Province�s top court strikes �man and woman� definition effective immediately
Toronto--Same-sex couples may now get married in Ontario--not �committed� or �civil unioned,� but legally married--after the province�s highest court ruled that it must immediately be allowed.
The Ontario Court of Appeal on June 10 issued a ruling striking down Canada�s opposite-sex definition of marriage. It substituted the words �two people� for �one man and one woman� in the law, opening marriage to same-sex couples.
The ruling declared that Toronto must issue marriage licenses to seven of the plaintiff couples, and that two more were married as of their church ceremony two years ago.
The city responded by saying that it would now issue a marriage license to any same-sex couple who was otherwise eligible.
Michael Leshner and Mike Stark, one of the seven couples, were married that evening by Superior Court Justice John Hamilton.
�This historic ruling means that same-sex marriage is now a reality in Canada,� said Lisa Lachance, president of the national organization Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere. �Four courts and ten judges in a row have unanimously ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to celebrate their love and their lives on equal terms.�
The Canadian government may appeal the ruling to Canada�s Supreme Court, or allow it to take effect by default.
Justice Minister Martin Cauchon had not decided by press time whether the government would appeal. He has until July 10 to do so. He also has until June 30 to appeal a similar May 1 ruling by British Columbia�s top court, but he has not said if he will.
An appeal could suspend the latest ruling�s immediate effect.
The Ontario case was the merger of two separate suits challenging the definition of marriage in Canada. One involved couples who sought marriage licenses from the Toronto City Clerk�s office. The clerk asked the court to rule on whether the licenses could be issued.
The second was filed by two couples and the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. The church had married them in 2001 under an old Canadian law which bypassed the city license requirement through �banns,� or announcing the marriage in church on three Sundays. The province refused to register the two marriages.
The Ontario Superior Court ruled unanimously last July that the definition of marriage as the �union of one man and one woman� violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian equivalent of the Bill of Rights. But the court suspended its ruling for two years to give Parliament time to change the law.
Cauchon and Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien appealed that decision, at the same time assigning a parliamentary committee to study the issue and get the opinions of Canadians on same-sex marriage.
The committee held hearings in cities across the nation. Their preliminary report, released last month, favors expanding marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
Courts in British Columbia and Quebec have also found the ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. However, both gave Parliament time to change the law. The British Columbia Court of Appeal�s ruling matched the lower Ontario court�s deadline of July 12, 2004.
The latest ruling has no delay.
�A temporary suspension allows a state of affairs that has been found to violate standards embodied in the Charter to persist for a time despite the violation,� the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote.
According to the Toronto City Clerk�s web site, there are no residency or citizenship requirements for marriage licenses, so American couples could go there, get licenses and get married.
Officials in the United States, however, are unlikely to immediately recognize the marriages.
Freedom to Marry executive director Evan Wolfson was excited at the effect the decision could have on the work for same-sex marriage in the U.S.
�Whatever discrimination and uncertainty they may face, they would be legally married,� Wolfson said of American couples going to Ontario to get married. �Our country will have to continue the civil rights struggle we are currently in.�
�One possibility we will have is that Americans will see that the sky doesn�t fall,� when same-sex marriage is legalized.
Wolfson believes that 37 state �Defense of Marriage� laws barring recognition of gay marriages performed elsewhere are illegal.
�Those laws are no more constitutional than denial of marriage itself, and ultimately they will come down,� he said.
Only two other nations have same-sex marriage: Belgium and the Netherlands. A dozen more have domestic partner laws that give some or most of the rights of marriage.
Cincinnati--Billed as �the gayest show on earth,� Cincinnati Pride on June 7 and 8 became one of the wettest performances on the planet, with thousands getting drenched Sunday just as the parade started.
But the Sunday rain didn�t stop crowds from returning to the event after a sunny Saturday.
�People kept filtering in all through the afternoon,� said Pride committee chair Ken Colegrove on Sunday. �It got pretty crowded. It said a lot about the spirit of the city.�
Greater Cincinnati Pride 2003 kicked off on Saturday with a festival in Northside�s Hoffner Park at 4 pm. No longer confined to the park�s circle, the festival allowed larger crowds and had a more relaxed atmosphere, bringing in nearly 2,000 people.
The Queen City Rainbow Band performed several songs Saturday.
�We started 15 months ago with five musicians,� said musical director Bunny Driscoll. �Tonight we put 43 people on stage here.�
Ginger, a poet from Sista! Sista! gave a vivid performance Saturday at Hoffner Park. She told the crowd to �Kiss, caress, and be loved. Stand, get up, and represent something.�
The festivities continued on Sunday as marchers gathered in Burnet Woods for the fourth annual Pride parade.
A light rain started just as Dykes on Bikes and others left the Burnet Woods rally shortly after 1 pm. It stopped a half hour later but resumed heavily just before the parade reached the already dampened Hoffner Park.
The rain, however, did not stop the procession, with around 50 vehicles and floats, from being Cincinnati�s largest LGBT Pride parade.
Live entertainment featured the Cincinnati Men�s Chorus, musicians, poets, and the Know Theater Tribe previewing its June 12-28 performances of the controversial play Corpus Christi.
Sunday�s festivities drew around 4,000 people along the course of the day, with the fluid crowds ebbing and flowing with the intensity of the rainstorms.
A huge �Big Top� tent protected performers and audience as the rain continued intermittently throughout the day.
Stonewall Cincinnati board member Doreen Cudnik and veteran area LGBT volunteer Michael Chanak shared hosting duties at the rally.
