Lakewood--An openly gay man is seeking the City Council seat of the member who voted last month against this Cleveland suburb�s Pride resolution and flying the rainbow flag at City Hall.
Jeremy Elliott, 21, filed petitions July 14 putting him on the ballot as a candidate for the Ward 3 seat held by Council President Robert Seelie. He announced his candidacy at a meeting of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats later that evening.
Elliott, who has served as a special assistant to Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, said his candidacy is about economic development.
�I oppose the West End development project,� said Elliott of a controversial city proposal to replace existing housing with upscale condominiums and businesses. �I am in favor of development on the east end, along Madison and Detroit Avenues where there is the most deterioration.�
Elliott earned a bachelor�s degree in psychology from Baldwin Wallace College. He works as a part-time as a Department of Recreation supervisor for the city of Middleburg Heights while completing a master�s degree in social administration at Case Western Reserve University, where he is president of the Mandel Council and the Mandel Scholar.
Both Elliott and the incumbent Seelie are Democrats.
Seelie, who has served 12 years, was the lone vote against Lakewood�s June 2 resolution recognizing June as GLBT Pride month and to fly the rainbow flag at city hall.
Seelie also voted against an ordinance proposed in 2000 that would have granted benefits to domestic partners of city employees.
According to Elliott, those are not the only reasons why he is challenging Seelie in the conservative third ward.
�He hasn�t provided leadership to the city,� said Elliott. �He is a divisive figure and he doesn�t respond to his constituents.�
�I get lectured plenty on the �homosexual agenda� going door to door in the ward,� said Elliott, �but I get the endorsements of the people once I talk to them.�
Elliott said his sexual orientation is not an issue in the campaign, just as a non-gay person�s wouldn�t be.
�It is irrelevant to being a good leader for the city,� he said.
Elliott is the second gay man on the Lakewood council ballot this year. He joins Republican John Farina, who is seeking a seat in adjacent Ward 4. A third gay man may run for a Ward 2 seat, but has not filed for candidacy yet.
Ward 3 is between Belle Ave. on the west and Nicholson, Clarence and Waterbury Aves. on the east.
Cleveland to add gender identity
Earlier in the Stonewall Democrats meeting, the 25 gathered were told by Cleveland City Council member Jay Westbrook to expect a domestic partner benefits ordinance in Cleveland in 2003 or 2004.
�We�re looking to the mayor to take the lead,� said Westbrook, �in order to avoid the polarization that has gone on in other cities.�
Westbrook said that prior to taking on the issue of domestic partner benefits, he expects council to pass an updated version of its current human rights ordinance.
�The Law Department is putting together the package,� said Westbrook, who knew little of the plan�s details.
According to Law Department sources, the new ordinance will add protection on the basis of gender identity and expression and create civil penalties for employment discrimination against all protected classes, including sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation was added to Cleveland�s existing human rights ordinances in 1994. Two years later, job discrimination for all classes was made a misdemeanor criminal offense.
Washington, D.C.--Seven of the nine contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination gathered on July 15 for a forum on LGBT issues organized by the Human Rights Campaign.
The event was hailed by HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch as �the first time in our nation�s history that a group of White House contenders has come together to speak specifically to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.�
Only John Edwards and Bob Graham were unable to attend the event, hosted by Sam Donaldson of ABC News and transmitted over the Internet and the CSPAN cable network.
�Clearly, this is a symbol of how very far we�ve come,� Birch continued, �but it�s also a reminder of how far we, as a nation, have to go.�
The forum gave the candidates time for opening and closing statements. In between, Donaldson grilled the six men and one woman on issues facing the LGBT community, including gay marriage, civil unions, non-discrimination legislation and the military�s �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy.
Only three of the candidates, Carol Moseley Braun, Ohio�s Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Al Sharpton, voiced support for full same-sex marriage, while all candidates supported civil unions for same-sex couples.
Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut drew the ire of the crowd, who hissed at the two candidates when they voiced their opposition to gay marriage.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, stated that he would work as president to repeal the �Defense of Marriage Act� passed in 1996. He also pointed, as he almost invariably does, to his signing of Vermont�s historic civil unions law.
�The primary obstacle to achieve these rights is the Defense of Marriage Act,� Dean said. �This is the barrier to all equal rights under the law.�
Dean said marriage was up to individual churches, but did not fully answer a question about civil marriages performed by judges.
