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June 27, 2003

 

Pride on the water

The15th Cleveland Pride festival fills a park surrounded by Lake Erie and rainbow flags

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland--The largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride festival in the city’s history was held in the middle of a triangle of prominent rainbow flags on June 21.

The flags flew over Cleveland City Hall, atop the Freedom Schooner Amistad, a reproduction of a slave ship which is visiting the city, and the William G. Mather lake freighter museum, permanently docked at the East Ninth Street Pier.

The festival, in Voinovich Park at the end of the pier, came after a rally aboard the Mather and a parade from Cleveland State University. The parade followed a lavender stripe painted by the city along Euclid Ave. and East Ninth St.

About 7,500 people attended the festival, said Pride Coordinator Brynna Fish. She based this on the number of wrist bands given at the gate to people entering. Many overpaid the $5 suggested donation.

At the rally, Pride president Brian Thornton pointed to Lake Erie from the deck of the Mather.

“Across that lake, two people can marry regardless of their sexual orientation,” he said, referring to a June 10 Ontario court ruling changing the definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to “two people.”

“If Canada can get it right, how much farther behind can we be?” said Thornton in one of many references to the Canadian decision. Among these was a man quietly singing “O, Canada” in the audience while the North Coast Men’s Chorus sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Elected officials at the event included State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate; State Reps. Dale Miller of west Cleveland and Michael Skindell of Lakewood; Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty and Lakewood City Council members Denis Dunn and Thomas George, who is also a candidate for mayor. Nickie Antonio represented Lakewood Mayor Madeline Cain, and Cleveland City Council member Jay Westbrook represented all of council and Mayor Jane Campbell.

Also visible was openly gay Lakewood City Council candidate John Farina.

Ohio American Civil Liberties Union director Chris Link urged LGBTs to run for public office.

Westbrook asked those at the rally to take a moment to honor the late Dr. John Carey, who died after falling from the Mather while attending a party. Carey was a gay physician who was a pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of AIDS.

Parade grand marshals were Robert Burns of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, master bookseller Richard Gildenmeister, Ray Graham of Cleveland, England, Katie Alex of Heights Families for Equality, Courtney Hill of the Lesbian and Gay Center Youth program, Judy Maruzan of the ACLU, and Joe Santiago, who was the first openly gay candidate to run for Cleveland City Council.

Grand marshals rode the parade in a silver Buck Rogers rocket taken from a ride at the old Euclid Beach amusement park. Laugh Out Proud comedy contest winner Roxane Larimore rode in the Batmobile from the original movie.

The grand marshals selected the winners of the float contest. The AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland won best float for “Mardi Gras for Another Day,” and Liberation United Church of Christ was named the most creative for a two-tiered cake celebrating their anniversary. Anthony Salatino’s pink flamingo was the funniest float.

The number of marchers in the parade was 698, making it one of the smaller parades in recent years.

Fish said putting the rally at the end of the parade instead of the beginning might be a reason for the drop.

“As the festival grows,” said Fish, “there is a certain energy or pull, and people are just eager to get here.”

Cleveland Pride Vice President Sue Doerfer said recent events helped the festival grow.

“With all that has happened this week in Lakewood, and at Cleveland City Hall, and with Heights Families for Equality, it just makes people more excited,” said Doerfer.

Doerfer said that the festival was different this year because of the “little touches.”

“There were more vendors and activities,” said Doerfer, “and the clown making balloons for the kids. It just feels more like a festival.”

“I would like to see the city as a whole, not just the elected officials, embrace Pride like they do the St. Patrick’s Day events,” said Fish. “Then straight people would want to celebrate with us, and watch the parade.”

Entertainment was presented on three stages and a dance floor.

The Youth Zone stage featured a Rainbow Idol contest patterned after the TV show American Idol.

The “Second Stage” featured top local talent including the Sissy Show, the Rainbow Wranglers, the North Coast Men’s Chorus, and Da Real T.

