Cincinnati--An apparent change in the city�s attitudes toward gays and lesbians has given community leaders hope that a ten-year-old charter amendment banning any gay and lesbian human rights ordinance can be repealed.

�We�re taking a long, hard look at the recall effort, and we will move when we are ready,� said Gary Wright, co-chair of Citizens to Restore Fairness, which was organized to coordinate the repeal efforts.

Wright said there have been many signs of positive change since the 1993 passage of Ballot Issue 3.

The measure, now Article 12 of the city charter, was passed by voters after city council added �sexual orientation� to the city�s human rights ordinance a year earlier. The initiative�s backers convinced 62% of voters that the 1992 measure gave �special rights� to homosexuals.

Article 12 prohibits any ordinance that gives �minority or protected status to people based on sexual orientation or preference.�

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed a ruling upholding it to stand in 1998, three years after city council repealed the human rights measure. Cincinnati is the only city in the U.S. with such a provision in its charter.

Wright said the February 5 passage of a hate crime ordinance by a 7-2 vote of city council is the most recent signal that attitudes about gays are changing.

Wright and others also say that more GLBT Cincinnatians are coming out, as shown by several years of Pride festivals and cultural events. Several large corporations in Cincinnati have added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policies and some offer same-sex domestic partner benefits. These include Procter & Gamble and Federated Department Stores.

Activists also cite the soul-searching Cincinnati went through after the racial unrest of 2001, and the strong support for a GLBT-inclusive human rights ordinance in neighboring Covington, Ky.

But repeal backers are most excited about an in-depth public opinion survey conducted over five months by the Cincinnati chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice, a mainstream religious organization formerly known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

The survey results will be released in a few weeks and are expected to show that attitudes about gays and lesbians have changed.

�The study has given us good reason to believe that we have a different community than we had in 1993,� said NCCJ Cincinnati chapter director Chip Harrod, who also testified in favor of the hate crime ordinance.

�Institutions and public attitudes have become much more accepting of gays and lesbians,� said Harrod, �And there is greater awareness of anti-gay discrimination.�

Harrod added that there is an increased sense that Article 12 is �a blight on [Cincinnati�s] image.�

Harrod said that the perception that leaders of the African-American religious community favored Issue 3 in 1993 may be exaggerated and that the study�s findings challenge that widely-held belief.

�There was not as much opposition [to Issue 3] as there should have been,� said Harrod, �so it seemed like the African-American ministers were speaking for the whole.�

Another ballot issue would be needed to repeal Article 12. Timing it to occur with the 2004 presidential election is being considered. A repeal can be put on the ballot by city council, or by another initiative petition drive.

Wright is expecting a tough battle, which may include collecting 9,000 petition signatures and �winning one vote at a time.�

He is not reassured by the small turnout of Citizens for Community Values at hearings earlier this month. The group�s leaders sponsored the campaign for Issue 3 ten years ago.

�I don�t think we can take false comfort in the fact that the opposition did not come out for the hate crime ordinance and has not come out in Covington,� said Wright.

�Their point of view is fading, but they will still have victories in the short term,� said Wright.


 

 

New York is set to become 13th state with a lesbian-gay civil rights law

�Be yourself,� students are told

Columbus--�My advice to you is: Be more of yourself. Change comes from within,� actor and singer RuPaul Andre Charles told the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Ally Conference on February 16.

RuPaul spoke to about 1,000 people at the closing session of the conference, held in the Ohio Union of Ohio State University.

A student asked how to deal with people, both gay and straight, who are hostile toward drag queens.

�If it keeps happening, you write to me. I love you. Know that someone out there loves you,� he said.

It was a fitting ending to the gathering of nearly 1,500 students along the course of the weekend, themed �Loving With Pride.� The conference offered programs across the spectrum of identity.

Student groups and friends came to Columbus from Toronto, Ontario; Naperville and Charleston, Ill.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Ames, Iowa, and Lansing, Mich., among other locations.

Brett Beemyn, Ohio State�s coordinator of GLBT student services, said that the conference emphasized gay youth.

