Final murder of 2002 looks like an anti-gay hate crime
Cincinnati--The 65th and last homicide victim of 2002 in the city is a gay man, shot down while he and three friends were walking to a club to celebrate New Year�s Eve.
Gregory Beauchamp, a 21-year old black gay male, was headed to Venus Nightclub in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood with his friends on December 31. At about 9 pm, a blue Cadillac pulled up alongside them, and the four or five African American men inside started yelling anti-gay epithets, according to the survivors of the attack.
Shots were fired from the automobile, and Beauchamp lay dead at West Liberty and Vine Streets, the victim of the final murder of the year.
According to Sgt. Joe Priestle of the Cincinnati Police homicide division, the murder has been reported as a hate crime for statistical purposes, but is being investigated simply as a homicide. Neither Cincinnati ordinances nor Ohio state law include sexual orientation in hate crime measures, so no enhancements would be possible in the case.
Beauchamp�s funeral was held on January 6.
�It was a very emotional, spiritual and moving experience,� said friend Victor P. Fabro, a Stonewall Cincinnati board member. �There were close to 500 people that attended, which included his family and many, many friends.�
�The three remaining witnesses are petrified about speaking to anyone,� he continued. �They feel they will be the next target.�
Daily newspapers made no mention of Beauchamp�s sexual orientation in their brief coverage of the crime, most of which was couched in statistics on the year or in terms of black-on-black violence. The Cincinnati Post wrote, �Harsh words from a car and a blast of gunfire left Gregory Beauchamp, 21, dead on the corner of West Liberty and Vine.�
One of the victim�s co-workers at the Lazarus department store asked Fabro if Beauchamp had been involved with drugs, a question spawned by the vagueness of the reporting.
�Gregory was opposed to drugs more than anyone I know,� Fabro noted.
Fellow Stonewall Cincinnati board member Dianna Brewer reiterated the witnesses� fear of further violence.
�We were told about the incident from one of his friends,� she said. �We are still trying to talk to the other three guys involved. They are scared to talk to anyone but we should have the full story soon.�
A car matching the description of the one driven in the attack was found a day later, late on January 1. It had been burned and there was a gas can in the back seat. Police brought the car in for examination.
Police are still looking for at least four suspects in the murder, and ask for anyone with information to call 513-3523040.
Military gay ban would give draftees an easy out
Washington, D.C.--A proposal to reinstate the draft could end the military ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers if it is enacted.
The measure was to be introduced in the House of Representatives the week of January 7 as one of the first orders of business for the new Congress by New York Democrat Charles Rangel, whose district includes the Harlem neighborhood.
According to Rangel, who opposes both a U.S. attack on Iraq and the ban on gay military service, one of the reasons why Congress fails to take the possibility of war more seriously is that only one member has a child in the enlisted ranks of the military.
�Service in our nation�s armed services is no longer a common experience,� Rangel wrote in the December 31 New York Times. �A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.�
Rangel calls for a return to �the tradition of the citizen soldier--with alternative national service for those who cannot serve because of physical limitations or reasons of conscience.�
Rangel says that a national draft during times of war would ensure a �shared sacrifice,� and his proposal does not exclude gays and lesbians.
�Nothing in our bill would bar service by lesbians and gays,� said Rangel press secretary Emile Milne. �When we say �shared sacrifice,� we mean everyone.�
The measure has no support among conservatives, who say Rangel is using the bill to both oppose the attack on Iraq and repeal �don�t ask, don�t tell.�
But the proposal has again brought the national spotlight on the military�s anti-gay policy, which is supported by President Bush.
A 1999 study conducted by Naval Postgraduate School professor Armando Estrada found that 47 percent of male combat Marines believe that if the draft is reinstated, gays and lesbians should be included like everyone else.
Northwestern University professor and military sociologist Charles Moskos pointed out that the gay ban makes a draft impossible.
�You can�t use a gay ban with a draft because that would make it too easy for people to get out,� he told researchers at the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military on January 1.
Under the present �don�t tell� policy, draftees that say they are gay or lesbian--whether it is true or not--would have to be rejected.
Moskos is the primary author of the policy and a staunch opponent of gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.
Moskos added that if there was a draft, it would become a �higher virtue� than the privacy rights of heterosexual soldiers, which has been the cornerstone of his opposition to letting lesbians and gays serve openly.