Main Stage performers included an ensemble of high school musicians from Cleveland Heights called Rude Staff Checkers, and Laugh Out Proud winner Larimore.

Musicians included political activist and folk singer Amrit Kohli, who chose Cleveland as his only Pride appearance in 2003.

Kohli mixes politics with his music and makes no apologies for it.

“I’m for impeaching Bush and ending war,” said Kohli, “and I know that either I was going to help my career and be quiet about my politics or I was going to risk being slowed down for some time.”

The Pride festival crowd appreciated Kohli’s choice to be out on the political stage as well as the musical one.

Singer and songwriter Ellis drove to Cleveland from Denver to perform at Pride for free.

“I just have a great time when I perform here,” said Ellis, who has also been on stage at Cleveland’s Harmony Bar and Grill, “and Pride is a wonderful, grassroots event.”

Ellis will also perform at Pride festivals in Fargo, North Dakota, Duluth, Minnesota, and her home town Minneapolis, as well as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

Sophie B. Hawkins performed her hit “Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” and other numbers. She will also perform at New Jersey Pride this year.

Hawkins said Pride festivals are an audience she never had while under contract with Sony.

“They thought either you are a recording artist or a performer, but never both,” said Hawkins, whose new album will debut in January.

Hawkins, whose stage show has plenty of sexual energy, likes Pride festivals.

“There’s so much light in people living the truth,” said Hawkins, “and taking responsibility for who they are.”

Hawkins describes herself as “omnisexual.”

“It’s not just about gender,” said Hawkins, “It is about mind and soul. I’m not limited. I have had hot relationships with both men and women, and I expect that as they grow they will change and I will change and connect with new minds and souls.”

Hawkins called her sexuality a “huge problem” in the corporate recording world, adding, “I have to be who I am.”

Martha Wash, the iconic singer of the classic gay anthem “It’s Raining Men” lit up the main stage, as the crowd nearly had to be held back.

Wash said she performs at many Pride festivals and always enjoys them. In addition to Cleveland, Wash will perform at Pride festivals in Seattle, Atlanta, and Rehoboth Beach this year.

Wash doesn’t know when she became such an object of adoration of gay men, but she is flattered by it.

“Maybe it goes back to performing with Sylvester,” she said, referring to the days when she and Izora Rhodes backed up the gay disco singer.

Later, Wash and Rhodes formed the band Two Tons o’ Fun, which became the Weather Girls in the 1980s.

Clevelander Brian Miller, who attended the festival with his wife Jean and their four-year-old daughter, took issue with a television reporter asking another presumably heterosexual couple why they would come to a Pride event.

“I would have said, ‘Because I am not isolated from the LGBT community, so my attraction to it is to be less separated,’ said Miller.

“A great experience was to be had by anyone who went there,” Miller concluded.

 

Petitions are in for partner registry

by Eric Resnick

Cleveland Heights--Petitions to put a proposed domestic partner registry on the November 11 ballot were presented to City Hall on June 23.

The petitions were filed by Heights Families for Equality, which has been collecting signatures and identifying supportive voters since March 11.

The proposal would allow unmarried couples over the age of 18, same-sex or opposite sex, to register their partnership with the city. It would be open to both residents and non-residents of Cleveland Heights.

If approved, the measure will be the first such registry in Ohio and the first in the United States created by voter initiative.

The city would maintain the registry for a fee paid by the couples.

Council Clerk Thomas Malone said June 24 that an informal count showed that HFE had submitted 426 petition forms containing 5,732 signatures.

Signatures of 3,570 Cleveland Heights voters are required to put the initiative on the ballot.

Malone said the petition forms would be sent to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to verify that each signature is that of a registered voter. They will provide an official count in about three to five days, he said.

According to the city’s charter, once the signatures are verified, the ordinance moves to city council. They can either pass it without amendment, or send it to the voters.

Linda Coulter and her partner Dana Bjorklund gathered signatures because they say it is not enough for them to have wills and powers of attorney recognizing their relationship.

“This is something that recognizes us as a couple, not just as someone qualified to sign a document,” Coulter said.