�The needs of college students are often forgotten by the adult GLBT community. When events are held only at bars, which students often cannot access, they lose out,� he said. �The conference will put them in touch with a wider network of people.�

Workshops ran throughout the weekend, with topics ranging from coming out in the classroom to perversities and sexual pleasure.

On Valentine�s Day, students chose from a myriad of speakers, from sex writer Susie Bright to a performance by Columbus�s H.I.S. Kings drag king troupe. A dance offered the students another chance to socialize.

�I was surprised that there were so many people there, even with the bad weather,� said Jessica Little, a senior at Ohio State.

Little noted that the conference makes a difference for some students, but she wondered about how to reach a larger population.

�A meeting like this definitely helps gay students, but I did not see the university promote the event outside of gay student organizations,� she said.

On Saturday, a career fair brought representatives from gay-friendly corporations, many of which sponsored the conference. Companies included Nationwide Insurance, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, and Target.

Liviu Vizitiu, assistant human resources manager at General Mills� Wellston, Ohio plant, said that he wanted to show that his company is a friendly place for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders.

�We are one of the more progressive companies to work for,� he said. �We have a support network for gay and lesbian employees.�

While General Mills offers same-sex domestic partnership benefits and a non-discrimination clause for sexual orientation, they do not yet have protections for gender identity.

In another part of the Union foyer, people from LGBT organizations and small businesses set up tables to share information about their work. Groups included Minnesota�s Gender Education Center, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Chicago�s About Face Theatre, and Ann Arbor, Michigan publisher Firebrand Books.

Elizabeth-Marie Hedrick, a volunteer with Cincinnati�s Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network chapter, enjoyed the chance to talk with youth interested in starting a school group.

�This conference is a wonderful opportunity for learning,� she said. �It�s so great to see a diverse group of females, males and other genders.�

Sally Green, Midwest field organizer for the Human Rights Campaign, was excited to with student activists.

�The people who come to this conference are leaders on their campus. It is a good way to connect with them and do outreach to young people,� Green said.

The conference offered something for everyone, and folks seemed to get along splendidly. An LGBT Buddhist group had a table just steps away from BankOne representatives, and when students were too tired from staying up too late, they catnapped on Ohio Union couches.

During one of the final sessions, sex educators Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot fielded tough questions from students like, �How do you meet someone that you like?� and �How do you overcome shyness?�

They had the audience giggling and chatting with their witty, honest answers.

The Midwest conference is held on a different campus each year. The next one will be hosted by Iowa State University.

 


Sodomy laws should remain, Texas tells high court

Washington, D.C.--The state of Texas has told the U.S. Supreme Court that a 1986 decision upholding sodomy laws is still correct, and the court should uphold them again in a case it will decide this year.

Texas filed its brief February 18 with the high court in Lawrence v. Texas, which challenges the state�s �homosexual conduct� law.

At stake is the right of 13 states to keep laws on their books outlawing oral and anal sex between consenting adults. A ruling could render all of these laws unconstitutional.

Oral arguments will be heard by the high court March 26, with a decision due by the end of June.

As late as 1960, all fifty states had so-called �sodomy� laws. Now, only 13 remain. Four, including Texas�, apply only to gays and lesbians. The others include heterosexual acts, but are almost exclusively used against gays. Ohio repealed its sodomy law in 1972.

While few people are charged under the sodomy laws, they are often used to paint gays and lesbians as criminals in unrelated areas such as employment and child custody.

In the Supreme Court case, the gay and lesbian Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund represents John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were found guilty of �homosexual conduct.�

The two men were arrested September 17, 1998 when Houston police, responding to a false report of an armed intruder, burst into Lawrence�s apartment and found the two men having anal intercourse.

They were arrested, and each paid a $200 fine plus $141.25 in court costs after spending the night in jail.

The Texas Court of Appeals ruled that the state�s sodomy law was constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case December 2, and in doing so will reconsider its often-criticized 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision giving states the right to pass such laws.