Covington, Ky.--Northern Kentucky�s largest city, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, is considering adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its human rights ordinance. But a Cincinnati anti-gay group has begun to organize their opposition, even before the bill is introduced.
Covington�s Human Rights Commission decided the current ordinance was incomplete and lacked enforcement power, said commissioner Charles King. He is also part of the Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance, a group working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
King said the changes originated with the commission about a year and a half ago, and were also worked on by the city manager and city solicitor.
Currently, Covington�s ordinance protects people from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accomodations based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex or age. Complaints are heard by the city manager, but there are no penalties for discrimination.
The commission wants to add sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, marital or parental status, and place of birth. Under the new proposal, the commission would hear complaints and be given enforcement powers.
The Human Rights Commission will propose the ordinance to the City Commission on January 21. The City Commission is made up of four commissioners and the mayor, all of whom vote following a public hearing.
Neither the commissioners nor the mayor have indicated how they will vote on the measure, but King believes it �looks positive.�
Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance steering committee member Dean Forster participated in �block walks� this summer, having conversations with Covington residents face to face.
�When the reason to change the law was presented as �No one should be discriminated against,� � said Forster, �people were very supportive of the idea.�
Cincinnati group crosses river
That is the fear of the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati, who, according to vice president David Miller, was called for assistance by Covington residents opposing the ordinance.
Ten years ago, CCV campaigned for a voter initiative to ban all Cincinnati gay and lesbian civil rights ordinances. Issue 3 passed by a 62-38 percent vote and is now Article 12 of the city charter.
More recently, they are behind the Defense of Marriage Act that passed the Ohio House last year, and have crossed the state to oppose health benefits for the partners of Cleveland Heights city employees.
However, unlike in Cleveland Heights where opponents were led by a council member, all of the opposition to Covington�s bill has come directly from Miller and CCV president Phil Burress.
Asked if there were residents in opposition that the Gay People�s Chronicle could speak to, Miller replied, �They exist, but I won�t give them to you.�
Burress, who also identifies himself as the chair of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, signed a two-page letter sent to 300 to 400 churches, pastors, and elected officials. The letter was also accompanied by a video and a publication produced by the anti-gay Family Research Council.
Unaware of CCV anti-gay activity
Covington Human Rights Commission members and Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance members interviewed were not fully aware of the depth of CCV�s anti-gay activity. This may be because the group�s redesigned web site emphasizes their anti-pornography activity and downplays the anti-gay mission.
But that mission is still a major part of the group.
�Don�t be misled!� warns Burress in the letter. �The proposed changes to Covington�s human rights ordinance are not about equality or protecting citizens from discrimination. They are about granting special protection to certain persons based on their private sexual behavior.�
�Gay people have been discriminated against a long time in our culture and we�d like to change that,� said Rev. Don Smith, who chairs the Covington Human Rights Commission and pastors the Community of Faith Presbyterian Church there.
�We want Covington to be a better place,� Smith added. �We want Covington to become a beloved community. And we think this can help.�
Miller countered that the new law is not needed because �there is no institutional and with-government-approval discrimination [by sexual orientation or gender identity] taking place.�
Asked what he is basing that information on, Miller said, �News. No one is coming forward.�
Miller said that even one instance of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong, �but not enough to change the law.�
Also, Miller said, �Current Kentucky law already protects people from all forms of discrimination under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.�
Neither Kentucky law nor the federal act include sexual orientation or gender identity.
�It�s misleading to say that homosexuals are deprived, powerless, and can�t change,� Miller continued. �And to do so creates instability in laws because it is a moving target.�
�Laws should be based on objective standards, not subjective feelings,� said Miller. �Otherwise it�s closer to mob rule, and away from the rule of law, and that�s the problem with this.�
A long fight is promised
However the City Commission votes, the losing side is vowing to continue to fight.
Forster said it is still possible the ordinance could be passed without the references to sexual orientation and gender identity. If that happens, his group will seek and support City Commission candidates that favor their version of the bill.
�It took several years for Louisville to pass one,� said Forster.
Miller said if the bill passes as proposed, CCV will not pack its tent and go home.
�Of course not!� he said. �We�ll just have to look at the next step.�
However, Kentucky, unlike Ohio, has no provisions to repeal laws through referendum, a favorite tactic of CCV.