Bjorklund believes the registry, though not legally binding, could be used to further equality for same-sex couples.

“[Coulter] used to work for Nestle in Solon,” said Bjorklund, “and they told her they would love to give her partner benefits, but they had no way to prove that we are family.”

“This does,” Bjorklund added, “if a company needs that proof.”

Heights Families for Equality was originally formed last year to block attempts to repeal domestic partner benefits that city council had given to municipal employees.

That measure made Cleveland Heights the only city in Ohio to provide benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of city workers. A group trying to repeal it failed to get enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

Don Rodrigues called the new initiative “a significant symbolic marker toward equality.”

“Most of the time, our community is defending against voter actions,” said Rodrigues, who was sent by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to work with HFE. “This is one of the first pro-active GLBT ballot measures in the country and the first on this issue.”

“The reason why the tide has turned is that we have learned to talk to voters one-on-one and identify that supportive base,” Rodrigues added.

Katie Alex collected more than 500 signatures for the registry. She said that until this initiative, she had been “the poster child for political apathy.”

Alex said that voters who are indifferent at first become supportive once they hear why the registry is important.

But some voters do oppose the measure.

“There are still voters who protest,” said HFE spokesperson David Caldwell. “It’s the usual crowd that thinks gays and lesbians should not have any family rights, plus a few who are genuinely skeptical of all government, and a few with theological objections.”

“But we have collected signatures of over half the number required to pass this already, and if we do the work until election day, we will win,” said Caldwell.

“I am really inspired that we are creating a new way to do GLBT politics,” said Caldwell, “going right to the voters where the power lies.”

Caldwell identifies as heterosexual and is married.

“That’s a strategic advantage,” said Caldwell, “It allows me to say things others cannot say, while the gays and lesbians talk about their lives. We’re a great team.”

So far, there has been little organized opposition to the initiative.

Those who opposed last year’s domestic partner benefits also oppose the registry, but with the exception of primary election day May 6, have not been publicly visible.

That group, now called Cleveland Heights Families First Initiative, put up a web site and gave out flyers at the polls on primary election day. But they were outnumbered polls by HFE volunteers collecting signatures.

CHFFI spokesperson Tracie Moore did not return calls and e‑mails for comment.

At the June 23 Cleveland Heights city council meeting, vocal benefits opponent James Redhed said he was unaware of the initiative until that day, and also declined comment.

Council member Jimmie Hicks opposed last year’s benefits and has sent out a flyer asking for donations to oppose the registry. He was out of town this week.

Other council members, while supporting the idea of a partner registry, express some concern with the timing of the initiative.

“The timing is not good,” said council member Bonita Caplan, “and it will cause political chaos that is not good for the city.”

Caplan believes it would be better for the initiative to be on the ballot in the spring, rather than a regular local election.

She said three supporters of last year’s benefits ordinance, Phyllis Evans, Dennis Wilcox and Vice Mayor Kenneth Montlack, are up for re-election and could be vulnerable if opponents make the registry a polarizing issue.

“The majority are supportive [of the registry],” said Caplan, who also supported the benefits ordinance, “so urging a more conservative approach is a political statement, not an ideological statement.”

Mayor Ed Kelley does not agree that Evans, Montlack, and Wilcox are vulnerable because of the initiative, as much as he is concerned how voters will react to so many issues on the ballot.

Kelley said Cleveland Heights voters will probably be faced with a school levy, a tax for a proposed Cleveland convention center, and an initiative he believes Gov. Robert Taft will propose in addition to electing local candidates.

“The registry has a chance on its own,” said Kelley, “but diluted, I don’t know. Voters will rank its importance with all those other issues, and it is hard to tell what they will pay attention to or what kind of voters will come out.”

HFE doesn’t think any of that matters.

“This isn’t a campaign,” said Caldwell. “We have identified the voters and will get them to the polls regardless of what else is happening.”


Toasting the community

Dayton--Comedian Bernie Lubbers, the headline entertainer for the June 21 Dayton Pride Dinner and Expo, raises his glass to the assembled crowd.