Speaker Scott Knox, a gay attorney named one of 2002�s top ten attorneys by Lawyers Weekly, said that in his downtown practice he sees several reasons to be proud.
�Lesbians support gay men,� said Knox. �And continually we see female couples fighting for the rights of their kids. I represent transgendered clients, and do not see braver people. [Gays and lesbians] can fade back. But you cannot pretend to be Richard if you�re Susan wearing a dress at a family funeral.�
Ken Colegrove served on the 2000 and 2001 Pride committees, founded the Pride Music Festival, and organized the 2002 and 2003 festivals.
�He�s been called a relentless ambassador for Pride, and a total control queen,� smiled Cudnik as she introduced him.
�It�s been a lot of fun,� Colegrove told the crowd. �Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do what I love, putting this together.�
Ohio Gay-Lesbian Alliance co-founder Dr. John Maddux praised the several hundred folks arriving early for Sunday�s rally, saying Cincinnati �is the bastion of conservatism in the Midwest. It�s a lot tougher to come out and celebrate your queerness.�
He introduced his �common law husband� Dr. John Kelly, who proclaimed, �This is our year!�
He praised northern Kentuckians for adding gays to Covington�s human rights ordinance and the effort underway to repeal Cincinnati�s Article 12.
Chris Good revived Cincinnati Pride events in 2000 and said he saw the �poison between gay groups� here.
�There are still splits along looks, fetishes, and class lines,� he charged. �We�re not where we want to be, but we�re not where we used to be, either. Once it was lonely being young and queer. Thank God it�s not any more.�
The keynote speaker was Chris Collier, a well-known singer-songwriter. In 1990, she was fired from her job as education coordinator at the Hamilton County Justice Center jail when a deputy to anti-gay Sheriff Simon Leis heard her on gay radio and cable TV shows. Collier wants to �ensure equality and freedom for all people,� she said. �Walk with confidence!�
Teens marched to support showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a hand-lettered sign of the film�s closing refrain: �Don�t dream it, be it.� A yellow International Socialist Organization banner read, �Gay, straight, black, white, same struggle, same fight.�
As bars in the area closed Sunday, the high-volume funk of Freekbass brought in more spectators to the festival.
�Of all the Prides I�ve been involved with, this is by far my favorite,� said Colegrove. �People didn�t leave. They were bound and determined that they wanted their Pride.�
Pride sponsors included Dakota Watch Company, Hamburger Mary�s, We Can Paint, the Crazy Fox Saloon, Greater Cincinnati GLBT News, WAIF�s �Alternating Currents� program, and over a dozen others.
John Zeh edits Rainbow News Service on www.GayCincinnati.com.
Dayton--The theme for this year�s Pride events, �Flying Proud, Soaring to New Heights,� turned out to be very appropriate on May 31.
Dayton�s Pride Parade and Pridefest was buffeted part of that morning with 15 to 30 mph winds. Tents, signs and drag queen wigs were flying everywhere during setup. Mother Nature finally cooperated and things settled down with just a breeze and a chill in the air. Then Dayton really got things started.
The parade led off with a riderless car, recognizing those that have gone before. The grand marshal, National Gay Pilots Association�s Capt. Tom Brumlik, led the parade through downtown Dayton.
This year�s parade had roughly 200 people marching or riding. Organizations throughout the Miami Valley such as Dignity, Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Ohio chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, Eternal Joy Metropolitan Community Churchand many others, were joined by businesses including Up on Main, DJs Saloon, Celebrity Show Club and 464 on Fifth.
There were even some surprises this year. The Queen City Rainbow Marching Band from Cincinnati and Flaggots OH!, a gay flag corps with members from all over Ohio, joined in the festivities.
The veterans group carried chapter president Todd Shinkle�s new international military gay pride flag. The banner commemorates LGBT people who have lost their lives in their country�s service and supports those still in the military.
�Although the Dayton Pride Parade and following festival was much smaller in size compared to the Pride parade and festival� in Columbus, Shinkle said, �and it was only the second anniversary of it hosting an event for their LGBT citizens, I am compelled to say the folks who showed up for Dayton�s parade had the same level of enthusiasm and interest by its marchers and on-lookers as Columbus has each year.�
�Actually,� he continued, �from a military and technical point of view, the Dayton Pride Parade and Festival easily had twice as many veterans show up to march in its parade compared to the four who showed up to march in [Columbus] last year. The best word that describes my feelings for the 2003 Dayton Pride Parade and Festival comes from the years I served in the U.S. Army as an 101st Airborne-Air Assault infantryman, and that word is simply, �Whoa!� �
The festival on Courthouse Square featured performances throughout the afternoon. Emcees Rob Austin and Matt Driggs kept things rolling along, with speakers Capt. Brumlik, Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, and city commissioner Dean Lovelace.
The show went on with a number of performances through out the day by the Queen City Rainbow Band, Dayton�s Frozen Feet and many other singers, performers and drag entertainers. Comedian Bernie Lubbers, the headliner for the Dayton Pride Dinner on June 21, made a special appearance.
The day was capped by a remembrance by Rev. Raeanna Biddle of Eternal Joy MCC for those who have gone before, and for the men and women of the military who lay their lives on the line.
Despite the less than perfect weather conditions, approximately 750 hardy souls braved the elements and enjoyed the entertainment and food from Chowhounds and Old Time Treats, keeping volunteers busy serving beer and hard lemonade.
Pride in Dayton continues throughout the month of June with the 17th annual Pride Dinner on June 21 and the free Family Community Picnic on June 22.
Scotty Didier is the chair of Dayton Pride.