Smith hopes Covington�s passage of its ordinance will shame Cincinnati into repealing Article 12.
Miller responded, �Cincinnati does not have to be responding to townships in other states. It�s part of the charter.�
Two other Kentucky cities include sexual orientation and gender identity in their human rights ordinances. They are Lexington and Louisville, which include all of Fayette and Jefferson counties. The western Kentucky town of Henderson repealed a newly-passed ordinance two years ago after an opponent replaced a supporter on council.
Lakewood, Ohio--When David Wallace and his partner Dan Reilly�s home was burglarized in December, they thought their homeowners� insurance would cover their losses. They were half right.
The policy, under Wallace�s name, covers spouses, dependents under 21, students under 24 and visitors to the house. It does not cover unmarried partners of either sex.
Reilly could be covered by renters� insurance, but it would require a separate policy with additional premiums and deductible.
That is standard for such policies, according to State Farm, Wallace�s insurer. He purchased the home and policy in 1998, and Reilly moved in with him in 2000. The two share bank accounts and credit cards, but without a marriage certificate, State Farm will not grant joint coverage.
Wallace insists that such a policy is discriminatory, since heterosexual couples have the option to marry while no state has legalized gay marriage.
"He's as much a relative as my mom," Wallace told Florida Today of Melbourne, Fla., where he lived for 18 years. "The only reason we are not married is because the state of Ohio doesn't allow us to be married. The freedom isn't there."
Insurance officials said that domestic partners do not have a financial stake in the home itself, only their personal belongings in it, so coverage under a homeowner policy would not be appropriate. Wallace counters that relatives and dependents covered under the policy would not have a financial interest in the house either.
Wallace also told the Gay People�s Chronicle, �My agent has informed me that he�s found a way to include Dan on my policy.�
�I think it has something to do with the fact that the house bills are paid out of our joint account, proving that Dan has a financial interest,� Wallace said.
Some insurance agents are careful to make sure that both partners are covered. In renters� insurance, most agents will put the name of the partner who buys it on the insurance policy, while more gay-friendly agents will put both partners� names on policies.
A Cleveland insurance agent noted that insurance companies adhere very closely to the terms of the contract. The people listed on insurance policies will be covered, while those not specifically mentioned will not.
He suggested making sure both partners were listed on homeowners� policies; having the home titled in both names aids in that. Failing that, he noted that the easiest way to get a domestic partner covered was to get additional renters insurance, with premiums usually running $25-$35 a month.
The agent asked that his name not be used. He was concerned that his insurance carrier would subject his policies to greater scrutiny if they saw his name here, although including domestic partners is not against regulations.
�A lot of companies are fairly homophobic,� he said.
It�s that homophobia that is at the heart of the matter. With a heterosexual, married couple, all their individual possessions would be covered under one plan, unlike if Reilly had taken out a renters insurance policy.
�Because the option to marry is not there, they could be thoughtful enough not to double the deductible,� Wallace noted. �If a married couple�s house gets broken into, they pay one deductible. If Dan had renters� insurance, we would have to pay two deductibles.�
�There were things that Dan brought into the relationship that were shared, and these were covered,� he continued. �The ironic thing is, since we have joint accounts, the things that weren�t covered will be replaced from those accounts, with my money.�
�I do believe there is a way to take the written policy and interpret it to cover that stuff, but they chose not to,� he concluded.
Brian Maze, a spokesperson for State Farm insurance�s regional office in Newark, Ohio, said that the issue was with Ohio�s definition of �family,� but that people should notify their agents when there is a change in their life.
�I think it�s very important when there is a change in the relationship, if someone moves in, notify the insurance agent to get the partner covered, either by getting additional insurance or adding them to the policy if their company allows it,� Maze said.
San Francisco--There is zero evidence you can catch HIV from sucking or getting sucked, says Jeffrey Klausner, director of STD Prevention and Control Services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Klausner laid out his conclusions in recent online chats with users of the Gay.com web site.
�The truth from the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco Department of Public Health is that the risk of transmission of HIV via oral sex is very, very, very, very, very low and may be zero,� Klausner wrote.
�Other sources of information in the U.K. and elsewhere are not based on sound epidemiological data.