Around 300 people turned out for the dinner at the Dayton Convention Center. A count was not available for the free expo that preceded the dinner.

“God, the comedian was really, really good,” said Dayton Lesbian and Gay Center treasurer John Zimmerman.

“Their show pretty much went off without a hitch,” he said of the evening.

“I thought the event was exciting and filled with a lot of enthusiasm,” said Rev. Raeanna Biddle of Eternal Joy Metropolitan Community Church, who attended all the weekend’s festivities.

Her praise for the Community Family Pride Picnic in Carillon Park the following day was as effusive.

“The weather was great,” she noted. “There was a beautiful blue sky and a light breeze blowing, and the location was fantastic.”

--Anthony Glassman

Randy Phillips/Gaydayton.org


Minister’s ouster won’t stop Mt Auburn from being inclusive

by Anthony Glassman

Cincinnati--Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church will not allow the ouster of their minister, Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, to deter them from their policies of full inclusion for LGBT people, church members said in the week following his defrocking.

The presbytery of Cincinnati rescinded Van Kuiken’s ordination on June 16 and separated him from the denomination for continuing to wed gay and lesbian couples. Presbyterian law allows ministers to perform “holy union” ceremonies for same-sex couples, but not to call them marriages.

Van Kuiken was reprimanded in April by an ecclesiastical court and ordered to stop performing same-sex weddings. The court did not, however, rule on the complaint that Van Kuiken ordained openly gay elders and deacons, lay leaders in the church. The Presbyterian denomination bars non-celibate gay men and lesbians from leadership positions.

Van Kuiken, within weeks of the court decision, performed a wedding for a lesbian couple.

Mt. Auburn’s June 22 service was performed by Rev. Duane Holm, director of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. He was the first in what will likely be a string of guest ministers until the presbytery selects an interim minister for the congregation.

Holm told the church to carry on its mission to “witness in love to the whole church to teach us to be more inclusive,” according to a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

After the services, the church’s session, or governing body, met to discuss a number of issues, including continuing financial support of Van Kuiken, who is married and has two children.

In April, the church passed a resolution stating that it would not recognize the removal of their pastor for carrying out church policies, which he was doing by performing same-sex weddings.

Whether the church will seek to keep Van Kuiken because of the resolution is unclear, although some members appear willing to risk the wrath of the presbytery to do so.

Generally, when a congregation leaves the denomination, the church property and operating funds stay with the denomination, which owns the physical building. Conservatives in the church, however, have been increasingly willing in recent years to allow progressive congregations to keep their property in an attempt to get them to “peacefully separate” from the church, leaving the more conservative elements in control of more of the denomination.

The original complaint against Rev. Van Kuiken called for the minister and his church to accept Presbyterian doctrine or to remove themselves from the denomination.


Children of LGBT parents speak at 9th Pride conclave

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus--The ninth annual A Matter of Pride Conference drew 125 people to the Columbus Health Department on June 20.

The conference is geared toward substance abuse, mental health and social service providers and their clients, and is organized by Women’s Outreach for Women, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization and Stonewall Columbus, among other groups.

“We get a little bigger each year. I think we get a little better each year,” said WOW program director Amy Crawford, who was the conference coordinator.

Both Crawford and Gloria McCauley, executive director of BRAVO, pointed to the youth panel discussion at this year’s event as an indicator of the innovative approach the conference is taking.

“It was a youth panel, but not what we usually see in a youth panel,” said McCauley, noting that it was made up of children of LGBT parents, instead of focusing on LGBT youth. “It’s important that kids’ voices are heard too.”

She noted that her own daughter was on the panel, but, she chuckled, she was not allowed in the room.

“It was a great conference,” McCauley continued. “We all have a vested interest in our families, no matter what they look like, and that’s what this conference was about.”

Crawford echoed her sentiment.

“I think it was great,” she said. “The conference evaluations were really positive. People seemed to enjoy it.”

