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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 2, 2003

Drive to repeal
Article 12 begins

Weekend conference launches petitioners
across Cincinnati

Cincinnati--Petitioners fanned out from a weekend activists� conference to collect the first signatures in an effort to repeal the city charter�s Article 12, which bars any ordinance protecting gays, lesbians or bisexuals.

The measure, the only one of its kind in the nation, was added to the charter ten years ago when voters passed Issue 3. A similar election is required to remove it.

Sixty of the 126 participants in the Ohio Valley GLBT Power Summit gathered the first 280 signatures on April 26. Nine thousand signatures are needed to put a repeal initiative on the November, 2004 ballot. Petitioners are seeking 12,000 to allow for errors, such as signers who are not registered to vote.

The conference, organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was held in neighboring Covington, Kentucky.

Gary Wright, co-chair of Citizens to Restore Fairness, organized to repeal Article 12, said the conference was located near Cincinnati because of their effort�s importance to that national GLBT movement.

The city of Covington was also preparing a GLBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance, which passed April 29.

Conference participants came from 14 states, including 66 from Ohio and 23 from Kentucky. They chose from three educational tracks, including door-to-door canvassing, and fundraising.

NGLTF organizes two Power Summits each year, locating them in areas that provide organizing opportunities.

According to NGLTF field organizer Sarah Reece, those who took part in the fundraising track raised �real money� for Citizens to Restore Fairness and the Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance, which is working to pass the Covington ordinance.

Wright said his group is using a technique called voter identification to gather signatures and discuss the merits of Article 12�s repeal with individual voters.

�In addition to canvassing,� said Wright, �signature gatherers connect with voters and have the chance to raise their awareness.�

Wright said that early indicators show that when voters realize that Article 12 is discrimination against gays and lesbians, more than 60 percent say they support its repeal.

A list will be kept of this pro-repeal majority, with phone numbers and addresses, and they will be contacted and encouraged to vote on Election Day.

Many voters misunderstood what the measure did in 1993 when they passed it by a 62% to 38% margin, Wright said. The language of Issue 3 was deceptive, he noted, and the initiative appeared quickly with little time to organize opposition.

�This time, we�re taking the initiative,� said Wright, �and we are explaining Article 12 in very direct language, so people realize that it is discrimination.�

One of the lessons taught at the conference is that past campaigns against anti-gay measures lost when they avoided the words �gay� and �lesbian.� The 1993 effort against Issue 3 was used as an example of this.

Wright calls the civil rights ordinance in Covington �very positive� and says the sister city across the Ohio River is �pointing the direction that Cincinnati needs to go.�

�Every conversation we have with a voter changes the vote tally in Cincinnati,� said Wright.

Wright said the initiative to repeal Article 12 will be on the ballot no later than November of 2004, �but it could be sooner if we get enough signatures and are ready.�


 

Covington ordinance passes unanimously

Covington, Ky.--The largest city in northern Kentucky passed a human rights ordinance including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people unanimously
on April 29.

�We did the right thing,� said Mayor Irvin �Butch� Callery. �This is a proactive city open to new ideas, and we want to be the best city we can be.�

Callery said the ordinance will take effect in about a week after he signs it and the newspaper of record publishes it.

The ordinance, which was proposed by the city�s Human Rights Commission on January 21, adds sexual orientation, gender identity, family status, marital or parental status and place of birth to classes protected in the areas of employment, housing, and public accomodations.

The ordinance also had the support of the Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance, a group working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

The alliance organized �block walks� over the summer to have face-to-face conversations with residents in anticipation of the ordinance.

Callery and Charles King, who is a member of both the Human Rights Commission and the alliance, agreed that getting Covington�s business community on board with the ordinance�s passage was a factor in the unanimous City Commission vote.

King said supporters believed that they had the votes of three city commissioners, Craig Bohman, Bernie Moorman, and Alex Edmundson early in the process.

Callery, who also votes with the commission, said he made up his mind to support the ordinance immediately after the second public hearing on March 25.

King said the fifth vote was Commissioner Jerry Bamberger, who had expressed concerns that people could abuse the ordinance.

But through the revision process, which took place between the hearings and the first reading April 15, recommendations were made to address those concerns.

At Bamberger�s request, special counsel Frank Warnock, who was hired by the city to draft the ordinance, added a provision to reduce the chances of abuse.