�We recently completed a study of men in San Francisco who have only had oral sex and found zero new HIV infections . . . In terms of HIV, oral sex both ways is very, very safe.�
Klausner noted that �saliva has natural anti-HIV factors� and said sucking remains safe even if you have a sore in your mouth or a sore throat.
�There are no data that show that bleeding gums, sore throats, bad teeth or mouth sores actually increase the risk of transmission,� Klausner said. �For years, either we have not had data or had bad data. Now, reliable data shows the risk of HIV from oral sex is either zero or very, very low.�
Gay men can have as much oral sex as they want, he said.
�My advice is: Enjoy oral sex and get regular check-ups,� he said. �A good check-up includes throat testing for gonorrhea, rectal testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia, urine testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia and blood tests for herpes, syphilis and HIV.
�Demand these tests from your doctor, clinic or health department,� Klausner stressed. �These tests are out there and essential to maintaining good sexual health.�
The online chats, sponsored by the city health department and Internet Sexuality Information Services, take place in Gay.com�s Special Events Forum on the first and third Thursdays of the month from 11 p.m. to midnight Eastern time.
New York City--Conservative Judaism may be about to reopen discussion of the denomination�s ban on same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals--a move critics say could fracture the centrist branch of U.S. Jewry.
Judy Yudof, lay president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, wants the movement�s lawmaking body to decide whether its condemnation of gay sex still holds under current interpretations of religious law. The Torah�s prohibition against homosexual behavior is the reason Conservative Judaism bars gays from serving as rabbis and cantors.
Yudof plans to submit the question to the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, a panel of 25 rabbis, within the next month.
Yudof said she is not advocating a particular outcome, and she refused to discuss her views on the issue. She said she is simply seeking answers for Conservative Jews, who make up the second-largest branch of American Judaism, with just under a million Jews calling themselves as Conservative.
�I�ve just felt there is some concern out there--in the lay world at least--about the status of homosexuals within our movement,� said Yudof, whose organization represents about 800 North American congregations. �There are some people who feel uncomfortable about putting a restriction upon someone who admits to being a homosexual.�
The slightly larger and more liberal Reform movement ordains gay men and lesbians and blesses same-sex couples, while the smaller and stricter Orthodox sect does not.
The last time Conservative Jews reviewed the policy on gays was in 1992 in a fierce debate that ended in a compromise some dubbed �don�t ask, don�t tell.� The lawmaking committee barred gays from rabbinical schools but promised not to investigate students� sexual orientation. At the same time, the panel urged congregations, youth groups, summer camps and schools to welcome gays.
The committee chairman has the authority to decide whether to take up the issue. The chairman is Rabbi Kassel Abelson, who wants to maintain the ban, but he plans to step down in April. He could be succeeded by Rabbi Elliot Dorff, the vice chairman and an advocate of same-sex unions and ordaining gays.
Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Conservative movement�s main rabbinical school, declined to comment. But he has warned that ordaining gays would be a major break from Jewish law and would split the movement.
It could also move the Conservative branch closer to Reform Judaism and worsen relations with the Orthodox.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Sodomy law means calling someone �queer� is slander, court rules
San Antonio, Texas--Because Texas law forbids gay sex, calling someone �queer� is slanderous, the Texas Court of Appeals ruled in an opinion released December 18.
The case the court was examining revolves around a state inmate, Dan Thomas, who accused corrections officer William Bynum of slander by calling him �queer� in front of other prisoners.
When Thomas complained to prison officials, he claims Bynum then filed fake charges against Thomas. He also claims that shift lieutenant Billy Reese did not investigate the complaints against Bynum and did not let Thomas appear at a hearing to contest the charges Bynum filed.
Thomas filed a suit against Bynum, charging him with slander, fraud, civil rights violations and infliction of emotional distress. He also sued Reese for civil rights violations.
Angelini made references to an earlier Texas ruling in which the court ruled that, since homosexual activity is illegal in Texas, referring to someone as �queer� is automatically slanderous. That ruling was in 1980; a 1997 5th District Court of Appeals ruling in another case came to the same conclusion about the pejorative �faggot.�
The Texas �homosexual conduct� law is presently before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will rule on its constitutionality by the end of June.
Indiana responds to marriage suit
Indianapolis--The Indiana attorney general�s office has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by three same-sex couples who want the state to allow them to marry.