In addition to the youth panel, the keynote address was presented by Dr. Charlotte Patterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. Her primary field of research is child development in connection with family, school and peer environments, and she is currently working on a study of gender development in children of gay and straight parents.

Other presenters included Rebecca Gurney, the domestic violence coordinator for BRAVO, attorney Dottie Pointer discussing family law and LGBT families, and Robin Wisniewski, a school psychologist in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

Some of the other sponsors were the Ohio State University GLBT Student Services Office, the Ohio Psychological Association, the Capital University College of Social Work and the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board.


Go to Discussion Forum Top of Page

Avoid water-bearing Pride opponents, organizers ask

by Anthony Glassman

Columbus--Members of Minutemen United, a far-right religious organization from London, Ohio, plan to protest the Stonewall Columbus Pride Holiday parade on June 28.

The group has gained notoriety for protesting outside the Flex Columbus bathhouse. According to their web site, members of the group will hand out bottled water to parade participants. The bottles will have special labels directing them to an “ex-gay” web site.

While the Minutemen have been active leading protests against the bathhouse, “This is the first time we’ve heard about these guys coming to Pride,” said Patrick Gallaway, development director of Stonewall Columbus.

Gallaway, however, is not worried about the possibility of more protesters showing up for the parade, which generally attracts small groups of religious opponents.

“Out of so many supporters, several protesters can’t do much damage,” he said.

The Pride Holiday parade steps off from Goodale Park in the Short North at 1 pm Saturday, and proceeds to the festival at Bicentennial Park downtown.

Stonewall Columbus’ policy is to ignore, not engage, protesters like the Minutemen or Charles Spingola, the Newark, Ohio street preacher known for destroying rainbow flags at past Pride parades.

“We suggest that you do not accept their water, or if you do, say thanks, but the web site will direct you to a “saved from homosexuality” sort of site,” Gallaway said.

The Minutemen are led by Dave Daubenmire, a high school football coach who was sued by the ACLU for leading his public school team in a Christian prayer before games. Their web site contains repeated references to the “tyranny” of the judicial system, and links to pro-gun sites.

Their site claims 100 protesters, half of whom were neighborhood residents, marched outside of Flex on April 12. According to city officials, however, only 50 protesters were there, 12 of whom were local residents.

The bathhouse had voluntarily closed the day before to address city concerns with its location, the site of the old Club Columbus from 1974 to 1996. It reopened less than a month later, and remains open.

 


Go to Discussion Forum Top of Page

News Briefs

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

Speech differences found among lesbians, gays and straights

London--Gay men speak more like heterosexual women, and lesbians speak like heterosexual men, a new study shows.

The University of London’s Department of Psychology tested 60 gay men, 60 lesbians, and 60 each of heterosexual men and women in areas of verbal fluency that generally show gender differences, according to a report in the Journal of Neuropsychology’s April 2003 issue.

In letter fluency, gay men scored the highest and lesbians scored the lowest. In category fluency, heterosexual women and gay men scored higher than heterosexual men and lesbians. Gay men also scored the highest in synonym fluency.

Heterosexual women beat heterosexual men in category and synonym fluency.

The findings point to functional differences in the parts of the brains of gay men and lesbians that control language.

Fifty at vigil for beaten man

Louisville, Ky.--Around 50 people turned out on June 18 for a candlelight vigil at the corner where 40-year-old Robin Yaeger was beaten on June 2.

Yaeger, a gay man, was headed to a coffee shop on Preston Street near Market when he was attacked.

At the time of the vigil, Yaeger was still hospitalized and showed signs of brain damage.

While police are not ruling out the possibility of an anti-gay motive to the assault, a police spokesman said that there was no evidence yet that it was a hate crime.

The same evening that Yaeger was attacked, another man was assaulted nearby. Derrick Rush was jumped by three teens who punched and kicked him. Rush was taken to the hospital by police.

The neighborhood is home to a number of businesses with a large LGBT clientele.