Lambda�s brief on behalf of the men, which was filed January 16, argues that Texas� law violates guarantees of liberty and privacy. Lambda also says it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution�s Fourteenth Amendment by outlawing acts by gays and lesbians that it permits heterosexuals to do.

Texas says that there are three questions of law before the court:

Whether the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection;

Whether the state violated the men�s due process rights to liberty and privacy;

Whether Bowers v. Hardwick should be overturned.

A substantial amount of Texas� brief claims that the Bowers decision is correct and that nothing in history or law has changed in the 16 years since it was handed down.

As it did in the state courts, Texas claims that its sodomy law advances the state�s interest in �the long-standing moral disapproval of homosexual conduct, and the deterrence of such immoral sexual activity, particularly with regard to the contemplated conduct of heterosexuals and bisexuals.� The law, which originally applied to heterosexuals also, was changed in 1973 to apply only to same-sex relations.

Lambda argued that society�s attitudes towards gays and lesbians have changed, and pointed to the disappearance of other state sodomy laws--12 have been repealed or voided by state courts since the Bowers ruling.

Texas responds: �Four decades of gradual but incomplete decriminalization does not erase a history of 150 years of universal reprobation. A recent trend towards uneasy toleration--even a trend involving a majority of the fifty states--cannot establish a tradition �deeply rooted� in our national history and tradition. Petitioners mistake new growth for deep roots.�

Harris County, Texas assistant district attorney William J. Delmore III, who represents the state, also includes an argument that has not been used before--that Lawrence and Garner can�t claim the law discriminates against them for being gay because there is no proof that they are exclusively homosexual.

�That�s in there because it might be something for some of the justices to accept,� said Delmore.

Delmore also told the Gay People�s Chronicle that, �I would never have chosen for my career to be defined by this case.�

Texas refutes Lambda�s claim that the 1996 Romer v. Evans decision should help overturn Bowers v. Hardwick.

In Romer, the court ruled that gays and lesbians as a class could not be denied equal protection due to animus or social constructs. The decision voided a Colorado constitutional amendment banning gay civil rights laws.

Shortly afterward, the court allowed a ruling upholding a nearly identical Cincinnati charter amendment to stand, on the grounds that it was a local matter.

Texas cites the 1998 Cincinnati case, Equality Foundation of Greater Cincinnati, Inc. v. City of Cincinnati, as well as federal cases upholding the military gay ban to make its claim that �homosexuals do not constitute a suspect class and that there is no fundamental right to engage in homosexual conduct.�

Texas cited 91 U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. circuit court, and state supreme court decisions to support their case--40 of them rendered since Bowers v. Hardwick.

Delmore said he has been notified that ten separate friend of the court briefs were filed with his brief on behalf of 20 organizations and individuals.

Those include the Family Research Council, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, and the American Center for Law and Justice representing the familiar anti-gay establishment. Also supporting sodomy laws are Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish activist group; the Coalition of American Veterans; the Texas Eagle Forum, Daughters of Liberty Republican Women, and Spirit of Freedom Republican Women.


Rallying against war

Gene Epstein, left, and Anne Dabb joined over 1,200 other protesters in voicing their opposition to proposed attacks on Iraq.

The February 15 protest was followed by a march from Cleveland�s Trinity Cathedral to the federal building at East 6th St. and Lakeside Ave., where the rally continued before protesters returned to the cathedral.

The event was part of an international day of mobilization against the impending attacks on Iraq. Globally, protests drew an estimated 6 million people, including one million in Rome, 750,000 in London and 150,000 in San Francisco. Many of these rallies had large LGBT contingents, with rainbow flags dominating TV images from Rome and Berlin.

--Anthony Glassman

 

 


Judy Maruszan to leave Cleveland center post

Cleveland--After more than five years at the helm of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center�s Speaker�s Bureau and Safe Schools Are For Everyone programs, Judy Maruszan�s last day will be February 28.

Maruszan joined the center�s staff in October of 1997. After the suicide of Robbie Kirkland, a gay teen attending the all-boys St. Ignatius High School, then-executive director Linda Malicki began the center�s efforts to put together a program to reach out to area schools. After securing funding for the program, which would send trained speakers into the community to educate people on LGBT matters, Maruszan was selected as the coordinator.

