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July 11, 2003

Cleveland Heights partner registry moves to council

Cleveland Heights--�I therefore hereby certify to council the initiative petition signatures,� said Clerk of Council Thomas Malone. A chamber packed with domestic partner registry supporters eagerly waited to hear his words.

The certification of 4,922 valid signatures at the July 7 council meeting clears the way for the first domestic partner registry in Ohio be on the November 4 ballot. If it passes, it would be the first one in the United States created by voter initiative.

The petitions were filed by Heights Families for Equality June 23, after the group collected signatures for three months. They needed 3,570 to move the measure forward.

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 residents and non-residents of the city. The registry would be maintained by a fee charged to the couples.

Prior to Malone�s announcement, 19 citizens addressed the council, 15 in favor of the registry and four opposed.

Council chambers and the hallway outside were packed with HFE members, 84 people wearing the group�s orange Tshirts. Eyes of many became teary as HFE spokesperson David Caldwell addressed the council.

Caldwell told the history of the proposed ordinance, and that of HFE.

The group originally came together in April 2002 to block attempts to repeal domestic partner benefits that city council had given to municipal workers. That ordinance made Cleveland Heights the only city in Ohio to provide spousal health benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees.

A group led by council member Rev. Jimmie Hicks, Jr., now called Cleveland Heights Families First Initiative, attempted to repeal the benefits ordinance. They failed to get enough petition signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

CHFFI is now the only organized opposition to the proposed registry.

Caldwell thanked council for its 6-1 vote in favor of the benefits, and took aim at Hicks, referring to HFE members Keli Zehnder and Deb Smith.

�These are people�s lives, not lifestyles,� said Caldwell. �I know that Rev. Hicks says he�s not against Keli, Deb, and their daughters. He�s just against changing laws to protect them.�

Caldwell told council that the registry initiative will heal the �open wound from the benefit fight� by allowing the citizens to settle once and for all how the city feels about its GLBT citizens.

�Elections are the way democracies settle disagreements,� said Caldwell.

Katie Alex, who gathered more than 500 signatures, told council that she encountered people disappointed that they could not sign the petitions because they were not residents of the city.

�No one whose life touches our city should be shut out of this registry,� said Alex.

Delores Noll of Stow told council her life touched Cleveland Heights when she paid a $135 traffic fine there.

Noll co-founded the Pride! Kent university student group, then called Kent Gay Liberation Front, in 1971. She told council of a documentary about Rosa Parks with a clip filmed in the early 1960s.

�A sign in the background said, �They want special rights, not equal rights,� said Noll. �And I thought, wow, that one has been around a while.�

�I support the registry. For me, it�s a justice issue,� said Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland minister Peggy Clason.

Betty Lau of the Cleveland Heights Commission on Aging stated her support of the registry by reading a letter that American Express included with her credit card statement.

The letter explained cardholder benefits, including those extended to domestic partners. The company requires proof of the partnership, and the letter listed municipal registration as one way this can be done.

�This is one of the hundreds of ways a domestic partner registry would benefit our residents,� said Lau.

Doug Braun held up an anti-registry fundraising letter Hicks had sent to the �Braun Family�--him and his partner.

�Thank you for recognizing my family,� said Braun.

Rita O�Connor expressed outrage over the registry saying, �The homosexual political agenda is impinging on what I want.�

O�Connor said that agenda includes lowering the age of consent to 12 by 2010, and that due to AIDS, violence, and drugs, the lifespan of a homosexual male is 41 years. She said the registry is �one step in the door to legalizing marriage.�

O�Connor, who is a nurse, told council members she would tell them �in private� about what she has seen in the rectums of homosexual men, �who end up in the ER with colostomies, with cancer, or dead.�

Joseph Rothenberg, also a nurse, refuted O�Connor�s gay male lifespan claims. �I�m 48, so apparently I�m beating the odds.�

Rothenberg told of visiting his partner�s mother in the hospital. He noticed she had symptoms of pneumonia.