Columbus--The long-anticipated report of the Joint Committee on Household Benefits is done and as expected, the panel says Columbus should give its workers the benefits.
The 32-page report was released to city officials June 4, and to the public June 9. It recommends that the city extend medical and prescription drug benefits to household members of city workers, including same-sex partners. But the benefits would cost the employee more than the present spousal coverage does.
The committee was appointed in May 2002 by Mayor Michael Coleman and Council President Matt Habash after the city�s employee benefits policy was found to violate its own human rights ordinance, which includes sexual orientation.
That February, 2002 decision 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 CRC found that �the city must allow coverage of the domestic partners of homosexuals.� The case is currently being appealed by the city in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
Spouses and children of city workers are currently covered under the health plan. The household benefits committee recommends that coverage be extended to up to two additional adults in the employee�s household who are not eligible for other insurance coverage. Also included would be any unrelated children living in the household under age 19, or age 23 if a full-time student.
Employees using the 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 committee, however, stopped short of recommending a timeline for implementation. That decision will be made by city council and Mayor Coleman after 30 days of public comment. Officials could also ignore the findings.
The committee, chaired by Columbus Medical Association director Philip Cass, includes former Stonewall Columbus board chair Susan White, Mark Huddy of the Roman Catholic diocese, Bishop Timothy J. Clarke of the First Church of God, Donna James of Nationwide Insurance, Bessie King Jackson with the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging, and council members Michael Mentel and Charleta Tavares.
The panel contracted with Mercer Human Resources Consulting and CJI Research Corporation to assist with gathering and analysis of data.
Cass said the value of the report, which summed up 15 committee meetings and the comments of 105 citizens, is that it gives the city considerable information as to what the public thinks people should and shouldn�t get, and why.
Cass said the committee attempted to �define access to health care using a household paradigm, not sexual relationships.�
After conducting focus groups, the committee found that support for the concept of household benefits was generally high, but became divided on the issue of extending those benefits to unmarried people of the same or opposite sex.
Those who objected on those grounds were less likely to disapprove if a 50% premium was charged, allowing them to feel like they were not subsidizing behavior they disapprove of.
The findings also suggest that people who defend the present benefits as adequate believe that only same-sex couples are excluded.
The projected cost of the plan to the city, according to Mercer�s study, would be $415,000 to $622,000 per year. This is about one percent of the city�s overall health insurance cost of $51.5 million.
The report also recognizes the current budget problems the city faces.
City Council passed an ordinance extending coverage to domestic partners in 1998, which was signed by then-Mayor Greg Lashutka. But that ordinance 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.
Presently the only other city in Ohio that extends spousal health coverage to employees� same-sex domestic partners is Cleveland Heights. About 40 non-government employers in Ohio do.
Stonewall Columbus director Kate Anderson said the household benefits report is �a step in the right direction� and added that Stonewall�s Social Issues Committee will review the report and make its comments public.
The report is available at any Columbus public library, or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Columbus--The first bill ever introduced in the Ohio legislature to extend civil rights to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders got its first hearing on June 3.
The bill�s sponsor, Rep. Dale Miller, a Democrat representing Cleveland�s west side, told the House Committee on State Government that �discrimination based on sexual orientation is just another of discrimination�s ugly forms, and should be rejected, just like discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, religion, or age.�
Miller�s bill, H.B. 147, which was introduced March 31, would protect GLBTs from discrimination in employment, housing, public accomodations, and credit.
The measure adds �sexual orientation� to Ohio�s existing civil rights laws. It defines the phrase to include heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, and transgenderism. The measure would be enforced by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which enforces the state�s current non-discrimination laws.
Since the June 3 hearing was the bill�s sponsor testimony, which most bills have, Miller was the only one to speak on it. Measures that committees are interested in passing also get public hearings for proponent and opponent testimony.
Miller hopes committee chair Rep. Jim Carmichael, a Republican from Wooster, will schedule more hearings.
�It is going to require a great deal of grassroots support to get it going,� he cautioned.
�The Ohio legislature is often a lagging indicator,� said Miller,.�It is behind where the people are on issues.�
Miller described for the committee a situation where a Canton woman who had come out to a few co-workers at a Fortune 500 company was fired after 13 years of exemplary service.
��A lawyer told her: It�s a sad story, but it�s not against the law,� Miller said.
�Some people justify discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by saying that people have a choice as to their sexual orientation,� Miller testified. �However, choice is not the issue. Americans have full freedom to choose their religion, yet discrimination based on religion is universally condemned.�
�From the state�s perspective,� continued Miller, �sexual behavior can be healthy, safe, and consensual whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, and neither one in itself is any more moral than the other. Therefore, there is no moral basis to justify discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.�
Miller told the committee that 13 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws, and that in 2002, 15 cities and counties around the country passed similar local ordinances. (New Mexico was the 14th state to pass a law in March; it takes effect July 1.)
Eleven Ohio cities, covering almost a sixth of the state�s population, have similar ordinances.
Miller also pointed out that at the end of 2002, 61 percent of Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies.
�What I am proposing is not cutting-edge legislation, but an idea whose time has come,� said Miller. �We need to get Ohio back on track for economic growth, and we can help by giving all of our citizens that opportunity to participate fully and fairly in our society and the workplace.�
Following a question by Rep. Dan Stewart, a Columbus Democrat, Miller also told the committee that his bill only gives GLBTs the same rights that everyone else has, and is not preferential treatment. Stewart is a co-sponsor of the bill.
No Republicans on the committee asked Miller questions.