Al Sharpton, considered perhaps the least likely candidate to capture the nomination, noted that granting civil unions was akin to �saying we�ll give blacks or whites or Latinos the right to shack up, but not marry.�
All seven candidates present favored Congress rescinding the military �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy. In his written reply to HRC�s questionnaire, Bob Graham replied that he was opposed to it, but said he wanted the policy to be reversed by the Pentagon, not by Congress, which passed it into law in 1993.
Kerry was dismissive of DADT.
�It is a crying shame that people with enormous talent and skill are denied the right to serve even when it is against our national security,� he said.
The candidates fell into lockstep on issues like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal anti-bias measure, and most were in favor of also extending anti-bias protections to gender identity and expression.
When asked if he would appoint an open LGBT person to the Supreme Court, Kucinich answered he would, �as long as they were ready to uphold Roe v. Wade,� the 1973 decision that legalized abortion. The statement opened Kucinich to a night of attacks from right-wingers on cable talk shows.
Winnie Stachelberg, the political director of HRC, said the group will most likely not endorse a candidate for the Democratic primary until early next year. In the 2000 election, their endorsement of Al Gore came after it was fairly certain that he would defeat Bill Bradley for the party�s nomination.����� |
Cincinnati--Citizens to Restore Fairness, the group formed to put a repeal of the anti-gay Article 12 on the ballot, has received two grants in the last two months, opened an office and hired a field director.
In June, CRF got a $10,000 grant from the Human Right Campaign, the nation�s largest LGBT advocacy organization. The organization already had a $10,000 grant from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The NGLTF has gained success at turning back anti-gay ballot measures, including a 2001 attempt to pass a charter amendment in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that mirrored Article 12.
Article 12 of the city charter was passed by voters in 1993 as Issue 3. It prohibits any city ordinance protecting gays, lesbians or bisexuals. The U.S. Supreme Court, after striking down an identical Colorado measure, allowed a Sixth Circuit opinion upholding the article to stand in 1998.
Since then, while political maneuvering to repeal the measure has continued behind closed doors, little visible progress has been made. Political and social leaders, however, have spoken out against Article 12, perhaps swaying public opinion.
CRF aims to put Article 12 to the voters again, on the November 2004 ballot. The timing would make their initiative coincide with a presidential election, which traditionally increases voter turnout.
�We�re working slowly and steadily towards our goal in November 2004,� said CRF co-chair Gary Wright. �The most important thing for us is doing work like they�ve been doing in Cleveland Heights with Heights Families for Equality.�
Wright referred to a petition drive to put a domestic partner registry on this November�s ballot. Heights Families for Equality has concentrated on personal interactions with residents to educate them as voters on the issue. They turned in their petitions on June 23, and those were certified as having enough signatures four days later.
While both petition drives began at roughly the same time at the beginning of this year, Cincinnati needs 18,000 signatures, compared to about 3,500 for Cleveland Heights. CRF currently has about 4,200 signatures, including 500 gained when the Northside Fourth of July parade passed in front of their new office at 1546 Knowlton Ave.
Wright believes that their new field director, Ryan Spaeth, will help garner the needed signatures, due in February 2004 for the November election. Spaeth was a volunteer organizer for Sen. Paul Wellstone�s re-election campaign, and continued working for Walter Mondale after Wellstone�s death. Spaeth most recently worked as an organizer for the Service Employees International Union, a division of the AFL-CIO. The larger labor organization has endorsed the effort to repeal Article 12.
CRF plans a community canvassing day on July 27. Volunteers will meet at St. John Unitarian Universalist Church at 320 Resor Ave. at 4 pm to canvass neighborhoods to gain more signatures. Those interested in volunteering should call ahead, according to Wright, so the group knows how many people to expect.
He also said that the city really seems to be behind the effort to repeal Article 12.
�I think there is a recognition that it�s not just about fairness, it�s about what�s right for the community,� Wright noted. �Those two things bring in a lot of people.�
The wide appeal of the effort is demonstrated by his co-chair, Rev. Hal Porter, a married heterosexual and pastor emeritus of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church. The group�s makeup counters arguments that it is a coalition of gay people furthering the �gay agenda.�
�I think it�s really mixed,� Wright opined. �There�s an awful lot of straight allies involved.�
Columbus--Sixty people have commented on the city�s proposed �household benefits,� but the committee working on the plan will not discuss them before its report is released later this month.