�When I tried to tell the nurse what I was seeing,� said Rothenberg, she said, �I don�t have to listen to you. You aren�t family.�

�I don�t know if this registry would have been enough for her,� said Rothenberg, �but a registry is all about creating stable institutions for families.�

James Redhed, a vocal opponent of the benefits last year, said signature gatherers that approached him were not honest about what the registry would do.

�I could have signed the petition, then filed a lawsuit for fraud,� said Redhed, �but I decided not to.�

Later, Redhed said, �It�s clear that it has some support, and there are more constructive ways to oppose it.�

�Win, lose, or draw, I�d rather have it all be honest,� said Redhed, �I know we [Families First] had trouble with our circulators last year.�

�I made myself odious to Families First last year,� Redhed added, �On both sides, it needs to be about truth and nothing but the truth.�

Mayor Ed Kelley announced that the ordinance was referred to the Administrative Services Committee, to study the proposal.

�The committee will see what other communities with registries do and how they do it find out how much it costs,� said Kelley.

The committee will report to council on August 4.

Under the city�s charter, council has three options with the proposal. They can pass it themselves, work with HFE to amend it, or send it to voters.

It is expected that council will put the issue on the November ballot.

�We�re moving forward with this,� said Kelley. �There will be no glitches, hold-ups, or finding that the petitions are wrong.�

 


British Columbia joins Ontario with same-sex marriage

Vancouver--British Columbia became Canada�s second province with same-sex marriage on July 8 when its highest court removed a one-year delay from an earlier decision.

The B.C. Court of Appeals had already ruled May 1 that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but delayed its effect until July 12, 2004, the same date a similar ruling by an Ontario appeals court was to take effect.

The delays were intended to give the federal government time to draft a new marriage law. But last month Ontario�s highest court, on an appeal of the earlier decision, ruled that the province must allow same-sex marriage immediately. Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples have been married in Ontario since then.

The three same-sex couples in the British Columbia suit then asked the court to remove the waiting period for their ruling�s enforcement. The court, noting that their request was unopposed by the government, granted it.

�It is important to note that these applications are consented to by counsel for the Attorney General of Canada and are unopposed by counsel for the Attorney General of British Columbia,� the justices wrote.

They also noted that the federal government is moving quickly toward changing the national marriage law to include same-sex couples.

�It is common ground that the federal government has instructed its counsel not to appeal either the Ontario Court of Appeal decision [for marriage] or the decision of this court,� wrote the justices, �and that marriages between same-sex couples have been taking place in Ontario since the . . . decision was released.�

Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien announced last month that the government would introduce a bill in Parliament to permanently change the definition of marriage.

The premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein, said that province would invoke the �notwithstanding clause� of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian equivalent of the Bill of Rights, were gay marriage to be legalized nationally. The clause allows provinces to exempt themselves from legislation created by court order through an act of provincial parliament, and must be renewed every five years.

If the government passes legislation changing the definition of marriage through the national parliament, however, it is unclear whether Alberta could invoke the �notwithstanding clause,� leading Chr�tien and Justice Minister Martin Cauchon to submit draft marriage legislation to the Supreme Court of Canada for their opinion on the matter.

Alberta called on the federal government to appeal the Ontario ruling, as did a number of anti-gay groups in the country, including Real Women and Focus on the Family-Canada.

The two �traditional values� groups are threatening to file an appeal of the Ontario Court of Appeals decision since the government did not. The organizations accuse the government of neglecting its duty.

Whether private groups have the standing to appeal the decision, however, is unclear.

�According to our lawyers, we are unable to respond to these questions at this time as the matter is not entirely clear-cut,� said Paula Creighan, a spokeswoman with the Department of Justice in Ottawa. �We are currently trying to ascertain the position on this matter.�

A third ruling for same-sex marriage, handed down by Justice Louise Lemelin of the Superior Court of Qu�bec, also gave the government until July 2004 to change the law. There has been no word yet on whether that decision�s delay will be revisited.



Officers job harassment case to be heard in federal court

Columbus--The case of a police officer�s anti-gay harassment on the job will move forward in federal court instead of an Ohio job discrimination panel.

The Ohio Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has notified Chris R. Vickers that he may proceed with a federal civil rights action against his former employer for sex stereotyping, discrimination, and harassment.