The Fairness Campaign, a coalition of LGBT rights organizations across Kentucky, said that the police should interview more witnesses, reporting that some people told them they heard anti-gay epithets being yelled around the time of the attack on Yaeger.

GE offers partner benefits

Bridgeport, Conn.--A tentative agreement reached between corporate giant General Electric and two of its four unions would grant domestic partner benefits to GE employees, including those working for the NBC group of TV and cable networks.

On June 18, the company announced that it had reached agreements with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and the International Union of Electronic Workers - Communications Workers of America for new four-year contracts that would provide benefits to same-sex partners of General Electric employees.

If the contracts are ratified by the union members, the benefits would, according to GE spokesman Gary Sheffer, be given to all employees, regardless of whether or not they belong to a union.

The contracts would allow employees to enroll their partners in health care plans in October, and the benefits would begin in January.

The move would make GE the seventh company of the top ten on the Fortune 100 list to offer domestic partner benefits.

GE already offers some of its employees the benefits. When the company bought Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo in April 2002, it offered to continue the smaller company’s domestic partner benefits for 18 months.

Britain considers couples’ rights

London--A bill to grant same-sex couples many of the rights and privileges afforded to married couples will be part of Queen Elizabeth’s address to the nation in November.

The bill was expected to wait until after the next general election, but the announcement of its inclusion in the annual Queen’s Speech indicates that it may go through early next year.

The bill would grant pension and property rights equivalent of those given to married couples to same-sex couple who sign a domestic partner registry.

The legislation would not apply to unmarried opposite-sex couples, mainly because they have the option of marrying.

The House of Commons also passed legislation on June 17 barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill, which exempts religious institutions, must still pass the more conservative House of Lords.

New Mexico equality law has a glitch

Santa Fe--There’s a problem with the new gay and lesbian civil rights law that takes effect on July 1, and lawmakers may have to fix it later this year or next year. The measure inadvertently wipes out civil rights protections for tens of thousands or people.

The legislature sent Governor Bill Richardson the wrong version of the bill in March, and that’s what he signed. It exempts businesses with fewer than 15 full-time employees from complying with the state Human Rights Act. Under current law, only businesses with fewer than four workers are exempt.

That means those small employers could legally discriminate on the basis of race or religion or age or handicap or other factors.

Lawmakers say they may have to consider the bill again, in order to fix the problem. That would reopen the hotly debated issue, and give opponents a chance to try to defeat it again.

Opponents of the measure are currently gathering petitions to attempt to repeal the law during the 2004 general election. They will need at least 500,000 valid signatures by July 2004.

However, State Rep. Gail Beam, one of the main backers of the anti-discrimination measure, has asked the attorney general for a legal opinion on whether the new law is open to a referendum.

Laws “providing for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety,” are exempted from the New Mexico Constitution’s referendum provision.

School sued over ‘lesbian Barbie’ shirt

New York City--The mother of a middle school pupil who wore a “Barbie is a Lesbian” T-shirt to class sued the city on June 19, saying her daughter was humiliated and harassed by schoolmates and staff because she is a lesbian and is open about her sexual orientation.

Kathleen Hodges accused the city of failing to protect her daughter, Natalie Young, 14, at Middle School 210 in Ozone Park, Queens, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

The lawsuit sought unspecified damages and a court order barring the school from suspending Young for wearing the shirt and forcing the school to establish policies to protect gay pupils.

City lawyers had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment, said Kate O’Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the city law office.

According to the lawsuit, Natalie was 13 years old when a teacher laughed at her and called her T-shirt inappropriate in front of other pupils, before summoning a vice principal, who made her change shirts.

Scout judges limited in some cases

San Francisco--California judges who belong to the Boy Scouts of America may have to disqualify themselves from cases involving discrimination against gays and lesbians.

At a minimum, they must notify both sides in such a case that they are members of the Scouts.

California’s Supreme Court stopped short of barring judges from membership in the Boy Scouts, which doesn’t allow gays to be members.

California judicial rules ban judges from belonging to such groups, but the ban does not include nonprofit youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts.