The business community championed changes including expansion of the Human Rights Commission from five to nine members, exempting businesses with fewer than eight employees, reduction of fines for violations, and removal of a business�s occupational license after three or more �willful violations� instead of one.

Callery said once those changes were made, members of the business community either supported the ordinance or simply kept quiet.

He said that was one reason why he didn�t think the ordinance was divisive in Covington, as similar measures have been in other cities.

Callery also said that a mailing by the anti-gay Cincinnati group Citizens for Community Values to 20,000 Covington households helped galvanize the city in favor of the ordinance.

�There weren�t more than a dozen calls and e-mails siding with CCV,� said Callery, noting that the April 18 mailing caused most residents to have an �adverse reaction� to the anti-gay propaganda booklet they received.

Immediately after Callery called the commission to order, Warnock presented the summary of the ordinance to a mostly supportive standing-room-only crowd. Prior to voting, commissioners commented on the ordinance.

Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance co-chair Dean Forster said he knew it would be a unanimous vote when Bamberger spoke favorably of the ordinance, and called CCV �misinformed.�

Forster said Edmundson referred to CCV�s efforts as �ed-u-hate,� a play on the group�s statements that they were going to �educate� Covington residents on homosexuality.

CCV Vice President David Miller called the vote, �a disappointment and a concern, but the democratic process worked and we accept that.�

Miller called statements that the CCV mailing increased support for the ordinance �their spin.�

He then tried to enlist this newspaper in an attempt to out city officials.

Fairness Alliance member Matt Nicholson called the ordinance �a huge step forward for the LGBT people in the region.�

Callery said Cincinnati council member David Crowley had already contacted him to discuss what Covington did to pass the ordinance and to get a copy.

Crowley was one of the leading proponents of a new hate crime ordinance in Cincinnati that protects on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.

Cincinnati, which is across the Ohio River from Covington, is the only city in the U.S. with a charter provision prohibiting the city from enacting laws protecting lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

Nicholson praised �the power of the coalition� built between the Fairness Alliance, the local NAACP, the faith community, advocates for people with disabilities, and the business community as a result of this ordinance, and said he looks forward to continued working together.

�The changes in the community that made this ordinance possible had already occurred,� said King. �Covington is becoming a community that thinks better and does better.�


Hate crime reports may signal a rise in two Ohio cities

Columbus--Hate crimes against LGBT people seem to have risen sharply in Columbus and Cleveland last year, but the figures may represent better reporting, not more crime.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released its annual report on April 25, showing a 1% increase nationally in reported cases of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, Stonewall Cincinnati and the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center are members of NCAVP. This year�s report included information from BRAVO and the Cleveland center in its local summaries.

Twelve NCAVP member organizations contributed to the current report. Each year�s report, however, differs in its geographic representation as different organizations get more or less funding and personnel for bias crime reporting.

The numbers for Cleveland and Columbus seem to indicate a steep rise in anti-LGBT crime, but the figures might be deceiving if interpreted that way, says BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley.

�A variety of factors led to increased reports,� McCauley said of the 16% increase in Columbus from 2001 to 2002, from 181 to 211. �With an increase of this magnitude, we must consider whether it is indicative of an increase in reporting, or the result of an actual increase in the number of incidents.�

Cleveland saw a 44% increase in reports of bias crimes against LGBT people, from 16 in 2001 to 23 in 2002. However, the 2001 numbers were significantly lower than those in 2000, indicating that more accurate reporting of crimes is the more likely cause of the jump in figures.

The number of victims in the incidents increased 119%. While none of the people reporting crimes to the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center in 2001 were transgender, 11 transgender people reported hate crimes in 2002, comprising one-third of all victims.

�The 44% increase in reported incidents of violence toward LGBT Clevelanders in 2002 clearly indicates that violence and harassment are serious issues our community members face,� said David Smith, executive director of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center.

�We applaud the courage of those individuals who reported their cases to us, and make an appeal to all members of our community who experience anti-LGBT violence to do the same,� Smith continued. �We encourage members of our community who have been victimized in any way to report it to the police, we also urge them to report it at our center. Not only can we use that information to build a case for capacity-building work with law enforcement agencies and the greater community, we can also provide additional resources, such as counseling referrals and other support.�

While the number of incidents in Columbus increased dramatically, the number of incidents involving weapons rose only 5%, a far smaller increase than the 16% in overall incidents or the 21% increase in incidents resulting in serious injury.