Vickers, 33, had complained to the EEOC that during his 12 year employment at the Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster, southeast of Columbus, his colleagues and supervisors verbally and physically harassed him about his sexual orientation.

Normally, such cases are heard by the commission. But because of the severity of the harassment and the sworn affidavit of another officer who witnessed the incidents, the EEOC will allow the case to be heard in court instead.

Vickers� attorney, Thomas Watkins of Stow, said he filed the request for the court hearing with the commission on June 19. He received their authorization letter July 9.

Watkins can now file the action in the U.S. District Court in Columbus. Federal practice attorney Randi Barnabee of Macedonia is assisting Watkins with the case. They expect to file before the end of July.

The suit will be brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1989 Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins case, can be applied to employment discrimination for non-conformity to gender stereotype behavior expected by another person or social norms.

Barnabee was the first to successfully apply that case to protect a transgender woman from employment discrimination.

In that case, which settled in June 2002, a Cleveland federal judge ruled against the employer�s motion to dismiss a case brought by a transgender woman called �Mrs. Doubtfire� by co-workers.

That ruling may help Vickers� suit because both courts are part of the Sixth Circuit.

�But the law is just the vehicle to get the case there,� said Watkins. �This is a shocking case. A jury just needs to see it.�

�The suit will be heard in Columbus,� said Watkins, �which should be a gay-friendly jury.�

The EEOC complaint outlines 12 incidents of alleged verbal and physical abuse, most of which occurred in 2002, following Vickers� investigation of complaints made by a gay medic against a male doctor.

Vickers alleges that his chief later revealed publicly that Vickers had been sexually molested by a relative as a young child.

�My co-workers and the police chief began referring to me as �Kiss� instead of �Chris,� Vickers told the EEOC. �They drew crude pictures of me with penises in or near my mouth. When I was in a foul mood because of their harassment they suggested that I was having a �heavy flow day� and that one of them should �pluck the tampon out [of me], put a new pad in, and lose some of that pressure.� One of them assaulted me by trying to rub a sanitary napkin/pad in my face. He finally settled for taping it to the back of my uniform coat.�

Vickers alleged that co-workers continuously referred to him as a �fucking faggot,� and attempted to grab his genitals and crotch. One told Vickers he hadn�t �been sucked off in a long time� and asked Vickers, �Do you wanna suck me off?� Vickers complained that colleagues tampered with his firearm, and impressed �FAG� on all his two-part pressure-sensitive report forms so each second page had the epithet emblazoned on it.

According to Vickers, an icon was posted on the office computer saying �Gay Chris and Josh,� referring to another employee believed to be gay, for a month until a computer specialist was called to remove it.

Vickers said the icon was seen by staff and visitors to the office in addition to other officers.

�My co-workers� harassment was more than just verbal and visual,� said Vickers, �It escalated into physical acts as well.�

�Once, we were conducting some impromptu handcuff training, and one of my co-workers immobilized me with my hands cuffed tightly behind me,� said Vickers. �While still behind me, he placed his head on my back and simulated having anal sex with me.�

Vickers said the police chief took pictures of this while making anti-gay comments, and later posted the photo on the department�s window.

Vikers said that co-workers laced his beverage with a topical anesthetic used in emergency rooms, causing his mouth and throat to become numb.

Vickers accuses the hospital of retaliation against him when he complained about the harassment.

�It�s mind-boggling that this stuff should happen today,� said Watkins, �Even the supervisor joined the harassment.�

�But it is a small town,� said Watkins.

Vickers resigned from the hospital in April due to the harassment and the hostile work environment.

 

 


Boyd GSA and school board end talks without agreement

Ashland, Ky.--A student gay-straight alliance and Boyd County school officials broke off talks on whether the group could meet on school grounds.

Weeks of discussion and an eight-hour closed-door meeting with federal magistrate judge Peggy Patterson ended June 30 with no agreement.

A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, Tamara Lange, did not rule out further mediation but said its case will continue. The ACLU sued the school district on behalf of the Gay-Straight Alliance of Boyd County High School after it was barred from meeting at the school.