The Joint Committee on Household Benefits received public comment until July 9 on a proposal to extend medical and prescription drug benefits to household members of city workers, including same-sex partners.
The committee was formed in May 2002 by Mayor Michael Coleman and Council President Matt Habash to consider the plan. Its chair, Columbus Medical Association director Philip Cass, said a final report including the comments will be given to the city July 24, after the committee approves it on July 17. He would not discuss the nature of the comments.
The proposal remains controversial and it is unclear whether or not it will be sufficient to settle a lawsuit brought by a gay employee after the city�s benefits policy was found to violate its own human rights ordinance, which includes sexual orientation.
That February, 2002 ruling by the Community Relations Commission sided with openly gay Health Department employee James Hartman. He had complained in 1997 that the city�s refusal to offer spousal health insurance to his partner violated the 1994 ordinance.
The Commission found that �the city must allow coverage of the domestic partners of homosexuals.�
Hartman�s attorney Scot Dewhirst said that case is currently under a joint stay, and will not go forward until his client sees what the city does with the household benefits proposal.
�We don�t know what the result of the legislation will be,� said Dewhirst.
�But even if the city passed the household benefits package,� said Dewhirst, �it still might not resolve the past problems the city has.�
Still not equal access
LGBT advocates say the proposal is still not equal access to the benefits a spouse would have because of the high cost and its limited scope. Equality of access to benefits is a key component of Hartman�s complaint.
Employees using the proposed household coverage would pay 50% of the premium. The IRS requires that they also pay income tax on the city�s half. Workers now pay 10% for married spouses and related children; the city�s 90% is not taxed.
�The 50% premium is the big issue,� said Stonewall Columbus director Kate Anderson, �but there is also no access to medical leave, bereavement, or life insurance.�
�This plan does not address the concerns of the LGBT community for domestic partner benefits,� said Anderson.
City Council passed an ordinance extending coverage to domestic partners in 1998, but it was repealed three weeks later after Christian conservatives and attorney Jay Meena threatened a repeal referendum.
At the time, supportive council members and GLBT leaders feared the ordinance would lose. According to the city charter, any issue decided at the ballot box cannot be revisited by council until a second election allows it.
100 benefit foes at council meeting
Meena returned to city council July 7 with about 100 of his supporters to urge it not to pass the new plan, either.
�We urge you to enact public policy in accordance with the growing body of social science research that demonstrates the association of marriage with much more positive outcomes for the overall well being of children and adults compared with those involved in domestic partnerships,� Meena told council.
Many with Meena are with the predominately African American Baptist Pastors Conference.
�Jay Meena is using the African American community to drive a wedge between the LGBT community and city leadership,� said attorney Mary Jo Hudson.
Hudson said this resistance is similar to the organized resistance to the Flex bathhouse opening in a predominately African American neighborhood in April.
�It�s a pattern,� said Hudson, �and they are becoming increasingly galvanized by the lack of resistance from our community and the city�s political leadership.�
Hudson said the city has not done enough to bridge the communities over issues involving race and sexual orientation, which are showing up as �flare ups� over domestic partnership.
�A lot of urban neighborhoods are being gentrified,� said Hudson, �many by gay men, and the visible folks are usually white.�
�People in this city have walked on egg shells for a while over these issues,� added Hudson.
Anderson, Hudson, Stonewall board chair Rob Berger, and board member Leslie Fine spoke at the July 14 council meeting to counter Meena.
�Last week, a rally of intolerance and hate took place in this chamber,� Hudson told council.
Berger says his approach to the household benefits plan is �pragmatic.�
�It�s imperfect,� said Berger, �But if we look at how change happens over time, it is in bits and pieces.�
Berger said Stonewall�s official position is to support the household benefits plan as long as it gets passed and funded in 2003.
�The city needs to either pass it or look us in the face and tell us they aren�t going to,� said Berger. �The time has come for this to be resolved.�
Washington, D.C.--The first legal challenge to the military �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy that includes the Supreme Court June ruling against sodomy laws was filed on July 7. It is Loomis v. USA.
Lt. Colonel Loren Stephen Loomis was just eight days shy of retiring with full pension and benefits when the Army kicked him out for being gay. The decorated 20-year veteran had been wounded in Vietnam.