A male couple and two female couples asked Marion Superior Court Judge S.K. Reid to declare that Indiana�s law banning same-sex marriage violates the state constitution�s guarantee of equal privileges for all its citizens.
The lawsuit was filed by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the couples. One of the female couples is from Hendricks County; the other two couples are from Indianapolis.
In a brief filed January 3, the attorney general�s office argued that Indiana�s prohibition against same-sex marriages was constitutional because the state had a compelling interest in promoting traditional marriages and procreation.
State and federal courts have long recognized the importance of the family to an open society, wrote special counsel Thomas M. Fisher.
Fisher also said that striking down the same-sex prohibition could undermine the legislature�s ability to prohibit other forms of marriage, such as polygamy.
Sean Lemieux, the ICLU�s lead attorney on the case, said he had not yet read Fisher�s brief. However, he said gay and lesbian couples have the same interest in marriage as heterosexual couples.
The couples have asked the court, if it does not strike down the same-sex marriage prohibition, to require the state to recognize the Vermont civil unions that the couples obtained in 2000.
Civil union by any other name
Sacramento, Calif.--State lawmakers may drop the idea of a civil union law in favor of extending the same benefits through the existing domestic partner law.
Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, an out lesbian, will introduce a bill to add all of the rights granted to married heterosexual couples to the rights received by couples who register as domestic partners.
The five openly gay and lesbian California state legislators believe that they will have an easier time getting the rights and benefits for same-sex couples by dropping the �civil union� terminology.
�You tell me. What is the difference between domestic partnership protections and civil union protections?� openly gay assemblyman Mark Leno told the Bay Area Reporter. �It�s just words. We are probably going to be staying with the vehicle of domestic partnerships rather than create a new entity like civil unions.�
�Californians, along with the state legislators here, are familiar and comfortable with the term and concept of domestic partnerships.�
The plan is a reversal of Assemblyman Paul Koretz� vow to push civil unions similar to those in Vermont. Koretz� 2002 civil unions bill never made it out of an Assembly committee, and he said he would reintroduce it every year as long as he was in office, but he has opted to hold off on that route and instead co-sponsor Goldberg�s legislation.
Lima paper to carry same-sex unions
Lima, Ohio--Freedom Communications, Inc., the publisher of the Lima News, has become the first national newspaper chain to enact a policy requiring its papers to print same-sex union announcements.
�This is another huge step for gay and lesbian couples,� said Joan M. Garry, the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the media watchdog group who has been working on getting more newspapers to print same-sex union announcements.
According to GLAAD, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Columbus Dispatch already have policies in place allowing the publication of same-sex union announcements. The addition of the Freedom newspapers brings the number of papers that print the announcements to 181, GLAAD said.
Oldest gay bookstore closes
New York City--The Oscar Wilde Bookshop, the oldest LGBT bookstore in the country, will close this month.
The store opened in Greenwich Village in 1967 with several dozen books on its shelves. It expanded as the gay civil rights movement in New York gained momentum, and soon became the inspiration for other bookstores devoted to a gay and lesbian clientele.
The shop�s owner, Larry Lingle, said it was difficult to maintain a gay bookstore in the city because of the large book chains that offer a wider selection.
�I have lost a quarter of a million dollars over the last six years. And I just can�t take it anymore,� Lingle said.
In 1970, the store�s original owner, Craig Rodwell, helped organize a march to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots. That march evolved into the annual Pride celebrations.
The bookshop is one of only two gay bookstores remaining in New York. Creative Visions, also in Greenwich Village, is the other.
�It�s sad that the New York community is unwilling or unable to support a gay and lesbian bookstore,� said Deacon Maccubbin, owner of the Lambda Rising bookshop in Washington, D.C.
Man propositioned, then shot
Miami--A gay man was shot on New Year�s Eve after a heterosexual man mistook him for a woman and propositioned him.
Earnest Robinson, 23, was shot in the shoulder after Adrian Miller tried to pick him up.
�They thought I was something I wasn�t,� Robinson told the Miami Herald. �I said, �Leave me alone. I�m a man.� His friend was laughing at him and he got offended, and he shot me.�
Miller and his friend Billy Ledan were arrested and charged with attempted murder with a hate crime enhancement. Ledan was also charged with carrying a concealed weapon.