�Judy really is the heart and soul of the SSAFE program,� Malicki said. �When I hired her, I hired her to research other programs across the country and develop our program, and she developed a great program.�

�She just had a perfect personality and skill set for this program,� Malicki continued, pointing to Maruszan�s abilities as an �alliance-builder� and her facility in creating compromises that benefit all parties involved.

�Judy has been an especially effective staff person at the center for almost six years,� noted current executive director David Smith. �She has always given 110 percent, as evidenced by the fact that she played a major role in the staff retreat that we had last week.�

�At that off-site, the staff fleshed out the next steps in the strategic plan that resulted in planning the specific activities that the center will be involved in during the next year,� he continued. �Judy may even return, on a contract basis, to present some programs herself.�

While Maruszan does not yet have a new job lined up, she felt that she had accomplished all she could at the helm of the SSAFE program. She will take with her fond memories of the highs and lows of the last six years.

�Going back to the beginning in 1997, I have never forgotten an answering machine message that came through to the center on the day after a Plain Dealer article announced that I would be organizing a program to help make schools safer for LGBT youth,� she recalled. �The message was from a woman who said, �Over my dead body� would we ever be successful.�

�Well, she may be dead because since then, in over 250 presentations, 7,500 people have heard our message about who we are, the value of our youth and all queer people, and how to create safe schools, workplaces and communities.�

 


Bill would allow same-sex partners to remain in U.S.

Washington, D.C.--A New York member of Congress hopes to make it easier for the non-American same-sex partners of American citizens to remain in the country as permanent residents.

The Permanent Partners Immigration Act, introduced February 13 by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) would allow U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor their partners for immigration.

Currently, only legally married spouses are permitted this right, which often makes it impossible for bi-national same-sex couples to stay together in the United States.

The bill will add the phrase �or permanent partner� after �spouse� to every section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that applies to legally married couples. It would only apply to same-sex couples.

�My bill is simply a matter of common sense and fairness,� said Nadler, whose district includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. �Why do we allow the government to tear apart committed and loving couples just because of who they love? The answer is that there is no excuse for this gratuitous cruelty, and my bill would correct that.�

Nadler�s proposal subjects same-sex partners to the same restrictions and enforcement standards as married heterosexuals, including the same penalties for fraud.

�The bill only demands that those people in same-sex permanent partnerships receive equal treatment to those who can get legally married,� said Nadler. �Not an iota more.�

This is the third session of Congress that Nadler has introduced the bill. It died in committee the previous two times.

According to Nadler spokesperson Eric Schmeltzer, the bill has gained support since it was first introduced.

Schmeltzer said the current bill has 89 original co-sponsors and will pick up more. That is double the number of original co-sponsors from last session.

�I�m not going to be unrealistic under Republican president and congress,� said Schmeltzer, �but people talk about gays and lesbians more positively now.�

�The point of introducing the bill now is to get support oiled up,� said Schmeltzer, �by creating an atmosphere where people feel the need to pass the bill.�

Opposition to the bill is coming from Dan Stein, the executive director of the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The measure is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, and the New York City Council.

Countries that already allow same-sex partners to sponsor for immigration include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

 


 

News Briefs

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

Second hearing is set in March for Covington ordinance

Covington, Ky.--A proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city�s human rights ordinance will have a second public hearing on March 25.

At the first hearing on February 11, Mayor Irvin �Butch� Callery said that he had received a number of calls, especially from elderly residents, who wanted to speak on the proposed changes but could not make the meeting because of the cold weather.

At the February 11 meeting, 38 people spoke in favor of expanding civil rights protections in the city, and three spoke against it. The proposal would also add age, marital and parental status to the ordinance. In addition, it would apply the ordinance to employment and public accommodations. The ordinance currently only covers housing.

The five-member city council can vote on the ordinance after public hearings are finished. A vote is expected some time in April.