School officials and their lawyers declined comment on the negotiations.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning had ordered the sides to settle the group�s lawsuit against the district in mediation. Representatives of the board and the alliance met separately July 2 with Bunning.

�We didn�t settle the case, and the main reason is a disagreement over the law,� Lange said. �In essence it�s the same disagreement we�ve had since the beginning of the case.�

The suit claims the school violated the federal Equal Access Act by barring the alliance from meeting on school grounds while allowing other noncurricular groups to do so.

Twice last year, the high school�s teacher-parent council denied the gay-straight group permission to meet on school grounds.

The ACLU sent a letter to the council saying that under federal law, the alliance must be allowed to use school facilities if other noncurricular groups have access.

In October, the council voted to let the group meet at school. But in December, the education board suspended all non-curricular clubs.

The suit also said the district violated the students� constitutional rights and the Kentucky Education Reform Act by overturning the October decision.

The ACLU filed its lawsuit in January.

In April, Bunning ordered the district to let the students meet while the suit is pending. Lange said that injunction remains in place.�������������

--Associated Press

 


Gay minister declines bishop post to avoid church split

London--An openly gay clergyman whose appointment as a bishop divided the Anglican church has decided not to take up his post, the Church of England said July 6.

The worldwide Anglican Communion includes the Episcopal denomination in the United States. The church�s spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said the decision by the Rev. Jeffrey John should give Anglicans �pause for thought.�

A July 7 article in the London Guardian newspaper, however, indicated that Johns was pressured to step down my senior members of Williams� staff.

�This has been a time of open and painful confrontation, in which some of our bonds of mutual trust have been severely strained,� Williams said. �We need now to give ourselves the proper opportunities honestly to think through what has happened and to find what God has been teaching us in these difficult days.�

John declined the post of bishop of Reading in a letter to Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries, who appointed him. John wrote he made the decision because of �the damage my consecration might cause to the unity of the Church, including the Anglican Communion.�

A spokesman for Harries, who released a copy of the letter, said John planned to seek permission from Queen Elizabeth II to withdraw his acceptance of the appointment.

Several Anglican bishops from around the world wrote to oppose John�s selection by Harries in May, saying the appointment violated church teaching that gay sex is �incompatible with Scripture.� John had been due to be ordained in Westminster Abbey on Oct. 9.

Harries wrote in reply that he accepted John�s decision, �made in the interest of wider Church unity.

�However, I would like you to know that not only did you have my unswerving support, but also that of a great many others in the diocese,� he added.

John has said he is in a long-term relationship with another man but that he has been celibate since the 1990s and would uphold church policy on sexuality.

Williams spoke heatedly about the opposition to the ordination, which came primarily from African leaders of the Anglican church, as well as the diocese of Sydney, Australia.

"Some of the opposition expressed to Canon John's appointment has been very unsavory indeed,� he said. �A number of the letters I received displayed a shocking level of ignorance and hatred towards homosexual people. Our official policies and resolutions as Anglicans commit us to listening to the experience of homosexuals and recognizing that they are full and welcome members of the Church, loved by God.�

Williams said last month that John�s appointment did not violate Church of England teachings. But his predecessor as archbishop, George Carey, said he would not have approved John�s selection.

The issue of homosexuality has recently flared elsewhere in the Anglican Communion with the election last month of a gay priest, the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson, as bishop in New Hampshire, and the decision in May by the western Canadian diocese of New Westminster to sanction the blessing of gay relationships.

 


Go to Discussion Forum Top of Page

News Briefs

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

Nevada law grants medical and funeral partner rights

Carson City, Nev.--Legislation granting same-sex partners medical and funeral decision-making powers took effect June 24, after passing the state legislature unanimously and being signed by Gov. Kenny Guinn.

The law, which enables someone to file an affidavit granting power of attorney for decisions related to medical care and disposition of their body to anyone they choose, emerged from last year�s referendum banning same-sex marriage in the state.

Proponents of the ban claimed that they were simply trying to protect the institution of marriage, not attacking the gay community. Democratic strategist Billy Vassiliadis and Republican Sig Rogich introduced the legislation to test the veracity of that claim.