Robinson was listed on the police report as a transvestite, although he was not wearing women�s clothing at the time of the attack. He acknowledged that he is often mistaken for a woman.
Robinson was released from the hospital on January 3.
Marriage, civil union bills proposed
Boston--Just days after the death of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the Massachusetts legislature is poised to take up the issue in a positive way.
Several lawmakers have proposed bills, similar to a law passed in Vermont in 2000, that grant gay and lesbian couples virtually all the rights and responsibilities of marriage that are granted by state law.
Also proposed this year is a bill legalizing gay marriage, which would give same-sex couples all the benefits granted under federal law, and legislation that would grant health care benefits to the domestic partners of public employees.
The domestic partner bill has won approval in the state Senate at least three times, but has never come up for a vote in the House. Given this history, some advocates don�t believe the civil union bills have a chance of passing.
Sen. Jarret Barrios, D-Cambridge, the lead sponsor of one of the civil union bills, said it�s an issue of �fairness and justice.�
�The people of Massachusetts are fair-minded,� said Barrios, who is gay. �The question is will our legislature and governor allow fairness to come to the fore this legislative session.�
Even if not approved, supporters said, Massachusetts should at least begin the dialogue.
�You have to start somewhere,� said Sen. Cheryl Jacques, D-Needham, who is lesbian. �A discussion around civil unions will educate the public about the struggles gay families have when it comes to issues of health care, estate planning, adoption all the things that affect family life.�
Bills support and oppose adoption
Denver--Colorado lawmakers are planning to introduce bills this year that would allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt children and to form civil unions similar to those established in Vermont.
Rep. Alice Madden, a Boulder Democrat, will introduce a gay adoption bill.
�I�m basically sick of being on the defensive with these civil rights issues,� she told the Daily Camera.
An opposing measure will most likely be introduced, banning gay adoptions. One passed the state�s House last year, but was defeated in the then-Democrat controlled Senate. Control of the Senate, however, has since shifted.
Rep. Tom Plant is also expected to propose a civil union bill.
Colorado has a ban on gay marriages; Gov. Bill Owens signed it into law his second year in office.
�It�s a chance for the legislature to live up to the Pledge of Allegiance,� Plant said, ��liberty and justice for all,� not just words for reciting.�
NGLTF joins opponents of Iraq war
Washington, D.C.--The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force threw its weight behind a coalition opposed to war with Iraq by endorsing a Dec. 26 statement from the coalition.
Keep America Safe: Win Without War was started by groups as diverse as the National Council of Churches, the National Organization for Women and the Rainbow Push Coalition.
The NGLTF will not reallocate any funds or personnel for anti-war organizing.
LGBT activists opposed to the war had pressured the organization to take a stand during their annual �Creating Change� conference in November.
NGLTF had opposed the 1991 Gulf War, with mixed results. According to former executive director Urvashi Vaid, it brought the organization the respect of a large number of progressive groups, but it also cost it the support of some moderate and conservative gays.
�We are patriotic Americans who share the belief that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction,� the statement NGLTF endorsed reads. �We support rigorous U.N. weapons inspections to assure Iraq�s effective disarmament. We believe that a preemptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests.�
Swedes plan gay adoption agency
Stockholm, Sweden--A Swedish gay group said December 27 it plans to start an adoption agency for gay men and lesbians because existing agencies won�t consider gay couples for international adoptions.
The Parliament in the Scandinavian nation of 8.9 million voted last summer to allow gay adoptions starting Feb. 1, but adoption agencies have said they won�t consider gay couples for international adoptions because they fear it would disrupt their relations with organizations in the countries of origin.
�We will work for the establishment of an adoption bureau for homosexuals,� said Soeren Andersson, chairman of gay rights group RFSL.
He said adoption organizations exaggerate the objections to gay adoptions in other countries.
Inga Naeslund, a spokeswoman for Sweden�s largest adoption agency, Adoptionscentrum, said a gay adoption agency should focus on children from countries where gay adoptions are legal, like the United States and South Africa.
Iceland and the Netherlands also allow gay couples to adopt children. Britain recently lifted a ban on gay couples adopting, but all of the law�s provisions are not expected to take effect until 2004.
Denmark allows gays to adopt the children of their partners.
Naeslund said Swedish parents adopt about 1,000 children every year, mostly from South Korea, Colombia, China and Russia. None of those countries allows gay adoptions, she said.