On August 3, 1996, a troubled PFC at Fort Hood, Texas set fire to Loomis� house off base. He was trying to destroy a video of him having sex with Loomis. The soldier had an ongoing affair with Loomis and had readily agreed to the sex and the taping. He later had second thoughts and feared that the tape might be used against him.
The tape survived the fire and was picked up by the local police during their investigation of the arson. They shared it with military police, who used it to prosecute Loomis under �don�t ask, don�t tell.�
The tape was obtained and forwarded to the military without a search warrant and without Loomis� consent. The district attorney had told police that they must obtain permission or a warrant and that the tape could not be provided to the military without a subpoena ordering its release.
The three colonels constituting the board of inquiry all expressed strong antigay feelings when questioned by Loomis� attorney. They recommended his discharge.
An internal review by the Army saw nothing wrong with their intense homophobia and ruled the proceedings were fair.
All of Loomis� petitions for early retirement were rejected and he was given a dishonorable discharge on July 14, 1997, eight days prior to completing 20 years of service. The conditions of his discharge meant the loss of pension and other benefits in excess of a million dollars.
Loomis� suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. days before the statute of limitations was to expire. His attorney David Sheldon said they used the Supreme Court�s Lawrence v. Texas sodomy law ruling to bolster an already strong case.
In addition to citing numerous procedural violations in deciding the case, the suit also challenges �the �sodomy� provision of Article 125� of the Universal Code of Military Justice as violating Loomis� �constitutional right to liberty . . . to engage in private, consensual acts of oral and anal sex with persons of the same gender,� as outlined in the Lawrence decision.
The suit also charges that �don�t ask, don�t tell� violates both the right to privacy and equal protection by �maintaining a special classification system that mandates discharge for homosexual and bisexual individuals, but not for heterosexual individuals who engage in the same or similar acts.�
It seeks to have these provisions ruled unconstitutional, reverse the dishonorable discharge, restore full retirement benefits, and pay legal fees.
The case has been assigned to Judge Eric Bruggink. The right-wing Rev. Rob Schenck, prominent in a widely distributed photo of those lamenting the Lawrence decision in front of the Supreme Court, has described Bruggink as �one of the few outspoken Christians in the federal judiciary� and a guest at a 2001 breakfast meeting. At that meeting, Bruggink reportedly raised alarm about a judiciary separated from any notion of a higher moral authority than itself.
Sheldon believes that the procedural errors were so grave that the court could rule for his client on those grounds alone. He acknowledged that courts generally prefer to rule on more limited and factual matters rather than on sweeping constitutional grounds. It is possible that the court will not even consider the issues raised in the Lawrence ruling in deciding this case. Sheldon has learned to be hesitant in making such predictions.
�All too often, the Army denies those who have sacrificed in its service the basic protection of law,� Loomis said in a statement sent from his home in New Mexico. �If the military will pursue a decorated officer and combat veteran such as myself, one can only imagine the hurdles faced by young service men and women who find themselves in the Catch-22 of �don�t ask, don�t tell.��
�Under DADT, the federal government regularly intrudes in the most personal aspects of our lives. That is wrong and it is time for the government to change,� said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. It represented Loomis during the initial discharge proceedings.
Osburn applauded the Loomis suit as the first of many that are likely to be filed using the Lawrence decision.
Activist Frank Kameny, who has worked on the military issue for decades, says, �To the extent possible we should try to get the Lawrence decision firmly extended to Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice--our sole remaining sodomy law, if, in fact, it is considered to be still actually remaining--and get that struck down for consensual acts.� Once that happens, �We will be in a far stronger position for tackling DADT and the general military gay ban.�
Rep Barney Frank, D-Mass., introduced a bill on July 9 to amend the military code to allow for consensual sexual activity between adults. He called it the �Anti-Hypocrisy Act of 2003� (H.R. 2676).
It is more limited than a reform suggested in June 2001 by the Cox Commission, a blue ribbon panel of experts in military law. That group recommended repealing the rape and sodomy provisions, replacing them with language such as that found in the Model Penal Code.
Grand Rapids, Mich.--A bisexual man died July 8 from complications from pneumonia, possibly caused by a sexual assault and torture two weeks earlier.
Justin Bogdanik, 18, was seen June 25 getting into a white tractor-trailer cab. The next day, he was found unconscious in a ditch at a Livingston County rest stop, 80 miles to the east. He had been beaten unconscious, his eyes were glued shut, there was adhesive on his genitals and there were signs of sexual torture.