Nominee questioned on Amendment 2

Washington, D.C.--A nominee for a seat on the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is facing opposition for his defense of a Colorado constitutional amendment that banned gay rights laws.

Democratic senators on February 12 questioned whether Timothy Tymkovich went beyond his official duties as state solicitor general when he criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for overturning Amendment 2 in a law journal article.

Tymkovich argued that his position as the state�s chief lawyer required him to defend Amendment 2.

But several Democrats worried that the law journal article showed that Tymkovich was unwilling to accept the high court�s ruling against the amendment. In the article, Tymkovich and two colleagues argued that the ruling illustrated �judicial histrionics� and complained that it was �merely another example of ad hoc, activist jurisprudence without constitutional mooring.�

The Human Rights Campaign and the Alliance for Justice, a liberal group that monitors judicial appointments, said they are lobbying against Tymkovich�s confirmation.

None of the Democrats who questioned Tymkovich--Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Charles Schumer of New York--said they would oppose his appointment. Most congratulated him on his nomination, and Kennedy even noted that some of his friends had urged him to support Tymkovich.

Stonewall Democrats name new leader

Washington, D.C.--Dave Noble will be the new executive director for the National Stonewall Democrats, the group announced on February 18.

Noble, 27, most recently served as a consultant for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a group that works to get LGBT candidates elected to public office.

Before that, Noble served with the campaign of Jim Roth, the first openly gay elected official in Oklahoma, and managed Myrth York�s campaign for governor of Rhode Island. Noble was also the first openly gay executive director of Young Democrats of America.

Pa. state school gives partner benefits

Philadelphia--Temple University will soon become the first public university in Pennsylvania to offer benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees.

The policy will cover about 2,100 white-collar staff, faculty and graduate students who are represented by a union, or nearly 40 percent of Temple�s full-time employees, university officials said February 14.

The new benefit will help keep the school competitive and won�t cost Temple or the state any extra money, Temple President David Adamany said.

Adamany doesn�t think Temple�s decision--which came during months of union negotiations--will necessarily lead other state-related schools to follow suit.

The University of Pittsburgh has been battling a lawsuit by seven gay and lesbian workers since 1996. At Penn State, a private fund set up by an anonymous donor has enabled three employees to sign up for partner benefits, a spokesman said.

Temple, with 33,000 students, gets part of its annual budget from the legislature. Some state lawmakers said they may try to punish Temple for its decision.

�We should defund them totally,� said State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry.

Teen arrested in park murder

Vancouver, B.C.--A suburban man has been arrested in the 2001 murder of Aaron Webster, a killing that shocked the city�s gay community.

Charges are pending against a 19-year-old Burnaby man in the clubbing of Webster, 41, a photographer, who was attacked in an area popular with gay men in Stanley Park at about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 17, 2001, city police announced February 12.

Although investigators believed there were numerous witnesses, nobody previously came forward, perhaps out of fear for their own lives, police said. Constable Sarah Bloor said she hopes the arrest would encourage witnesses to report what they know.

The murder was followed by two other anti-gay attacks in British Columbia�s largest city, about 20 miles north of the U.S. border. In one of the other attacks, neither of which was fatal, two American servicemen were arrested.

Brazil court grants pension rights

Brasilia, Brazil--Brazil�s Supreme Court on February 14 said gay men and women have the right to receive their partners� social security benefits and pensions after their partners die.

Supreme Court President Marco Aurelio upheld an earlier decision by a federal judge in the southern Rio Grande do Sul state that extended to gay partners pension rights normally given to heterosexual spouses.

Since the June 2000 court ruling, several dozen gays and lesbians have received pensions after the deaths of their partners who paid into Brazil�s National Institute of Social Security, or INSS.

Yet local INSS offices in many cases refused to give benefits to gay partners and the institute appealed against the Rio Grande do Sul decision.

Aurelio said Brazil�s constitution made no distinction of sexual orientation when granting the right to a pension after the death of one�s spouse. That right also was valid for gay �companions,� Aurelio added.

A law that would give Brazilian same-sex couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples, with the exception of adoption rights, has been stalled in Brazil�s Congress for the past six years.