Judges may be barred from Scouts
Sacramento, Calif.--The California Supreme Court is considering prohibiting state judges from being members of the Boy Scouts because of its refusal to admit gays, the chief justice announced December 19.
The move comes months after San Francisco�s judges and others cut ties with the organization for the same reason. The San Francisco Bar Association and other groups recently asked the high court to revamp the rules.
California judicial canons, controlled by the Supreme Court, already demand that judges divest themselves from groups that discriminate against women and minorities. Rules adopted seven years ago also forbid membership in organizations that discriminate against lesbians and gays, but make exception for �nonprofit youth organizations.�
Year�s first baby has two moms
Washington, D.C.--Helen Rubin gave birth to the area�s first baby of the year at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, an infant girl who necessitated her mother�s move from Virginia to Maryland.
The baby has two mothers.
Rubin and her partner of 12 years, Joanna Bare, conceived the child through artificial insemination, and Bare wants to adopt the child so that both women can be full legal parents to the little girl. Virginia law, however, does not allow second-parent adoption.
Under Virginia law, the only way Bare could adopt the child and have legal rights in its upbringing would be if Rubin gave up her parental rights.
The couple�s attorney, Mina Ketchie, noted that Virginia is not a gay-friendly state, unlike its neighbors Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
�Quite frankly, in these matters of law, Virginia is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century--and we�re in the 21st century,� she noted.
Vandals attack gay-friendly church
Durham, N.C.--Leaders of Calvary United Methodist Church want to know why their church has been vandalized twice during their most holy time of the year.
Vandals threw a large rock through the window of the church December 17 and more came Dec. 21 to throw bricks at the stained-glass windows. The attacks caused thousands of dollars in damage.
�It was just disbelief at first. It looked like a war zone or something,� said Pastor Laurie Hays Coffman.
The church is the only one of its kind in North Carolina and South Carolina that embraces gays and lesbians, Coffman said.
�There are people who don�t want Christian churches to look like that, and be so multicultural and multidimensional,� she said.
Whatever the reason, Coffman said the vandals are still welcome to worship in the church.
�They need not break the windows to be included. They can come in the doors and be a part of the loving healing ministry that�s going on here already,� he said.
U.S. view of condoms changes
Washington, D.C.--A government fact sheet that had long promoted condoms as �highly effective� in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases now offers a more neutral summary of the pros and cons of condom use.
Congressional Democrats charge that politics are trumping science.
Health and Human Services Department officials say the revisions are consistent with the science. They deny any political interference.
On the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention�s web site, the condom fact sheet had said that refraining from sex was the best way to prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The recently posted version now says condoms �can reduce the risk of STD transmission.� It adds: �However, no protective method is 100 percent effective, and condom use cannot guarantee absolute protection against any STD.�
Craig Chesters new memoir offers
Some actors suck the energy from a room just by entering it. They play a nimble game of demanding your adulation while also keeping you at arm�s length. Come close and pay tribute, they coo--but not that close. After all, I am a star!
Craig Chester is not that kind of person. Certainly, Chester, the star of the �90s gay film chestnuts Swoon, Frisk, Kiss Me, Guido and Grief, openly craves your attention. But he�ll also return the favor, by taking genuine interest in you--and, admittedly, in what you think about him. The combination is endearing. When was the last time you heard an actor preface a sentence by apologizing, �Watch out, I�m going to be dropping some names here,� before doing just that: telling firsthand tales about Martin Scorsese, Parker Posey or Ileana Douglas?
Why the Long Face? The True Life Adventures of an Independent Actor (L.A. Weekly Books/St. Martin�s Press) is very much like a face-to-face conversation with Chester himself. It is wildly candid, shamelessly ingratiating . . . and utterly likable.
At a time when feckless star memoirs clog the bookshelves, and when memoirs by non-celebrities often have more impact (see last year�s Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs), Chester�s tale occupies a middle ground. His name may not stir enormous recognition beyond the indie scene, but his retelling of extraordinary events make this a worthy read.
None of this, of course, comforts Chester, an urban neurotic who wears his ego on his sleeve. On a rainy November afternoon in Manhattan, Chester is dipping into a cup of warm soup at a cafe near his apartment. His angular, pleasing features and megawatt smile morph into a wince. He has one overriding fear: that Why the Long Face? will make him look like �an Anne Heche clone who belonged on Jerry Springer.� His fears are unfounded.