The powers the law allows were previously reserved solely for next-of-kin. The law now opens them not only to same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples, but also to close friends, step-children, and others.

MSNBC fires shock jock Savage

New York City--MSNBC fired Michael Savage for anti-gay comments on July 7.

The radio talk show host, who did a weekend TV show for the cable channel, referred to an unidentified caller to his show July 5 as a �sodomite� and said he should �get AIDS and die.�

�His comments were extremely inappropriate and the decision was an easy one,� MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines said.

The incident that resulted in his firing began while Savage was taking viewer phone calls about airline horror stories.� A male caller began talking about smoking in an airplane restroom.

�Half an hour into the flight, I need to suggest that Don and Mike take your--� the caller said before MSNBC bleeped him. Don and Mike are two competing radio talk hosts.

�So you�re one of those sodomists. Are you a sodomite?� Savage asked.

The caller replied, �Yes, I am.�

�Oh, you�re one of the sodomites,� Savage said. �You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How�s that? Why don�t you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it.�

He then asked for another phone caller who �didn�t have a nice night in the bathhouse who�s angry at me today.�

Mayor, council fight over benefits

Lexington, Ky.--Mayor Theresa Isaac on July 8 vetoed a city council measure that delays domestic partner benefits to unmarried partners of city employees.

Isaac instituted the benefits in June, and the council passed the moratorium on June 26, saying that three months� time was necessary to study the financial ramifications of the benefits.

Isaac, however, says that the municipality�s charter gives her full administrative and executive powers, and that the council�s moratorium on benefits violates those powers.

During the July 8 council meeting, however, a resolution to override the veto was introduced on an 11-1 vote. Nine votes are necessary to override a veto, but the override must pass two official readings, which could come as early as July 10.

While the moratorium bans any employees from signing up for the benefits, which are open to same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex couples, it included a provision to continue providing benefits for 20 employees who had already registered for them.

Santorum�s Erie office picketed

Erie, Pa.--Ten people picketed the Erie office of Sen. Rick Santorum on July 3, protesting anti-gay remarks he made prior to the Supreme Court�s historic decision striking state sodomy laws.

�If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything,� Santorum said in an April interview with the Associated Press. �It all comes from, I could argue, this right to privacy that doesn�t exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution.�

The June 26 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, cited earlier rulings that there is a constitutional right to privacy, and ruled that state sodomy laws violate it.

�We�re thrilled by the ruling,� Dave Martin, who organized the event, told the Erie Times-News. �It reaffirms everything we stand for. This is the day we celebrate our independence and everything America stands for--love of freedom, love of equality and diversity.�

Cook County gets partner registry

Chicago--Civil rights groups applauded the Cook County Board�s July 2 decision to create a registry for same-sex couples at the county clerk�s office.

The board voted 13-3 to grant the domestic partnership certificates for a $30 filing fee.

The board�s 12 Democrats and Republican Peter Silvestri of Elmwood Park voted for the bill. Three Republicans voted against. Republican Commissioner Gregg Goslin voted present.

While Cook County�s newest ordinance doesn�t go as far as declaring a couple married, some say it could help same-sex couples with an array of legal subjects, like probate and medical issues.

Hold off on marriage ban, Bush says

Washington, D.C.--President George W. Bush said July 2 that a constitutional ban on gay marriage in the United States that has been proposed in the House might not be needed, despite a Supreme Court decision that some conservatives think opens the door to legalizing same-sex marriages.

�Let�s let the lawyers look at the full ramifications of the recent Supreme Court hearing,� Bush said. �What I do support is a notion that marriage is between a man and a woman.�

Bush�s words were aimed at calming members of the Republicans� right wing who are upset about a recent Supreme Court decision striking down all sodomy laws, said Patrick Guerriero, director of the gay and lesbian Log Cabin Republicans.

�I think what you�re seeing is a momentary time-out from the radical right�s temper tantrum,� he said.

Wal-Mart extends anti-bias policy

Little Rock, Ark.--After prodding by a Seattle organization, Wal-Mart extended its antidiscrimination policy to gay and lesbian workers.