Los Angeles requires equal benefits

Los Angeles--Council members approved a measure that requires contractors doing business with the city to provide the same benefits to their employees� domestic partners that they give to married spouses.

City Council voted unanimously February 12 in favor of the ordinance.

The measure, which goes into effect April 1, covers contracts of more than $5,000. It does not require companies to give benefits they don�t already offer.

San Francisco was the first city to require contractors to provide domestic partner benefits if they provided spousal benefits, followed by Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., Seattle and Tumwater, Wash., and Minneapolis. California is considering a similar statewide measure.

Two held in massage parlor massacre

Cape Town, South Africa--Police on February 13 arrested the two men they believe murdered nine men at the gay Sizzlers massage parlor and escort service on January 20.

Police first thought that the attack was drug-related and involved a gang from Johannesburg. Ten men had their throats slashed and were shot in the head. Only one is still alive. Gay activists feared that it was a hate crime.

One of the suspects, a 26-year-old waiter, lived across the street from the massage parlor and had frequently served his alleged victims when he had worked at a nearby restaurant. His accomplice is a 44-year old cab driver who also chauffeured prostitutes to their engagements.

Police now believe that robbery was the motive.

Activists rally against sodomy laws

Topeka--Self-proclaimed �sexual outlaws� rallied February 15 against a Kansas law that criminalizes same-sex sodomy.

�We cannot allow the government to legislate our very own pleasure, our genitals and our bodies,� said Chantel Guidry in front of a crowd of about 100 cheering protesters on the steps of the Kansas Statehouse.

Holding signs that read �Proud to be a sodomite� and �State of Kansas out of our bedrooms,� protesters asked that the Kansas statute against anal and oral sex between same-sex couples be repealed.

Three other states ban only homosexual sodomy: Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. Both heterosexual and homosexual sodomy are illegal in nine states. The Texas law is presently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Robinson said she organized the protest to show state legislators there is widespread support for overturning the law if the U.S. Supreme Court fails to rule against all of the measures.


 

A mesmerizing, poetic story of love

Pedro Almodovars latest film is not to be missed

Pedro Almodovar is amazing. One after the other, he creates films that mesmerize, elate, haunt, amuse, hurt, and stay with the viewer forever. How does he do it?

Openly gay, and an overt pacifist, Almodovar has made a career with films that have been zany, frenetic, over-the-top examinations of the culture and politics of his homeland Spain. From his early works to his more recent films like Kika and All About My Mother, Almodovar has always made the inimitable humanity of his stories and characters front and center stage.

With his latest outing, Talk to Her, Almodovar has created a film so human, so beautifully imaginative and so wonderfully insightful, that one leaves the theatre completely overwhelmed and elated all at once.

For the first time, Almodovar has created a film where he explores the complex dynamics of a relationship between two heterosexual men.

The film opens with the two main characters, Marco and Benigno, watching a modern dance recital. Sitting next to each other, they are strangers. Yet the ways in which their two lives will intertwine from that point forward is the grist of Almodovar�s tale.

The dance performance they watch involves a woman, barefoot, wearing a thin slip, with ragged hair and a face filled with the pain of a life fully lived. Arms flailing, hair flying, she moves in exaggerated, lonely gestures towards a wall. She finds balance, stillness for a moment, and then keels over, in pain and exhaustion. Moments later, she rises and the journey of desperation begins again. Echoing her movements, with a slight delay, is another woman similarly dressed and bedraggled. This desolate dance is the heart of Benigno and Marco�s story. It is the very soul of Talk to Her.

Benigno is a nurse who, it seems, was born to play this role in life. First he cared for his mother for twenty years, never leaving her bedside till her death, and then for four years after that he cares for a dancer lying in a coma in the hospital at which he works. Alicia, the dancer, came to be in a coma during an auto accident on a very rainy day, reminiscent of the way in which the young boy dies in an auto accident in a heavy downpour in All About My Mother.