Chester had been writing a wry column for the gay magazine Instinct when the offer came for his first book.
�They wanted me to write about being out in Hollywood, the main reason why they approached me, but I told them I had other stories,� he said.
The centerpiece of the book, which will shock fans of Chester�s sleepy sexiness, is a congenital condition that deformed his face during adolescence. Chester underwent several drastic procedures to reverse the process. The retelling is harrowing, but never begs pity. While most actors have a narcissism born of mere insecurity, Chester�s concern with his physical appearance emanates from a dark place few actors have been.
Tracing his childhood from California�s San Gabriel Valley to suburban Dallas, Chester need not break a sweat to mine the black humor of his life. He grew up in a born-again Christian family, prone to no boundaries. He eventually learned that his love of performing would not be sated at Bible camp. Vivid depictions of his religious fanatic mother and a chain-smoking grandmother read like the Brady Bunch as written by Tennessee Williams.
Part of that may be because Chester�s piquant prose often overreaches. This is understandable for a novice, but merited better editing.
The main challenge, Chester said, was to �communicate what happened to me and not sound like a victim.� Writing the book was impeccable self-therapy, he said, but also tapped into an actor�s insecurity.
�I realized when I wrote the book why I�m an actor,� he said, �because I don�t really find myself as interesting as the characters I play. I�ve always been much more interested in other people and other people�s stories. Now, I am forced to wrote about myself, and I see how much it makes me uncomfortable.�
Not that Chester shrinks from the task. Why the Long Face? records his coming out process and the comfort found in acting. But it also recounts his excesses: a recreational taste for Ecstasy and booze which resulted in ego-bruising public episodes of projectile vomiting and a penchant for abusive relationships.
The chemical addictions were extinguished by 12-step meetings. Having been dumped by his latest beau while completing the book, Chester is still working on the boyfriend issue. Encouragement during this confessional time came chiefly from his close friend, actress Parker Posey, who Chester credits as his �phantom editor.�
Chester�s memoir veers between a chronological retelling and a thematic dissection of his life. Laughs are dispensed with a slight ache. Some people, however, will be disappointed by the book�s lack of clarification on the rise and fall of queer cinema, since Chester was there at the creation. For instance, where are renegade directors Tom Kalin and Gregg Araki these days? Why is Todd Haynes the only putative survivor of that brief cultural explosion?
Chester offers speculation on the demise of the genre, and the popularity of more genial fare like Will and Grace: �People are fine with gay characters as long as they�re making them laugh, doing their hair or decorating their homes.�
As the number of film and TV offers ebb, Chester has turned his energies to writing. Although a screenplay on gay conversion failed to find a studio, he is now shopping around Adam and Steve, a modern take on the �30s screwball comedy. Readings have taken place in Manhattan and Los Angeles, featuring a knock-out cast including Malcolm Gets, Parker Posey, Margot Kidder, Lea DeLaria and Edward Hibbert, who does double-duty as Chester�s literary agent. At a recent Manhattan reading for investors, the audience, admittedly stacked with friends, roared through almost two hours of endearing improbabilities--including a �meeting cute� scene involving drug-induced diarrhea.
Chester wrote the screenplay not only to give himself a plum role, but to offer the world a depiction of �gay couples out there who are nesting, not collapsing at circuit parties,� he said.
Chester�s work on Adam and Steve will be briefly waylaid by publicity for Why the Long Face? In late January, he�ll sign copies at the Sundance Film festival, a homecoming of sorts since six of his films have been screened there.
Chester is already envisioning his next project: a script involving one weekend shared by actor Montgomery Clift, singer Libby Holman and writer Jane Bowles at Holman�s Connecticut getaway, Treetops. All three were known for fluid sexualities and troubled genius. But Monty holds the most fascination for Chester, since their destinies are at odds: The beautiful Clift lost his looks in an automobile crash; thanks to surgery, Chester made the transition from disfigurement to beauty.
�The fact that I had a deformed face is relevant in a way to my acting,� he admitted. To this day, Chester cannot bear to watch his own screen performances. |
Jay Blotcher is a freelance writer living in High Falls, N.Y.
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