�We�re actually seeing some interesting variations in the statistics,� McCauley said, pointing to a 25% increase in attacks on minors, from 12 in 2001 to 15 in 2002. During that same span, attacks against people 18-29 years old dropped almost 10%.

McCauley believes that the increase in reports of attacks on youth is due, in part, to larger numbers of teens coming out at younger ages, causing a violent backlash.

She also noted a change in the type of weaponry being reported in acts of violence against LGBT people. While none of the reported incidents of violence or harassment against the LGBT community in Cleveland in 202 involved weapons, that was certainly not the case in Columbus. Knives, sharp objects, ropes and other restraints, and vehicles all increased as weapons. Fewer guns, blunt objects and thrown objects were used, although the decreases were only of one or two incidents.

McCauley warned that it was too early to determine if the change in weaponry is a trend, however. She noted that it would require careful analysis of results over a three to five-year span to determine that.

�We need multi-level initiatives ranging from the personal through legislative measures to the national level,� McCauley stressed. �There are things that individuals can do, like interrupting anti-queer humor. We need to talk to our legislators and politicians and tell them we need better laws and we need inclusive laws.�

While Stonewall Cincinnati is a member of NCAVP, they did not contribute to this year�s report.

�In the past,� explained Stonewall Cincinnati board member Doreen Cudnik, �we solicited the help of other organizations by hosting a session with BRAVO.�

The session increased the use of NCAVP incident report forms in Cincinnati, and Stonewall Cincinnati continues to track and document incidents. With a lack of full-time office staff, however, the reports were not sent on to NCAVP.

�Gregory Beauchamp�s murder on New Year�s Eve is a tragic reminder of how important this work is,� said Cudnik, referring to the city�s final murder of 2002, a 21-year-old black gay man shot from a car after anti-gay epithets were yelled.

Cudnik noted that, with the addition of new board members like Carol Lippman, Stonewall Cincinnati�s work in the field will continue. Lippman is designing a new poster campaign about the importance of reporting hate crimes.

Cudnik said records of anti- LGBT bias crimes kept by Stonewall and other groups helped pass Cincinnati�s gay-inclusive hate crime ordinance in February.

An anti-gay group called Citizens for Community Values is suing the city, claiming the ordinance violates Article 12, a charter amendment passed in 1993 outlawing city protections on the basis of sexual orientation.

�As the discussion wages on, it is important that we have documentation,� Cudnik concluded.



U.N. panel delays gay human rights
vote to next year

Geneva--Falling victim to Muslim opposition and a lack of support from the United States, the world�s top human rights watchdog on April 25 postponed for a year its first-ever attempt to tackle the issue of gay and lesbian human rights.

As its annual six-week meeting reached its final hour, the United Nations Human Rights Commission decided to wait until its 2004 session to discuss a resolution expressing �deep concern at the occurrence of violations of human rights in the world against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation.�

The Brazilian proposal was backed by European countries and Canada.

Muslim members of the 53-nation commission said they were against any resolution containing the words �sexual orientation.�

Unable to even to reach a decision on whether to go to a vote on the proposal, commission members voted 24-17 to freeze discussion until next year. Ten countries abstained and two were absent from the meeting.

Five Muslim countries--Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya and Malaysia--earlier proposed amendments that would remove the words �sexual orientation� throughout the document and instead simply stress that everybody is entitled to respect of their human rights.

In addition, the State Department said that the U.S. would not have supported the resolution, believing that the commission was not the proper forum for the matter to be settled.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, �There certainly is a federal law against discrimination, but then there are other subsets of those laws in local and state jurisdictions. And that makes it difficult for the United States in meetings like this to commit itself to something that requires some sort of universal application throughout the system, unless it covers basic principles that we do in the federal system.�

Pakistani Ambassador Shaukat Umer--who told the meeting he preferred the term �sexual disorientation�--said Muslim nations could not accept the proposal.

�This is a question that concerns the fundamental values of our society,� he said. �It�s an attempt to impose one set of values onto people who have another.�

�We say: we respect your value systems, but please handle those within your own countries.�

During lengthy debate on the proposal on April 24, Pakistan lodged a �no action� motion, something often used at the commission to block discussion and votes. This was narrowly defeated by 24-22 votes, with six abstentions and one country absent, but the debate was carried over to the next day to allow the commission to complete the rest of the day�s business.

The next day, April 25, Umer and fellow Muslim representatives raised numerous points of order, stopping discussion until they were resolved.