�I really felt honored to have the opportunity to present such an important bill,� said Miller.
Miller is the minority whip in the House. He is not a member of the State Government Committee.
In addition to chair Carmichael, Republicans on the committee are Steve Reinhard of Bucyrus, Steve Buehrer of Cincinnati, Gary Cates of West Chester, Patricia Clancy of Cincinnati, Larry Flowers of Canal Winchester, Jim Hughes of Columbus, Jon Peterson of Delaware, and Jim Trakas of Independence.
Democrats on the committee include Stewart, ranking member Annie Key of Cleveland, John Boccieri of New Middleton, Dean DePiero of Parma and Sylvester Patton, Jr. of Youngstown.
A similar bill has been introduced in the Ohio Senate by Democrat Dan Brady, who represents Cleveland�s west side and suburbs. Brady�s bill, S.B. 77, is in the Senate Judicial Civil Justice Committee. No hearings have been scheduled.������������
Kent, Ohio--The oldest women�s music festival in the country found itself homeless three months ago when negotiations failed with Ball State University in Indiana, where the event has been held for over a decade.
To the rescue came Ohio�s Kent State University, which hosted the 29th annual National Women�s Music Festival
From June 5 to June 8, the center of student political activism in the 1960s became the focal point and gathering place for women interested in music, the arts, and other women.
The finest in women�s musical performers were presented, as were craftswomen and visual artists.
Workshops on spirituality, politics, and sex filled the days, and a variety of musical styles filled the nights. Among the diverse performers featured were Lucie Blue Tremblay, Ember Swift with Lyndell Montgomery, Melissa Ferrick, poet Alix Olsen, punk rockers Tribe 8, Zrazy, Jamie Anderson, Tret Fure, and comedians Sabrina Matthews, Marga Gomez and Georgia Ragsdale.
The She Rocks! concert on Friday night was a particularly noisy, raucous affair that rocked with the humor of emcee comedian Sabrina Matthews, the Kim Archer Band, the Hissyfits, Ember Swift with Lyndell Montgomery--who stomped and swirled around the stage playing electric violin--and the punkish Tribe 8.
In a scene that might only happen at a women�s festival, the audience politely divided itself into those that wanted to mosh to Tribe 8 (to the left) and those that wanted to watch unobstructed (to the right).
Saturday night featured a lower key concert hosted by comedian Georgia Radsdale, with Vocolot, Wishing Chair and Kara Barnard, a steamy set by sexy songstress Melissa Ferrick and a finale with Irish phenomenon Zrazy.
In the KSU Auditorium, a drag show by the H.I.S. Kings was videotaped by the Discovery Channel for a film exploring current attitudes about sex, gender, family and identity politics.
Council joins six other Ohio localities with proclamations
Lakewood--Three years after City Council rejected benefits for city workers� domestic partners, the issue was raised again as the body proclaimed June to be Pride Month.
A resolution proclaiming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in this Cleveland suburb was passed 6-1 by council on June 2.
The proclamation was a first for Lakewood, which joined six other Ohio localities in recognition of GLBT Pride.
Resolutions were also passed this year by Cleveland City Council and the Cuyahoga County Commissioners. Pride proclamations were issued by Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, Cincinnati Mayor Charles Luken, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin and Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley.
The Lakewood resolution was introduced by at-large council member Denis Dunn. It also honors the 15th anniversary of Cleveland Pride by flying the rainbow LGBT Pride flag over city hall from June 16 to June 21, the day of the Cleveland LGBT Pride parade and festival.
Objections to the flag section brought the most protest from citizens and council members. The discussion reopened old wounds over a domestic partner benefits ordinance council rejected in January, 2000.
Council President Robert Seelie objected to the resolution immediately after Dunn introduced it, saying, �Everyone should be proud of who they are, but I don�t think it is okay to fly the [rainbow] flag over City Hall. That�s for the Stars and Stripes, because it is for all Americans.�
The resolution specifies that the Pride flag is to be flown �along with the burgee of the State of Ohio and the American flag.�
�Only three flags have flown over City Hall,� said at-large member Michael Dever, also objecting. �The POW-MIA flag, the Red Cross flag, and the child abuse prevention flag. We can�t keep opening the door to flags.�
Dever then proposed that the rainbow flag should fly one day, not five, in order to �make room for others.�
�It�s one week out of 52,� said Dunn, �there�s plenty of time for other flags.�
At-large member Edward Fitzgerald accused Dunn of using tactics to pass the resolution that he opposed when the city debated domestic partner benefits.
Fitzgerald had opposed the benefits ordinance and said Dunn, who was not a member of council at the time, also opposed them because of the way that ordinance was handled.
�I just wish that before this stuff is brought forward in an election year, that we have more discussion,� said Fitzgerald.
Dunn, who said he supports domestic partner benefits, replied, �Your recollection is 100 percent untrue.�
Fitzgerald said the debate over the flag was �not a healthy debate for the community,� another reference to the domestic partner proposal.
Dunn considers the resolution vote a �symbolic precursor to future legislation.�
Seven citizens spoke about the resolution, three for, three against, and one ambiguous.
Jeremy Elliott, a former aide to Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, spoke about Richard Florida�s study of gays and the economic climate of cities. He said the resolution would help attract cultural assets to Lakewood.
�Why in God�s name are we going to honor something like this?� asked Charlie Evans. �Homosexuality is an abomination in every one of the world�s three major religions.�
Mayor Madeline Cain voiced her support for the entire resolution by telling of an incident where a rainbow flag was torn from a Lakewood home and damaged out of malice for the gay men who lived there.