The new policy covers cases that involve discrimination against gays, gay adoption, or any case where being gay is an issue. Judges who are Boy Scouts must notify the parties in such a case about their membership, or not hear the case at all.

Man arrested in 9-11 victim scam

Miami--A Fort Lauderdale man who allegedly collected $68,000 by falsely claiming his domestic partner died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has been arrested in Dallas and will be extradited to Florida to face theft charges, officials said June 17.

Patric Henn was arrested June 13 in Dallas and charged with petty theft and marijuana possession. Officers there soon learned he had fled Florida in December, about the time a Broward County judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

Henn has been accused of defrauding the Red Cross with a story about a partner, Jeff John Anderson. Police say he told the charity, the media and others that he had spoken with Anderson about 45 minutes before the attacks began and Anderson told him he was about to visit a brokerage firm in the World Trade Center.

But Anderson’s name does not appear on any official victim lists, and “to our knowledge, no such person exists,” Fort Lauderdale Detective James Pott said.

Suspicion about Henn’s story first surfaced when he approached a Florida GLBT newspaper, the Express, to complain that the Empire State Pride Agenda in New York was not doing enough to aid him. The paper conducted an intense investigation of Henn, which led to an exposé in February 2002.

Red Cross spokeswoman Devorah Goldburg said the group contacted authorities once it learned of Henn’s alleged deception.

Kent said the gay community was enraged by Henn’s behavior, because they had worked hard to make sure that the partners of lesbian and gay victims of Sept. 11 received the same benefits as the spouses of heterosexual victims.

The paper pursued him, Kent said, “because [it ] didn’t want him to poison a just human rights initiative . . . He’s a criminal first, and then a gay man.”

Baptists vow to ‘liberate’ gays

Phoenix--The Southern Baptist Convention has started an initiative to “liberate” gays and lesbians from their homosexuality by befriending them and convincing them they should accept Jesus as their savior.

At the denomination’s annual meeting, which ended June 18, leaders asked their 42,000 churches to reach out compassionately to gays and lesbians, focusing on how Christianity can “save” them.

The presentation June 17 included testimony from a Southern Baptist pastor from Texas who said he realized that his strident criticism of gays had prevented them from coming to him for “help.”

There are several Christian groups in the United States that try to convince gays and lesbians that they should become heterosexual.

The Southern Baptists have been speaking out against homosexuality for years, including boycotting the Walt Disney Co., partly because of the “Gay Days” festivities at their amusement parks.

But the denomination took pains this year to draw a distinction between themselves and activists like anti-gay pastor Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, who travels the country picketing public events, carrying signs that say “God Hates Fags.”


 

Women, women everywhere

28 years of experience continues in Michigan

by Holly Pruett

For thousands of women, “Michigan” is more than a state and “August” is more than the eighth month of the year. The two words trigger a tribal memory. They are a call to a time and a place deep in the northern woods where women gather to create community.

“Michigan” is the mother of all women’s music festivals. Now in its 28th year, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has outlasted many other creations of the women’s liberation movement. For every festivalgoer of a certain age who attended self-speculum exam parties back in the day, there’s one who’s never heard of Holly Near but knows Bitch and Animal’s “Pussy Manifesto” by heart.

Each August, the festival attracts over 5,000 women from across the country and around the world. They come for widely diverse programming that runs the musical gamut, hundreds of workshops, a weeklong film festival, and a crafts fair with 125 artisans. They come to experience a world made by and for women.

They bring their kids. They bring their mothers. They bring their drums, their costumes, and their battery-operated espresso machines. They come to flirt, debate, learn something new, forget something old, walk at night without fear, shed a few tears, see a shooting star, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Over forty performances are featured in three outdoor venues: the intimate late-afternoon Acoustic Stage, the rowdy, sun-drenched Day Stage, and the beautifully lit, tree-fringed Night Stage.