Campaigners said this was simply an attempt to squash the resolution after the no-action vote failed.

�It was one of the most shameful occurrences at the commission,� said Ian Seiderman, adviser to the International Commission of Jurists, which guards against legal and human rights abuses worldwide. �The purpose was to create a procedural filibuster.�

The U.N. Human Rights Commission tackles a wide range of rights violations, ranging from torture and mass killings to the right to education, food and housing for all. However this is the first time that a nation has made a proposal specifically on homosexuality.

The human rights group Amnesty International said millions of people across the globe face imprisonment, torture, violence and discrimination because of their sexual orientation. It pointed in particular to Egypt�s sentencing of 21 men to three years in prison last month on charges of practicing debauchery.

Amnesty said adoption of the resolution would have been the �the only way to end the intolerable exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender people from the full protection of the U.N. system.�

�Greater attention by the United Nations to this issue could make a real difference to real lives.�

 

 


Forum notes some progress in
protecting gay students

Columbus�School safety for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth was the topic of a forum at Kaleidoscope Youth Coalition.

The April 26 discussion was held by the Safe Schools Coalition, a group of adult gay leaders in central Ohio. About 20 people heard a panel discussion and listened to young people�s experiences.

The panel, introduced by Kaleidoscope coordinator Bucky Cutright, included Chris Cozad, president of BRAVO, the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, Kaleidoscope board member Alicia Broz, Columbus City Schools peer trainer Stephen Kraynak, Stonewall Democrats president Chad Foust, Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson, and Phil Hart, executive director of Sanctorum, a new GLBT social services organization.

The Safe Schools Coalition formed about two and half years ago. Cozad discussed the group�s founding.

�While a lot of anti-homophobic training was going on, it was not very coordinated, and we focused primarily on suburban school districts,� she said. �It was really P-FLAG [Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] who said that we had to work with the city.�

In February of this year, the coalition, working with Columbus city schools, completed a training of about 200 school nurses, social workers, and guidance counselors in the district. Kraynak pointed out that much still needs to be done.

�There are 5,000 teachers in the Columbus public school system. It is important that we reach every one of them,� he said.

Broz spoke about the role of anti-harassment laws for schools. She noted the case of Jamie Nabozny of Wisconsin, who was beaten because he was gay, then won a $900,000 settlement from his school district for failing to protect him.

Anderson and Foust encouraged young people to open up about their experiences. One young woman reported that teachers had excluded her from the school�s honor society because she was out at her high school and active in a student gay-straight alliance. Another disclosed that kids had used epithets like �fag� against him.

Foust, a former school board member, noted that about 1,000 gay-straight alliances exist across the country. He advised that if students begin a GSA, they ought to find an adult ally within the school, preferably an administrator, teacher, or guidance counselor.

He also explained that if students are really committed to starting a GSA, they need to just follow each step in the school�s protocol for starting a school club.

�The Equal Access Act of 1984 states that if a school allows clubs that do not pertain directly to academic subjects, such as a chess or ski club, then they cannot discriminate against beginning a club simply because they disagree with that club�s aims,� he said.

The initial impetus for the forum was anti-gay picketer Fred Phelps� announcement that he would protest the creation of a GSA at Granville High School. Stonewall volunteer Becca Fredin helped to organize the panel.

After the meeting, Kaleidoscope hosted a party, complete with a DJ, pizza, and a raffle.


Ohio high court allows toilet
camera conviction to stand

ColumbusThe Ohio Supreme Court has allowed a ruling to stand that police may videotape people using public restrooms without a warrant.

The court decided unanimously April 23 not to hear the appeal of a gay man convicted of public indecency in a 2001 restroom sting operation near East Liverpool.

Police, attempting to stop sexual activity, concealed video cameras inside men�s room light fixtures at an Ohio Department of Transportation rest stop at Ohio Routes 7 and 213. The cameras ran eight hours a day for several months, taping every man as he used the facility.

The court made no comment on the case. It let stand a December 18, 2002 ruling by the Seventh Ohio District Court of Appeals that James Henry, 48, of Empire had �no reasonable expectation of privacy so long as he remained in the common area� of the restroom. This opinion conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court decisions that cameras in public restrooms, locker rooms, jail cells, and dressing rooms constitute illegal searches and thus violate the Fourth Amendment.

Henry�s conviction in a Jefferson County Court is based on a tape showing him in the restroom for 47 seconds on May 9, 2001. The tape shows Henry entering, standing at the urinal, and leaving the restroom.