�As long as there are incidents in our community where gays and lesbians are made to feel not at home,� said Cain, �public officials have to step up to the plate. And in flying the flag, this public official is prepared to do that.�
Dever then made a motion to strike the flag provision from the resolution. Seelie seconded it. The motion was defeated 5-2.
Dever then joined Dunn, FitzGerald, and ward representatives Nancy Roth, Thomas George, and Brian Corrigan in support of the resolution.
Seelie provided the only vote in opposition, and said later it was only due to the flag section.
Columbus--At the 20th anniversary Human Rights Campaign dinner, the recession was nowhere to be seen. Nine hundred people turned out for the event at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Columbus, setting an attendance record. Corporate sponsorship of the event was also at an all-time high.
The dinner raised about $280,000 for the Washington, D.C. gay and lesbian political organization. The money came from silent and live auctions as well as ticket sales, said ticket committee member Jeff Smith.
The theme for the evening was �Ring in the Roaring �20s.� This caused Chuck Gurney, Channel 10 weathercaster and host for the evening, to joke, �Remember the roaring �20s, when being gay meant being happy and when a fag was something you put between your lips?�
The first item on the evening�s agenda was the presentation of the 2003 HRC Equality Award to Steve Shellabarger.
Dayton-born Shellabarger moved to Columbus in 1963 to attend Ohio State University. He has been part of HRC from the beginning. In 1983 Shellabarger co-founded the Human Rights Campaign Fund Columbus committee and helped organize the first dinner at the Americana apartments, which raised $6,000.
Shellabarger said that the main issue for GLBT-people was �about being treated fairly and equally.�
�When there is discrimination against one of us there is discrimination against us all,� he said. �When a hard working employee is fired form his job because of his homosexuality we are all less secure in the workplace. When one of us is discharged from the military all of us are treated dishonorably. Or when a child is stripped for a lesbian mother�s arm by an uncaring judge, we are all hurt parents.�
The evening�s focus then shifted to the HRC Capital Campaign, a fundraising effort for HRC�s new building in Washington D.C. To date, the campaign has raised $20 million and needs to raise another $3 million by this fall. Owning the property will save HRC about $1 million a year.
The building was built in the 1950s to house the B�nai B�rith organization. A video showed how Jewish immigrants from all over the world had come there to fight for their civil rights, and now the GLBT community would do the same in a quest for �a place at the table.�
In a very brief address, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said that Columbus was �about human rights, people�s rights, inclusiveness and acceptance at every level in society.�
�Our city works the best,� he continued, �when we work together, and it is at its worst when we point fingers and play the blame game.�
The featured speaker of the evening was HRC�s executive director Elizabeth Birch.
Birch, who is retiring from her post at the end of this year, has been the keynote speaker at Columbus HRC dinners in the past.
�We are living in a fascinating time,� Birch said, �a watershed moment in the history of our planet.�
Birch said that HRC has grown to raising over $20 million annually, �enough to make trouble� in D.C.
She told a story from her early days at HRC when she went to meet with a U.S. House member who had made comments on the House floor about �getting these homos out of the military.�
At the end of the meeting, after staffers had left the office, he asked Birch, �So how do you know if you are that way?�
As Birch and a colleague paused to answer, he added, �Well, I wanna tell you I have loved men.�
��I told him, �Congressman, that�s okay, those feelings are healthy,� Birch said. �He is still a member of Congress today, he is still imprisoned, and he still doesn�t do right by us all the time. But he did get back on the floor the next day and apologize to the GLBT community for his remarks.�
Canton--A Stark County domestic relations judge noted for his bias against gays and lesbians has removed a 2�-year-old boy from his gay foster parents in favor of his biological parents, where the child previously failed to thrive.
Judge David E. Stucki accepted a June 4 agreement between the parents, the court-appointed guardian, and Stark County Department of Job and Family Services allowing six months of protective supervision for the child with his biological parents.
That agreement stopped a hearing scheduled for June 5 that could have permanently terminated the mother and father�s parental rights.
Ohio law allows for 12 months of temporary custody before the judge must rule on whether the child is to be placed for adoption or returned to parents. Up to two six-month extensions can be granted.
Foster parents Jerry Simler, 54, and Jim Carrington, 37, of Perry Township fear that the child was removed from their home May 15 and their ability to adopt the boy thwarted due to anti-gay bias.
Their attorney, Alexandra Hull of Akron, said, �I would not presume that there hasn�t been anti-gay sentiment by people of authority, or that the anti-gay sentiment isn�t shared by the judge.�
Hull represented a Canton lesbian couple in 1997 whose foster care of three children was threatened by Stucki. Though that case was in another judge�s court, Stucki intervened, promising to �declare war� on Children Services for not divulging that the foster parents were lesbian.
Stucki then publicly questioned the fitness of gays and lesbians to be parents, and attempted to order Children Services to advise the court if any future foster parents were gay, which would have put the agency in violation of Ohio law.
The children in the 1997 case have since been adopted by the lesbian couple.
Stucki was appointed to the bench in 1993 by then-Gov. George Voinovich. He was first elected a year later.
In campaign speeches and presentations to community groups, Stucki refers to his judgeship as his �ministry.� Concern for his attempts to factor his personal religious beliefs into court decisions, even when they are at odds with the law, is widely expressed among family practice lawyers in the county.
The child was placed with Simler and Carrington by the county in April, 2002. Simler is a cousin of the biological mother. Carrington is also identified on agency documents as a caregiver.
Court documents show that the child was taken from the parents while the mother was at a domestic violence shelter, telling shelter workers she intended to return to her abusive husband with the child.