Bogdanik at first refused to talk to police in the hospital. Eventually, he gave them his name and mentioned a white van. Shortly afterward, he was released from the hospital and returned to Grand Rapids.
Family members were told to keep an eye on him and take him to the hospital if he showed any signs of infection, and they took him in when his fever reached 103 degrees. His condition deteriorated and his family took him off life support. He died July 8.
Police were awaiting the medical examiner�s evaluation, which was due July 17. If the coroner judges that the pneumonia was caused by the assault, the case will become homicide.
Police are currently investigating the crime as an assault, and believe that the internalized homophobia of the attacker may have turned a sexual situation into a gruesome attack.
Police have not, however, ruled out the possibility of anti-gay bias being a motivating factor behind the crime.
�This incident, from what has been reported, bears all the markings of an anti-gay �pick-up� crime, perpetrated by an extremely disturbed individual,� said Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, a Michigan LGBT advocacy organization. �Pick-up crimes are an ever-present threat in the gay community, leaving innocent people vulnerable to danger and death at the hand of opportunists and unstable people, who are often conflicted about their own sexuality and who often stalk and bait their potential victims.�
Bogdanik had been living at the YMCA after a stint on the streets. Until he was 7, he lived with his biological mother and her boyfriend, who physically abused her and may have molested Bogdanik or his sister.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman, Patti Harris and Eric Resnick.
House of Lords repeals �no promo homo� law
London--The House of Lords on July 10 repealed Section 28, a law prohibiting schools from �promoting� homosexuality.
The 1988 measure, which has been called the most pernicious piece of anti-gay legislation introduced during Margaret Thatcher�s administration, had repeatedly been targeted by Prime Minister Tony Blair�s government. Repeal efforts passed handily in the elected House of Commons, but the more conservative, appointed House of Lords have voted against removing the measure.
Baroness Blatch attempted to add an amendment that would remove the word �homosexuality� but allow parents to approve sex education curricula. The amendment was defeated.
�We are not yet at the beginning of the end for equality,� said Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the British gay rights organization Stonewall. �We have huge steps still to make in turning Britain into the tolerant, modern country we all want it to be. But abolition of Section 28 does mean, perhaps, that we are at the end of the beginning.�
Firefighter appeals suit�s dismissal
Cincinnati--A firefighter in Salem, Ohio on July 8 appealed the dismissal of a federal civil rights suit alleging harassment from his co-workers and superiors.
Lt. Jimmie Smith, a 20-year veteran of the fire department in Salem, southwest of Youngstown, filed the original suit on July 19, 2002. The suit claimed that his supervisor, Capt. Thomas Eastek, held a meeting with city officials where he divulged confidential medical information about Smith, mainly the lieutenant�s gender identity disorder, which Smith had told him about shortly before the April 18, 2001 meeting.
According to the suit, Eastek, Fire Chief Walter Greenamyer and other officials conspired to force Smith to quit the department or refuse to abide by decisions, including forcing Smith to undergo multiple psychological examinations by city-picked doctors.
Smith had also been suspended for one day earlier in 2001, allegedly because he refused to send out an emergency response team for a non-emergency call, which the department allows. The Civil Service Commission upheld the suspension, but a Columbiana County court overruled it in October, 2001.
Firefighters work 24-hour shifts, so a one-day suspension is equivalent to a three-day suspension at a normal job.
The appeal argues, among other issues, that the trial court erred in claiming that Title 7 of federal civil rights protections, which prevents sexual discrimination, does not apply to transgendered people. The Supreme Court ruled in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins in 1989 that enforcing sexual stereotypes is a form of sexual discrimination.
State can cut Scouts from payroll plan
New York City--Connecticut did not violate the rights of the Boy Scouts when it deleted the group from a list of charities that state employees contribute to through a payroll deduction plan, a federal appeals court ruled July 10.
The Boy Scouts and their Connecticut council filed the federal discrimination lawsuit against the state, saying exclusion from the list was a First Amendment violation.
The U.S. Supreme Court in a separate case had ruled that the Boy Scouts had a right to ban gay leaders. The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities then said that including a group that bars gays in the payroll plan would violate state anti-discrimination laws.
The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that said the Connecticut State Employee Campaign Committee did not violate the Constitution when it removed the Boy Scouts from its list in 2000.