At the trial, prosecutors convinced the jury that because Henry stepped back from the urinal before fastening his pants, anyone entering the restroom �could have� come to the conclusion that he was masturbating.

�I�m going to drop it,� said Henry of the case. �I�m not spending any more money. It�s done.�

Henry said he has spent about $5,000 on legal fees so far, and still must pay his $300 fine and spend five days in jail.

The other 12 gay men arrested in the operation paid fines between $100 and $150 after promising they would not fight the charges.

�It�s politics,� said Henry of his conviction. �If the same thing happens to a judge�s son or daughter that isn�t gay, see what happens.�

Henry is disappointed that no GLBT advocacy organization showed interest in his case. He said that his having to fight alone is a sign of community weakness.

�As long as we have to fight alone,� said Henry, �whatever happens, we have to sit back and take it.�

 


Go to Discussion Forum Top of Page

News Briefs

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

Ohio University marks Pride week

Athens, Ohio--Ohio University celebrated Pride Week starting April 21, kicking the event off with transgender and queer activist Leslie Feinberg and wrapping up with a rally on College Green on April 25.

Feinberg�s speech was wide-ranging, covering appreciation of the unisex bathroom on the second floor of Memorial Auditorium to the Michigan Womyn�s Music Festival�s �women-born-women� policy, which bars transgender women.

�They�re selling my book inside, but they tell me it would be better if I didn�t attend,� Athens News quoted the author.

At the Friday rally, women�s studies program director Susan Burgess announced that the women�s study major will be fully active by the fall semester of 2004, with a study track in sexuality studies.

University student affairs vice president Michael Sostarich affirmed his dedication to securing funding for a full-time LGBT coordinator within two years. The current part-time position is now held by Mickey Hart, who stressed the importance of community and unity within the LGBT movement.

�This is your time,� he said. �Leave this university better for the LGBT community than when you found it.�

�Be out. Be proud. Enjoy the journey,� he concluded.

Massachusetts marriage ban is back

Boston--A constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, which died last year, has returned to the state legislature.

Debate began anew April 28 in a standing-room-only public hearing before the Judiciary Committee, which had to decide by April 30 whether to recommend approval of the amendment to a joint session of the House and Senate.

The last attempt to win passage of the constitutional amendment died nine months ago, when the joint Constitutional Convention adjourned for the year without voting on whether to put a voter-initiated proposal on the ballot in 2004.

This year, the debate takes place while another branch of government is also mulling the issue. The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to issue an opinion this summer on whether the state�s existing ban on gay marriage is constitutional.

Supporters said the measure would not void domestic partner benefits. To clarify this, they removed a portion of last year�s version that barred partners in �any other relationship� from receiving �the benefits or incidents exclusive to marriage.� The measure now says that �any other relationship shall not be recognized as a marriage or its legal equivalent.�

Last year�s amendment needed to receive support from just 25 percent of the House and Senate members during two consecutive legislative sessions. Because the new amendment was sponsored by a lawmaker, it will require support from half the House and Senate members in two consecutive sessions. The earliest it could appear on the ballot is in November 2006.

Free T-shirts say, �Gay? Fine by me�

Durham, N.C.--Hundreds of Duke University students want to let others know that it�s okay to be gay.

In the past two weeks, hundreds of students have been seen wearing T-shirts that say, simply: �Gay? Fine by me.�

Duke President Nan Keohane has one. Duke basketball players Nick Horvath and Shavlik Randolph have been spotted in the shirts.

�They�re everywhere,� said senior Amanda Poston, who got hers last week from the boxes of free shirts on a breezeway outside the student union.

�This is a peaceful, passive way we can express how we feel.�

The trend was started by a group of friends, gay and straight, who decided something had to be done about the perception that Duke is a homophobic place. A few years ago, the Princeton Review rated Duke as the most gay-unfriendly campus in the United States.

So the students thought up a slogan, ordered 500 T-shirts and planned to give them away to as many people as would take them.

The shirts were gone by noon the first day. A rush order of an additional 250 disappeared in about 15 minutes. In ten days, 1,800 shirts were snapped up.

Spring classes are over, but the group has contacted college students across North Carolina to suggest similar T-shirt giveaways in the fall. N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. Central University and Guilford College have expressed interest.

City ends partner benefits

Colorado Springs, Colo.--The first act of the newly-elected city council on April 22 was to repeal health benefits for same-sex partners of city employees that were passed by the previous council.