Company spokesman Tom Williams said July 2 the policy will not affect benefits, which Wal-Mart does not offer to unmarried partners of any orientation, but he said sexual orientation will be added to the company�s existing diversity-awareness training programs for employees.

The Pride Foundation of Seattle prompted the move by threatening to bring a shareholders resolution, board representative Zack Wright said.

It�s a significant step because of the size of Wal-Mart and the number of stores in rural areas, he said.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is the world�s largest retailer, with over 1.1 million domestic employees.

 


Playing with fire

Once upon a time there was a Clown who fell in love with Fire. It was love at first sight for the Clown who glimpsed this burning, prancing, sensual ball of Fire from afar. And when this Fire met the Clown face to face, it also fell deeply in love. Together now for the last two years, this Fire and this Clown have fanned the flames of love and intend to live happily ever after, for forever and a day.

The Fire and Clown are two actors in Cirque du Soleil�s touring production of Dralion, which will set Columbus afire for an extended run from July 24 to August 10.

Benjamin Pring, the Filipino-American dancer who plays the role of Fire in Dralion, spoke by phone from Hartford, Connecticut about the show, about his dancing, about being gay, and most importantly about how he fell in love with Frenchman Phillipe Amard, who plays the Clown.

Pring has spent his life living between the Philippines and suburban Boston. During his junior year in college, while he was studying business administration, he took a dancing class and �was discovered� by a troupe looking for someone to do hip-hop and modern dance. He toured with them and has never looked back since at this accidental career that has provided him with some very prestigious jobs.

Soon after that first tour he was picked up by the internationally renowned Pilobolus dance company and performed with them for three years while living in New York City.

�I always knew I wanted to travel,� Pring said, �and dance has given me the opportunity to see the world, to get paid for it and all the while enjoy what I am good at doing.�

Today at 28, Pring feels lucky to have found this world of dancing at the age of 21. Prior to his discovery as a dancer, he had never trained in dance. He however, has been a longtime pupil of the martial arts. His family was surprised at his decision to switch from business to dancing.

�They were not necessarily opposed to my doing it,� he said, �but they were concerned about how I would earn a living.�

Their son has laid all those fears to rest by having made a very good living at dancing, and today they �are extremely proud and happy to share in new interest.� Pring�s success as a dancer has also led his parents �to trust me more in the decisions I make about my life.�

His family is also very open and very accepting about Pring�s sexuality. He came out when he was 19 and Pring jokingly admits that coming out as a dancer was a bigger surprise to his parents than coming out as a gay man. While the Filipino culture can be very macho, according to Pring, �they are also a very laid back people and homosexuality is very well accepted for the most part despite it being a very religious culture.� Pring said that his parents� biggest concern is �that I have a happy life.�

While dancing has given Pring a lot of happiness, it is falling in love with Amard that seems to have brought him the most fulfillment. Pring and Amard met through Dralion and Pring bubbles with enthusiasm as he tells the story of their meeting.

�Phillipe tells the story much better than I do,� Pring confessed, �and he loves telling it but I will try and do it justice.�

Pring had just finished training for four weeks in Montreal in October of 2001 and went to Dallas, Texas, to join the show on November 17. �When I reached there they gave me the option of watching the show or getting settled in and resting at the hotel.� Pring chose the latter because the night before his friends in Montreal had thrown him a �huge-ass farewell and good luck party.�

�But, when I awoke from my rest I decided to take a cab and go to the show in any case,� he added.

That decision led to the fateful encounter with Amard. Sitting in the audience, Pring describes his �first meeting with Phillipe� as a meeting of the eyes as one performed on stage and as the other sat watching. During the pre-show, as the clowns were doing their schtick on stage, Amard spotted Pring and �he couldn�t take his eyes off me,� Pring said.

�Another clown had to nudge him about the show beginning,� he added with a chuckle.

For some reason Pring too was drawn to Amard, clown outfit and all. After the show, Pring confessed to Frank, a singer in the show, that he had seen this really beautiful guy on stage. �And Frank said to me,� Pring went on, � �Welcome to show biz, you�re gonna meet many beautiful boys.� �

But Amard was the all the beautiful boy that Pring needed. At some cast get together, soon after that fateful evening, Pring was introduced to Amard as �the new Fire� in Dralion. Little did Amard know that the boy who had caught his eye in the audience would also be the new fire in his life.