This year’s festival is August 12 to 17 on 650 acres of private land near Hart, Michigan in the western part of the state. Highlights include Sweet Honey in the Rock, whose 30 years of political artistry formed the soundtrack to a number of social justice movements. Their performance becomes multi-generational with Sweet Honey co-founder Bernice Johnson Reagon welcoming her daughter, special guest artist Toshi Reagon, and her band Big Lovely to the stage. Country folk star Cheryl Wheeler returns to share her song writing genius and irresistible stage persona. Betty, fresh from the off-Broadway run of their autobiographical rock opera, offers their frisky brand of rock and roll.

Musical pioneers Holly Near and Chris Williamson perform together on the Acoustic Stage, preceded by legendary pianist Adrienne Torf. The Night Stage features Rhiannon’s energized jazz stylings, Aleah Long and Full Circle’s uplifting spirit, and Ferron’s haunting songwriting magic.

The raccoons will be running for cover when these rockers take the stage: Gender-bending rap-punk performers Bitch and Animal, Gretchen Phillips (backed by Butchies drummer Melissa York), Nedra Johnson, Magdalen Hsu-Li, Chi Chi Palace, and the Kitty Kill. Crowd-pleasers Catie Curtis, Pamela Means, and Susan Werner illustrate the best of today’s singer-songwriters, while four of tomorrow’s up and comers are featured in a Singer-Songwriter Spotlight, Laura Blackley, Kerrianne Cox, Holly Figueroa and Libby Kirkpatrick. Music inspired by cultures from around the world is represented by the exuberant beats of Women of the Calabash, the klezmer music of the Isle of Klezbos, the alt-bluegrass of the Dolly Ranchers, and the crisp, clean jazz of Straight Ahead.

It may be called a music festival, but it is more of a cultural smorgasbord. Daily films, impromptu performances on pathways, and open mikes at the August Nite Café mean there is always something to feast on. And that’s on top of the comedy, spoken word, dance and theatrical performances presented on the stages.

In keeping with the long tradition that’s earned Michigan a reputation as “the political festival,” Reno performs Rebel Without a Pause: Unrestrained Reflections on September 11th. This off-Broadway piece is now a feature-length film winning raves at international film festivals. Renowned choreographer Kim Epifano reclaims a piece of women’s history with Einstein’s Daughters Cabaret, a dance performance that tells the tale of the women overshadowed by the famous scientist. Evolution presents six artists, dancers, drummers and teachers in a weekend music ritual performance. Pushing the envelope of spoken word, Alix Olson and C.C. Carter punch through the white noise of our dominant culture with their syncopated truth telling. On a lighter note, the Pulp Vixens perform their over-the-top melodrama, Derailed Desires.

To ease the pain of departure, Sunday’s Comedy Afternoon features festival fave Elvira Kurt, along with the musical comedy of Roxanna Ward and, fresh off her Comedy Central special, René Hicks.

Women eager to share their skills and learn from each other hook up in hundreds of workshops that cover everything from health and wellness to arts and culture to spirituality and relationships.

The week kicks off with two days of intensive workshops. This year’s offerings include Bicycle Mechanics, Politics and Activism; Interracial-Intercultural Dating; Wilderness and Urban Survival Skills; and Womyn and Alzheimer’s Disease. You can get airborne with stilt-walking and acrobatics or down-and-dirty in weeklong salsa, hip-hop and country-western dance lessons. Daily attendance at the One World Inspirational choir practice and in the drumming culminates in Acoustic Stage performances that are the highlight of many women’s festival.

The magic of Michigan is as much what happens off the stages as on them. Surrounding the festivalgoers is an opportunity to connect with old friends and new. All around the crowds is evidence of what women are capable of creating: a large-scale village (the largest in two counties) where for one week a year women entertain, care for and challenge each other to extend the lessons of this annual community out into the larger world.

The price for a full week of camping, meals, and all programming and services is $310 - $360 (sliding scale) if purchased before July 19. More information can be obtained at www.michfest.com, or by calling 231-757‑4766.

Holly Pruett is a freelance writer living in Portland, Oregon and a staffer for the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.

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