Street preacher held for soliciting boy
West Chester, Pa.--A preacher who has spent years using a bullhorn to rail at passers-by on college campuses about �fornicators,� �whores� and �sodomites� is accused by a 14-year-old boy of soliciting a sex act.
The boy told police that the Rev. C. Stephen White, 40, of North Philadelphia offered him money to perform oral sex on him. White declined to comment at his arraignment July 3, but defense lawyer J. Michael Considine Jr. said his client maintains he only asked the boy for directions.
The boy told police that a stranger drove up beside him on the street in West Chester on June 26 and asked him if he new of any strip clubs or adult bookstores. Soon after that, the man offered to pay him to commit the act. The boy told police that he said no and walked away, then repeated the license plate number of the stranger�s car to himself as he ran to his aunt�s house.
The license plate number was later traced to White, and the boy identified the man who approached him using White�s driver�s license photo.
White was taken to Chester County Prison after failing to post $100,000 bail.
White has been a fixture on the University of Pennsylvania campus since the early 1990s and also preaches to passers-by at other campuses in Philadelphia and elsewhere. He was a prominent enough figure at Penn that the chaplain�s office held a panel discussion about his methods in 1998.
Teen guilty of killing brother
Greensburg, Pa.--A 15-year-old boy was convicted of third-degree murder July 14 in the beating death of his brother, who he thought was gay.
A Westmoreland County jury deliberated for about 5� hours before finding Ian Bishop guilty in the April 2002 beating death of 18-year-old Adam Bishop. The jury also convicted Ian of conspiracy to commit murder.
He could be sentenced to as much as 40 years in prison on both charges.
In closing arguments, prosecutors said Ian, then 14, planned to kill his older brother because Adam had often sided with his parents in disciplining Ian.
Prosecutors also suggested that Ian Bishop disliked his brother because he thought the older sibling was gay. They said he beat his brother in the head with a hammer and a club in their home and then put his brother�s body in a bathtub.
During the seven-day trial, prosecutors called teenagers who testified that Ian had talked about hating and wanting to kill his family and bragged about the beating.
Penis contest brings campaign money
Sussex, N.J.--Openly gay state senate candidate Jim Morrison has received a flood of offers to donate to his candidacy following news stories about his double victories in a �prettiest penis� contest at a gay bar when he was in Columbia Law School.
Morrison, who was also a contestant on the television game show The Mole, became the Democratic contender trying to unseat incumbent State Sen. Robert Littell, a Republican, after a primary victory as a write-in candidate.
Following the release of the �pretty penis� story in the press, Sussex County Democratic chair Charlie Cart advised him to drop out of the race, raising accusations of corruption in the county party.
�The Democratic Party in this district is in bed with the Republicans,� Morrison told the Philadelphia Inquirer. �They�d rather have a blank space on the ballot than a qualified candidate like me.�
Morrison has been carefully combing the offers of support he has received. He refuses to take corporate money or more than $100 from individuals, and is cautious when accepting funding from non-profit organizations.
Arizona men sue for marriage
Phoenix--Two Phoenix men have gone to court to get a marriage license despite Arizona laws banning same-sex marriages.
Harold Donald Standhardt, 34, and Tod Alan Keltner, 37, filed a special-action lawsuit in the Arizona Court of Appeals against the state and the clerk of Maricopa County Superior Court.
The lawsuit asks that the Court of Appeals overturn two state laws that allow marriages only between men and women and also order the court clerk to issue a marriage license to Standhardt and Keltner. The men were denied a marriage license when they applied for one, according to the lawsuit filed July 7.
The lawsuit said the 1996 ban on gay marriages violates various state and federal protections, including the Arizona Constitution�s right to privacy.
The lawsuit cited several court rulings at the federal and state level, including a June 26 ruling in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Texas law banning gay sex was an unconstitutional violation of privacy. Arizona repealed its own ban on sodomy in 2001.
The lawsuit also cited a 2002 decision by the Arizona Supreme Court, in a case involving state funding for abortions for low-income women, that the state could not enact laws that grant any citizen privileges while denying them to others.
Cirque sued for HIV discrimination
Los Angeles--An HIV-positive gymnast has filed a federal discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission against Cirque du Soleil, claiming they fired him because he is HIV-positive.
Matthew Cusick was hired last summer to train for the show �Myst�re,� a Las Vegas show by the Montreal-based circus. According to the claim, shortly before he was to begin performing, he was told that his employment would be terminated because of his HIV infection.