�He is very unusual,� Pring said of the 34-year-old Amard. �To me humor is very important in a relationship. I have a very strange sense of humor and Phillipe gets it.�

While Amard is a clown by profession, �he is also very serious as well.�

Pring is certain that Amard is �the one.� He has introduced this serious clown to his parents and his grandparents and they �love him. He didn�t have to do much to impress them,� Pring added.

On the road, �we room together, we vacation together,� Pring said. �I have never felt so together with someone.� But they are also able to not let the relationship of work and play get too claustrophobic by �taking time apart for ourselves.�

�We really have no difficulties in our relationship,� Pring said, �except when we are both very, very tired and we can�t be there completely for each other.�

Pring intends to renew for another year-long contract when it comes due in October, but he has other aspirations too.

�I want to have my own dance company and I want to direct and choreograph,� he adds. �This show is very physically demanding and while I am not too old to keep doing this right now, I want to have the best health when I get out of performing and not have abused my body too much.�

While Pring loves his job, recently he is a bit tired of it, �only because when we first started out we would have longer breaks between cities and now with hardly any time between tour stops, I am not enjoying the performing as much.�

Pring intends to have a theatrical dance company much like Pilobolus. Amard shares similar dreams.

When Pring was asked whether he and Amard intended to get married in Cirque du Soleil�s home country of Canada, in light of legalized marriage in Ontario, he said he was unaware of this development. While �marriage is not important in the religious sense to me, I would love it just to get all the gifts.�

�But seriously,� he added, �it would be cool to be officially recognized.�

The Gay People�s Chronicle also spoke with Guy Caron, the busy director of Cirque and Dralion, who was in Columbus to do some prep work for the upcoming tour. He spoke passionately and eloquently about the show and about the complete openness and inclusiveness of gay performers in his company.

According to Caron, Dralion is �a celebration of life seen through the eyes of a child.�

�It is decision of this child to stop real time and reinvent the world, to take his time to recreate the world in his vision.�

Dralion, a term coined by Caron, is a cross between a dragon and a lion. For him, the dragon symbolizes the east and the lion the west; Dralion is a meeting of the occident and the orient in startling and colorful ways.

The show involves the four elements, Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, each embodied by an actor and his own troupe of followers. According to Caron the show also �explores the capacity and endurance of the human body.�

�This is a show that is so joyful,� he adds, �because as told through they eyes of a child we see their view of happiness.�

To Caron, children are �the signature for the new future.� Dralion also involves a lot more women than Cirque�s usual shows. For Caron, women are the embodiment of strength.

Caron�s own background is in the circus as a clown and comedian. He trained in Budapest, Hungary, for two years at their premier circus school. When he returned to Montreal, he wanted to start his own school and got his dream when he was asked to create the concept of Ciruqe du Soleil in the late 1980s. When Cirque first came to the U.S. in 1987, it was an instant success.

Caron said that there are many gay performers who are involved in Cirque shows, like in all the other arts. He argues that a lot of artists tend to be gay because the arts are �an easy place to create, to be free.�

�As artists,� he continued, �we are different by the very way we think, by the very way we do things.�

Caron is also aware that, while in America homosexuality seems to be so contentious, in Canada, his home country, �we are more tolerant.�

Pring agrees with this notion about Canadian proclivities towards a more open and tolerant attitude towards homosexuality. �We are like a big family,� he adds, �and there is a real openness and acceptance here.�

One thing is certain. Pring and Amard are nuts about each other. They have high aspirations, professionally and personally, and like Caron�s Dralion, theirs is a true love, a unique love where east and west have met in profound and beautiful ways.

An unmistakable sign that Cirque du Soleil is coming to town is the raising of its trademark blue-and-yellow Grand Chapiteau in the Arena District, at Nationwide Blvd. and Neil Avenue.

Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m. Ticket prices range from $31.50 to $65, and� are available online at cirquedusoleil.com or by calling 800-678-5440. |

 

 

 

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