The documents allege that both biological parents are developmentally delayed, and that the mother said she learned to parent from watching TV.
The mother canceled numerous medical appointments for the child, and said that the boy witnessed the father �knock[ing] her into reality.�
The documents also say that the father fed the child scalding food that burned his mouth, but instead of taking the baby to the doctor, she fed him cold milk for days.
The baby�s father has two convictions for carrying concealed weapons, and in 1994 lost custody of two children over concerns of sex abuse. Both custody cases were in Stucki�s court.
When the child was placed with Simler and Carrington at 17 months, he did not walk, verbalize, or crawl. His eyes were crossed, requiring surgery, and the child was showing signs of serious mental delay.
According to the men and subsequent agency reports, the child had progressed �beyond expectation� under the couple�s care, and was medically fit, happy, and developing traits and skills of a typical child his age.
Simler and Carrington say the biological parents have not improved, and worry that during the six-month extension, the child will regress.
Department of Job and Family Services personnel who spoke under conditions of anonymity share those concerns.
Stucki refused to talk to the Gay People�s Chronicle, saying that he will not talk to anybody about an open case. He did speak to the Akron Becaon Journal about this case, telling them, �The court makes a case-by-case determination if a placement is appropriate for a child.�
Stucki added that �the issue of whether or not a couple is gay . . . is not a fatal flaw. It may be a factor, but there are a lot of factors.�
Simler and Carrington have been denied visitation of the child by the parents. As former foster parents, they are not legally considered parties to the matter, even though Simler is a relative.
They are, however, waiting to see what Stucki will do in six months.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Church may eject minister for performing same-sex marriages
Cincinnati--A minister who has continued to marry gay couples despite his conviction by a church court of violating denomination law hopes to forestall a church vote that could cost him his ministry and membership in the Presbyterian Church.
Ministers and elder commissioners of the Cincinnati Presbytery, a cluster of Presbyterian churches in the area, will meet June 16 to consider a motion that the Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken be found to have renounced the church�s jurisdiction.
Van Kuiken, minister of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, said he was surprised by the presbytery�s action.
�This short circuits the church judiciary system,� he said June 5. �I was very surprised that they decided to take this step while I am still appealing the court decision.�
Van Kuiken, 44, was found guilty April 21 of violating church law by a court of the Cincinnati Presbytery. He has appealed that conviction to the denomination�s next highest level of courts, the permanent judicial commission of the synod that oversees Presbyterian churches in Ohio and Michigan. That body has not yet ruled on the appeal.
Van Kuiken said he may ask the synod for an emergency stay of the presbytery vote until the appeal process is completed.
After the April 21 ruling, Van Kuiken said that he would continue to marry same-sex couples. He made good on that promise by marrying two women on May 16.
The California attorney who filed the original charges against Van Kuiken in ecclesiastical court responded to the� latest ceremony by filing charges of heresy and blasphemy. Those charges will likely not be acted upon until Van Kuiken�s first case makes it through the appeals process.
Council nixes partner benefits
Lexington, Ky.--City council voted June 3 to halt a change by Mayor Teresa Isaac that extends government employees� health benefits to same-sex partners.
In the 11-4 vote, council members raised fiscal, procedural and moral objections to the extension. They took the first step in placing a moratorium on domestic-partner benefits until October.
Under Isaac�s plan, enacted in May, partners must affirm their relationship and sign three forms of interdependence, such as shared addresses, bank accounts and motor vehicles.
Councilmember Jennifer Mossotti said she was concerned about possible abuse, saying some of criteria �were pretty easy to obtain.� Other council members said extending coverage to a new group would raise insurance costs.
Fred Brown, who disagreed with the extension �on a moral standpoint,� said the council may seek public comment and outside legal advice.
Isaac shrugged off criticism for making changes without telling the council.
�We have passed what is called the fairness ordinance, which required you to treat all employees the same, and that�s what this administrative policy does,� she said.
Vote on gay clergy is shelved
Denver--Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) know their decision to shelve a vote on gay clergy during their national convention isn�t the last of the controversy.
Members of the 215th General Assembly ended their convention May 31 expecting a move to repeal the ban on gay clergy to wind up on the agenda of the next assembly. A gay advocate standing at the bottom of escalators in the Colorado Convention Center made the point: �We�ll be back,� his sign read.
The General Assembly, the church�s elected policy makers, has asked its members twice since 1997 to repeal the ban only to see regional governing bodies, called presbyteries, vote overwhelmingly to keep the provision.
Moderates and opponents of gay clergy, fearful of splits in the church, teamed up to block another popular vote. Assembly members voted May 30 to send a proposed repeal of the ban to a task force that will report in 2006.
Broad domestic partner bill passes
Sacramento--The state assembly approved sweeping legislation June 4 that would grant same-sex partners most of the same spousal rights and responsibilities as married couples.
Passed on a 41 to 29 vote, the bill does not allow gay men and lesbians to marry, but does guarantee people who register as domestic partners legal and financial benefits ranging from the ability to file joint income taxes to the standing to petition courts for child support and alimony.
During an hour-long debate, supporters characterized the measure introduced by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, as �landmark legislation,� while opponents criticized it as weakening the institution of marriage.
In an effort to defeat the bill, Republican lawmakers argued that the measure conflicts with Proposition 22, a 2000 ballot measure which defined marriage as applying only to a man and a woman.
Two years ago, the legislature passed a measure providing registered couples about a dozen rights previously available only to heterosexual spouses or next of kin, including the right to make medical decisions for incapacitated partners, to sue for a partner�s wrongful death and to adopt a partner�s child.