The claim alleges that he had undergone extensive medical testing with Cirque�s own doctor, whose notes call him a �healthy athlete� who was �able to perform.�
One of his tasks in the performance would have been to hang from his legs on a trapeze and catch other performers; the other task involved him climbing a pole solo.
Cirque du Soleil said that it was being a �socially responsible employer� by avoiding �known safety hazards,� while Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is aiding Cusick in his claim, said that the company�s decision was a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
�No money if you back DOMA�
Washington, D.C.--The National Stonewall Democrats on July 9 issued an ultimatum to House Democrats, telling them that if they signed on as sponsors of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, they would lose the gay and lesbian group�s endorsement and financial support.
Last year, the Stonewall Democrats withheld support from three members of Congress who supported a similar measure.
�While more Republicans are rapidly embracing this resolution, any Democrat who supports this amendment removes themselves from the mainstream of the Democratic Party,� said Stonewall executive director Dave Noble.
The proposed amendment currently has four Democratic co-sponsors in the House and 29 Republican ones. The Democrats are Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Ralph Hall and Charles Stenholm of Texas and Colin Peterson of Minnesota.
Landlord sued for denying restrooms
New York City--A New York landlord is being sued after he refused to let transgendered clients of the Hispanic AIDS Forum, which rented office space in his building, use the restrooms or commons areas.
Hearings began June 27 in the case, which was filed almost two years ago.
In 2001, HAF, the largest AIDS service organization for the Latino community in New York, was forced out of their offices in Jackson Heights, Queens, the center of the city�s Latino population.
Another tenant in the building complained to the landlord that the transgendered clients were using the incorrect rest rooms. HAF tried to negotiate an agreement with the landlord over the toilet situation, but he refused to renew the group�s lease.
The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU on behalf of HAF, alleges that the landlord violated state anti-discrimination protections based on sex, gender and disability. The landlord has, in turn, filed a motion to dismiss the suit, claiming that the refusal to allow the clients to use common areas was justified.
HAF occupied offices in the building for ten years before the landlord�s refusal to renew their lease.
Parade can keep gay groups out
Honolulu--A Christian-backed parade can exclude gay and lesbian organizations, despite the groups� claims that the event received city support, a federal judge ruled July 3.
U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor denied the American Civil Liberties Union�s claim for a temporary restraining order against the July 5 Family Day Parade through Waikiki. Organizers had turned away participants because of their sexual orientation.
Gillmor said that if the parade was indeed co-sponsored by the city, gays and lesbians could not be excluded.
But she agreed with defense attorneys who argued in a hearing on July 1 that the parade is separate from the city�s Family Day celebration as a whole--a daylong series of events including fireworks and an outdoor movie--and is being independently organized by the Hawaii Christian Coalition.
In her decision, Gillmor said that because the parade is privately funded, �they may exclude a voice that they find objectionable to their message.�
Three gay groups claimed in the lawsuit that the city provided substantial support to the coalition.
ACLU of Hawaii legal director Brent White said in the lawsuit�s hearing that 12 of the 20 members of the parade committee are city employees. He added that the city Parks Department was to provide cleanup for the parade, which is not typically offered to private parades, and that city vehicles were to be used in the event. He also said that the city provided postage for letters publicizing the parade.
Members of the groups--the Honolulu Lesbian-Gay Center; the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Family Network; and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays--and others participated in a protest against the ruling on Saturday morning in front of the Honolulu Zoo, near the parade�s finish.
Angelina Jolie returns to normal life after shooting the new Lara Croft film
�There�s a carousel in some mall here and we�re going to find it,� Angelina Jolie states with a determined resolve.
Though the rest of her day contains a call to adventure somewhat more suburban than those usually entertained by globe-trotting action heroine Lara Croft, one gets the feeling Jolie will seek it out as doggedly as Croft searches for Pandora�s box in the upcoming Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.
No doubt, her child Maddox has something to do with Jolie�s drive. But a two-year-old son isn�t the only difference between her and the tomb raider as the afternoon carousel ride demonstrates.
�I�ll probably just sit there,� Jolie laughs, �But Lara would be hanging off sidesaddle and spinning shotguns.�
Before the six-month shoot, Jolie spent 2� months training for stunts she would perform.