Benigno�s obsession with Alicia begins as he watches her in the dance studio across from the home he lives in during his mother�s illness and after his mother�s death. He falls in love with Alicia but can never tell her because he is too awkward, too shy, and not adept in matters of the heart. He is a virgin in more ways than one.

But after Alicia falls into a coma, Benigno is able to share with her everything he was unable to say to her when she was alive. He is able to be who he truly is only once she is completely unable to reject his affections, his love, his advances. Benigno�s obsession with this brain-dead dancer stops a hair short of necrophilia. And even while in her coma, Alicia is able to eventually reject Benigno and add immesurably to his cosmic loneliness by betraying him.

Marco on the other hand, is attracted to desperate women. His last lover, Angela, a hopeless drug addict, cause him too much pain and eventually the angst of living without her was an iota better than the angst of living with her. He obsesses about this lost love until he meets another desperate woman, Lydia.

Lydia, a famous matador, in a very chauvinistic sport, shares the same overwrought phobia of snakes as Angela, Marco�s lost love. Marco and Lydia meet as Lydia is dealing with the loss of her boyfriend, also a matador. Marco becomes Lydia�s protector and things are left unsaid just before Lydia gets gored in the arena by a bull.

Like Alicia, Lydia too ends up brain dead and in a coma in the same hospital. This is how Marco and Benigno�s lives get intertwined.

Almodovar�s script is beautifully lyrical and so complexly human that it will be a shame if it isn�t acknowledged as one of the best screenplays of the year.

The actors are marvelous every step of the way. As Alicia, Leonor Watling, is fresh, innocent and lyrical to watch. Rosario Flores, as Lydia the matador, creates a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, who is stopped from hitting rock bottom by her coma. And Geraldine Chaplin, looking beautiful and regal, as Alicia�s loving ballet mistress, is a revelation. Chaplin, the daughter of the silent-film master Charlie Chaplin, inhabits her role with dignity and grace.

But the film completely belongs to the two male leads. Javier Camara as Benigno and Dario Grandinetti as Marco are sheer perfection. They occupy their characters so completely that by the end I had fallen in love with both of them.

Camara infuses his Benigno with so much loneliness and so much longing , yet never playing into self-pity or self-indulgence, that you really do feel his pain. Camara is so lovable, even in his final acts of sheer desperation, that he will break you heart. When he proclaims to Marco that he really wants to hug him because he has never been hugged much in his life, his entire existence becomes totally palpable and understandable in that one quick moment of transparent vulnerability.

Marco�s vulnerability reveals itself in different ways, and Grandinetti�s restrained and quiet performance is equally evocative and emotionally shattering. Marco�s display of unconditional love for Benigno at the end allows Grandinetti to wade into the deepest and most turbulent vortices of pain and loss.

Antxon Gomez�s art direction is extremely strong. His color palette is warm, vivid, bright and explosive, just like the characters and situations in the film. Sonia Grande�s costumes are equally effective.

The lush and passionate score of the film adds so many layers to the piece that it is indescribable. Alberto Iglesias and Antonio Carlos Jobin have created a most evocative soundtrack to the film including a traditional Spanish bolero about the longing wailings of pigeons. The song �Cucurrucucu Paloma� is sung live in the film by Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso.

The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe is compelling and takes us into the myriad worlds of Almodovar�s imagination with agility and stunning imagery. He uses lighting and shadows in breathtaking ways to take us into the crazy worlds of love within which these characters are trying to find wholeness and salvation.

But none of this would be possible without the sure-footed and loving direction of Almodovar himself. He is the maestro, whose waving of the celluloid baton, creates a symphonic cinematic tapestry and humanitarian pastiche so rich and vivid that it is flawless in just about every way imaginable.

For some strange reason, Spain chose not to nominate this film� as its official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It is eligible however, to compete in all the major categories. It will be a crying shame if the screenplay, the score, the director and the two male leads are not nominated.

Talk to Her is not to be missed at any cost. Love in Almodovar�s world is painful, tempestuous, deadly and yet, ultimately and irrefutably redemptive. Go watch the sheer poetry of this film, and once again believe that without love, life is simply not worth living.

 

 

 

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