Passage is expected in the state Senate, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, but Gov. Gray Davis has yet to voice his position on the bill.
Episcopalians elect gay bishop
Concord, N.H.--In a worldwide first, New Hampshire Episcopalians on June 7 elected an openly gay man as their next bishop.
The selection of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, 56, who was chosen over three other candidates in voting by New Hampshire clergy and lay Episcopalians, is still subject to confirmation next month by the church�s national General Convention, and it is expected to be debated.
Bishops in the world Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States, approved a resolution in 1998 calling gay sex �incompatible with Scripture.�
Robinson, who was married and has two grown children, now lives with his partner, Mark Andrew. He preaches at area churches and has been active in local causes, such as establishing �Concord Outright,� a support group for teenagers.
According to the Episcopal News Service, the only other bishop to publicly state that he is actively gay is Otis Charles of Utah, who made the announcement in 1993 after retiring.
The Rev. Hays Junkin, head of the committee that selected the candidates, expects Robinson�s election to be contentious at the General Convention.
His election is expected to be even more controversial among Anglicans abroad. Conservatives in the church protested the appointment last month of an English bishop with liberal views on homosexuality, even though the new bishop vowed to uphold existing church policy on the subject.
Ashcroft backs down on Pride ban
Washington, D.C.--Attorney General John Ashcroft will allow gay and lesbian Justice Department employees to hold an annual gathering at agency headquarters if they foot the bill, a move critics said June 10 was a clumsy reversal of a previous decision.
Officials with the group DOJ Pride said last week that they were told the awards ceremony could not be held in the agency�s Great Hall on June 18, as they have been in past years.
But agency spokesman Mark Corallo said the intention was not to block the group from holding the event, only to make it clear it would not be officially sponsored by the department. That means the group�s members must pay any costs themselves.
Allison Nichol, vice president of DOJ Pride, disputed that. She said the organization was told clearly last week they could not hold the event in the Great Hall, the courtyard or a conference room, even if they paid for it.
Still, Nichol said the group would welcome the change as a �partial reversal� of the previous ban. She also said other employee groups have in the past had their events sponsored.
Reports of the denial prompted outrage among gay and lesbian groups and from Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who wrote an angry letter to Ashcroft questioning the Justice Department�s commitment to fairness.
Lautenberg issued a statement calling the new policy �the politics of a cover-up� and said he would urge hearings by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee into possible violations of civil rights stemming from the incident.
Ashcroft had promised during his Senate confirmation hearings in 2001 that he would continue to allow DOJ Pride to hold its event.
Judge won�t lift Disney no-fly zone
Orlando, Fla.--A federal judge on June 5 refused to lift the no-fly zone over Walt Disney World so that an anti-gay group could fly banners over the amusement park during the annual Gay Days celebration.
The Family Policy Network had wanted to fly banners reading �Jesus Christ: Hope For Homosexuals.com� during the 13th annual celebration, which began June 5. The four-day event, which is not sponsored by Disney, was expected to draw more than 100,000 gays and lesbians.
The Virginia group sued the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies, saying the anti-terrorism flight restrictions--approved by Congress in February--violated its free-speech rights.
Planes must remain at least 3,000 feet above the park or stay at least 3.3 miles away. The rules also cover Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
U.S. District Judge Anne Conway said that she did not believe she had jurisdiction over FAA policies, and that the network did not meet the burden of proof.
The cast of �Naked Boys Singing� frees themselves
Sex sells. Nudity pulls in the bucks.
Those who don�t believe it have either been living under a rock or are in some sort of puritanically induced state of denial and delusion.
Like it or not, nudity as market allure is here to stay. It used to be that women were most often objectified in order to get some schmo to buy a certain brand of beer or a particular model of car. Today, naked male forms are equally likely to try and seduce the consumer into parting with hard-earned money.
Naked Boys Singing is an extension of a culture where erogenous zones are increasingly used to part customers and their cash in the quest for entertainment, consumer satisfaction or voyeurism.
Reality Theatre, which since leaving its home of 15 years has been residing at Axis Nite Club, is bringing seven naked, singing boys to Columbus.
Mollie Levin, head of the theater and its director, decided to do it because �it was the hottest off-Broadway commodity� she could bring to Ohio audiences.
�I wanted to end the season on a high note,� she said.
Nicholas Georges, alum of the Columbus Children�s Theatre, plays one of the boys who will bare all.
He said concerns about playing naked �hadn�t really registered with me till last night when we had our first nude rehearsal.�
Georges found that for him, the full nudity was not going to be an issue, �not with the cast at least.� He may have �some hesitations with the audience� especially �superficial� fears.
�I worry about what the audience will think about my body,� he says. �It could be better.�
In a buffed-up, muscled, ripped world where body fascism is a new religion, it is understandable that Georges would desire a better body. Not that he, or anyone in the cast for that matter, has anything to be ashamed of when it comes to looks. The concerns of the cast about the way they will look naked are natural, though, given that many people go into paroxysms of panic simply contemplating a day at the beach in swimwear.
��No one in the cast is stereotypical of what audiences might expect when coming to see a show like this,� Georges continues. �This is not a beefcake show and neither is it a strip show.�
His concern about body image says a lot about society when a group of seven perfectly attractive, slim men seem to think that fat-free is perfection. And by that token, one has to wonder how much a show like this may add to cultural neuroses, feeding into cumulative obsessions with body image. But the flip side is that audiences may want nothing but �perfection,� six-pack abs and buns of steel, if they�re paying to see nudity.