�Every other day was spent practicing things like rappelling 200 feet upside-down against slate rock,� Jolie remembers. �It�s just weird the things you�re preparing to do.�
�There�s this sort of underwater motorcycle in this one,� Jolie explains, �So that was part of the drill too. Then this time it was all new weapons. There was a rifle drill that took a very long time to learn. We even did Kendo stick fighting.�
But something as seemingly simple as horseback riding presented the shoot�s greatest challenge and its biggest reward.
�We wanted her to ride a horse,� Jolie remembers, �I thought she�d ride it kind of sidesaddle. And then we thought, when was the last time somebody spun a shotgun? I think Arnold Schwarzenegger did it once, but before that it was John Wayne. So let�s spin a shotgun to load it while riding really fast sidesaddle with a helicopter flying over and a horse that was scared of the gunshots so he had plugs in his ears. We had all this stuff going on and then I was trying to shoot at targets. There were a few takes where I nearly hit myself with the shotgun. I had a shotgun shell in the eye. Everything you could imagine went wrong, but then it worked.�
Jolie as Lara Croft, however, was far from a given when the film was first floated.
�At first I didn�t really like the character.� Jolie recalls. �I saw pictures of her and saw the game and didn�t like her.�
So what finally sold her on Croft? Dog sledding on a glacier in Iceland and visiting the unexplored ancient ruins of Angkor Wat didn�t hurt.
�I want to be recruited into this army,� Jolie remembers her inner child calling out when the project was pitched. And then in the second film, �Just the idea of being on top of a live volcano; we were flown in by helicopter and then walked for 45-minutes around the edge of the crater. You could see the lava and smell it and this is your job!�
This globetrotting career surely requires some sensible shoes. �It�s not practical being in a dress and heels,� Jolie laughs about Croft�s look. �I don�t wear a lot of dresses because I can�t move in them. I like pants, you know? And I like boots.�
Luckily, her own personal style makes the leap to Croft�s effortlessly. �The thing I like about her is she doesn�t dress girly because that�s not how she fights. You get these bad girl femme fatales in heels and a dress and that�s their allure. I like that Lara doesn�t go there. She�s dirty and she�s in her work clothes. She happens to be a sexual person, but doesn�t necessarily use that. You never see her trying to look sexy.�
Still, Croft�s lesbian fan base, second only to a certain warrior princess, isn�t hanging around because she�s not trying to look sexy. And though Jolie feels the character has streamlined into a �less voluptuous� model, she�s about to do for black bikinis what Ursula Andress did for white ones in Dr. No. Bombshell or not, people are happy to speculate on Croft�s sexual orientation. It�s one of the things Jolie likes about the role.
�I always joke that you never actually see Lara with anybody,� she explains, �You get a sense in this one that she�s had a male lover, but she would absolutely love a woman as much as she would love a man.�
It�s a question about character that can�t help getting personal. For Jolie, it�s not a question of marketing, but rather a reflection of her own life.
�I don�t do things specifically for one fan base or the other, but my closest girlfriends are a married couple�married to each other--and I�ve loved a woman in my life,� she says. �Naturally, without thinking about it, I have a certain understanding, love, awareness and sensitivity to anything that relates to gay issues. I just personally do. So I�ve never had to think about it for somebody else, I actually think about it for me and my personal opinions and my personal feelings.�
Those personal feelings recently led the Los Angeles native to ex-pat in the United Kingdom.
�I bought a home in London since my divorce,� she says, �I still have an apartment in New York City, but I keep working in London. My first husband was British and I�ve shot both Tomb Raiders and another film there. For some reason in my life, I�ve been brought back there a lot.�
But more than a shorter commute to Pinewood Studios, Jolie loves London�s proximity to the rest of the world. �I want to travel there and be more connected,� she explains, �It�s as close to New York as Africa. I like being more centrally connected to the world and I feel that there.�
Before she takes her leave to find that carousel, Jolie begins to fret about all this talk of motherhood and charity. She has an Oscar now. The real-life stunts give way to filmic ones. America�s favorite wild child is off to the mall. One can almost see the gears grinding as World of Tomorrow allows for an exit line. �I�m just in it a bit,� she deadpans, �But I�m in a lot of leather so I�m happy.�
Tony Phillips is a freelance writer, editor and filmmaker living in New York City.
HOME | CURRENT
STORIES | PERSONALS |
DISTRIBUTION POINTS | CHARLIE'S