Georges, Levin and all the others assert that the nudity is not what the show is about.
�It�s about the music, the songs,� said Georges.
�After the opening number, after the novelty has worn off, the audience will not even focus on the nudity,� Levin affirmed. �Some of the songs would work without nudity, but the others would not. Each scene and song is its own little joke, its own little drama, its own fun little moment, and the nudity adds a lot to that humor, that drama, and those fun little moments.�
�Little� is not the best choice of words to use around a group of men who are going to be doing the full Monty for over 90 minutes. The big pink elephant in the room with a show like this, that everyone wants to talk about but won�t, is the penis.
Another performer, Wayne Self, laughs loudly and says, �Yes, it is.�
Laughing loudly once again, he says, �It�s a bigger worry for some of us than the others.�
What Self was referring to as �the bigger worry for some� was the idea that accidental erections may be more relevant to some of the younger cast members, who he seems to suggest are more likely to get more easily aroused because of their youth.
Self fronts a band called the Afunkalypse and they play mostly in straight bars. Self thought that doing this show might give them �more exposure within the gay community.� Said like that, he couldn�t have chosen a better show.
When it comes to concerns about nudity, Self claims, �I am more comfy with taking my pants off than my shirt.�
�It�s that fitness thing,� he says, once again bringing to light the pressures the cast must be feeling.
�It�s just good old fashioned gay vanity,� Self says, �and I am working on my fitness for this show. And anyone in this cast who says they are not dieting is lying.�
�And by the way,� Self adds as a caveat, �there is no dieting I can do between now and then to be fat free.�
This discussion about body fat is echoed in one of the songs in the play, which goes, �It�s true for you and it�s true for me, a gay man�s gotta be fat free.�
While one can laugh at the satirical overtones of the ditty, it is impossible not to wonder whether this show adds to an unattainable ideal within the gay male community.
Self, who has been partnered for nine years, had to confront the whole issue of public nudity with his boyfriend.
�He wanted to know why it was necessary to get up there naked,� he says. �But, once I gave him the CD, he really came around because he now sees that the nudity is not gratuitous or alarmist, but rather it is clever and self-effacing.�
How can a show that involves all the men being naked all the time not be gratuitous? That is a question that can only be answered by seeing the show and making up one�s own mind. Regardless of how noble Levin and the cast see the show, there are many people, mostly men, who will come to the show just to see the nudity. These people will not necessarily be theater lovers, nor will they have ever heard a single refrain from the show.
�That�s true,� admits Self. In fact, the opening line of the show seems to be cognizant of this when it announces, �Tonight you finally get what you paid for.�
�Regardless of the motivation of those who come to see it,� Self adds, �there is something for everyone here.�
Thomas Stephens, who works for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, wanted to do the show so he could get back to his roots in theater performance.
�This show is the ultimate stretch for a performer,� he says, �because as an actor the idea of nudity as a costume is a tough one.�
Stephens is �more concerned about the choreography and music being where it needs to be� than with letting it all hang out in front of a group of strangers. �The music material in this show is anything but easy,� he concludes.
Unlike Self, whose partner will be watching him from the audience, Stephens gets to do the full Monty with his partner Trace Baxter, who is also in the show.
Being naked in the show together �is no problem� for the two of them. According to Stephens, �This has actually brought us closer together and taught us to articulate better with each other what we each need and want.�
Fred Maurer, the youngest member of the cast at 18, is also the company�s lone straight boy. He is using this production as a way of �experiencing something that will make me overcome a lot of fears about being in front of an audience.�
�At first I was a little worried,� Maurer said, �but now it�s not really a problem because I am playing a role and I am detached from being naked.�
Most of Maurer�s friends at Point Park College in Pittsburgh are gay and this production has helped him �learn a lot about the gay community.�
Having overcome their angst about the first nude rehearsal, the cast seems to have become quite comfortable being naked while singing and dancing together.
Stephens says that he has �been very impressed with the level of professionalism and brotherhood in the cast.�
The other elephant in the room when talking about male nudity is size. Let�s be honest, men, given the opportunity, will scope out the next guy to compare size, length, girth--the whole kielbasa, so to speak.
Self said that there had been no size competition among the cast. �Not yet at least,� he qualifies.
Then, as he mentally goes through the seven cast members, he decides whether the size queens will be satisfied.
�Yes. (Pause) Yes. Hmmm. (Pause) Yes. Yes.�
Then he bursts out laughing.
Levin, with a wink, astutely says, �There�s something for everyone here.�
The lesbian director has had no qualms about working with a bunch of naked guys. �It�s just not an issue because it�s just part of the process.�
She admits that her best theatrical experiences have always been �with either all-male or all-female casts.�
Levin believes that audiences may come in because of the nudity, but that �they will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show and the professionalism of the performers.�
Regardless of what one thinks about a show with so much skin, nudity sells and this show is likely to help Reality Theatre revitalize its coffers, which, like many other arts groups� funds, are in need of a big boost.
Naked Boys Singing will be flaunting its wares at the Axis Nite Club in Columbus from May 29 through June 21. If the run sells out� there is a possibility of extending the show after the Pride Holiday festivities. Single tickets are $25, reserved tables of 4 are $120 and reserved booths for 4 are $140. Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with 7 p.m. shows on Sunday June 1 and 15. The show is for mature audiences only and no one under 18 will be allowed without a parent or guardian. For tickets and show times, visit www.realitytheatre.com.
Reality Theatre has yet to announce their new season due to the renovation schedule that Axis will be undergoing this summer.
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