The 8-1 vote came despite protests from dozens of residents.

The benefits, approved in December on a 5-4 vote, are currently provided to six people, costing the city about $6,000 this year.

Campaigning before the April 1 election, Mayor Lionel Rivera promised to discontinue the benefits, as did six of the seven council members who won office. They joined two holdovers who had opposed the measure earlier.

Across the country, more than 100 local governments offer health benefits to same-sex couples, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Ontario court to rule on marriage

Toronto--The federal government�s appeal of an Ontario Divisional Court ruling that opposite-sex-only marriage laws are unconstitutional wrapped up on April 25.

During the four days of hearings, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments from the attorney general�s office, Peter Jervis of the Interfaith Coalition and David Brown of the Association for Marriage and Family in Ontario against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

A representative of the Ontario attorney general told the justices that the matter was outside the province�s domain, and a Toronto official said that the city was holding the marriage certificates of the couples who brought the suit until the matter was settled.

Arguing in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry were Martha McCarthy and Joanna Radbord, the attorneys for the eight couples involved, and an attorney for the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, which tried granting same-sex marriages through an old law allowing marriage by the publishing of banns, or announcements, in the church.

The Coalition of Liberal Rabbis that Support Same-Sex Marriage, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and �gale, a national Canadian gay civil rights organization, also sent attorneys to testify in favor of same-sex marriage.

A decision is expected in three to six months.

Rider would void local rights laws

Tallahassee, Fla.--Conservative legislators, acting at the behest of conservative Christian groups, tried on April 24 to tack an amendment to a civil rights bill that would have scrapped gay and lesbian civil rights ordinances in two Florida counties.

The bill, being heard by a House committee, would allow the state�s attorney general to sue on behalf of victims of discrimination. Rep. Dennis Baxley added an amendment limiting local rights ordinances.

Rep. Bob Henriquez noticed that Baxley�s rider would have revoked protections on the basis of sexual orientation in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and pointed it out to fellow Democrats.

The amendment was voted down in committee, but is expected to return in full House deliberations on the bill. The measure is supported by Attorney General Charlie Crist, the first Republican to hold that post.

Frist says Santorum will keep post

Washington, D.C.--Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said April 29 that Sen. Rick Santorum�s leadership post is not in jeopardy, providing the Pennsylvania Republican with an important vote of confidence a week after he was widely criticized for remarks about gays.

�It�s solid, it�s absolutely solid,� said Frist, R-Tenn., responding to a reporter�s question about Santorum�s hold on his job as the No. 3 Senate GOP leader.

�People who work with Rick day in, day out understand he�s a man of caring, compassion and tolerance,� Frist said. �In terms of questioning his leadership ability or position, it�s a non-issue.�

Santorum�s comments were made in an April 7 Associated Press interview published two weeks later.

During the interview, Santorum brought up a pending Supreme Court case over a Texas sodomy law and said, �If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.�

Democrats and gay groups have called for Santorum to quit his leadership job. Some moderate Republican senators have criticized the remarks, but the White House and other Republicans have stood behind him.

While President Bush stayed out of the debate on Santorum�s comments, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on April 25, �The President has confidence in Senator Santorum, both as a senator, as a member of the Senate leadership.�

No reprimand for Holocaust denial

St. Paul, Minn.--A state representative won�t be getting any reprimands or giving any apologies for remarks he made in March about gays, the Holocaust and AIDS in Africa.

An attempt to discipline State Rep. Arlon Lindner failed April 24 in a 2-2 vote of the House Ethics Committee that followed party lines.

Lindner, who has proposed repealing state human rights protections for people based on sexual orientation, drew criticism for questioning the Nazi persecution of gays.

He also made statements on the House floor that some called racist. He said, �What I�m trying to prevent is the holocaust of our children getting STDs, AIDS and various other diseases . . . If you want to sit around here and wait until America becomes another African continent, well then you do that, but I�m going to do something about it.�

Lindner, a Republican, said he stands by his remarks and offered no apology. Asked if he regretted any of the statements, he said, �not in the least.�

Gay man�s killer is executed

Atmore, Ala.--A man was executed by injection April 24 for the 1986 stabbing death of a 60-year-old gay man during a robbery.

Gary Leon Brown, 44, was executed after Gov. Bob Riley denied him clemency. He made no final statement, but appeared to mouth the words �go with God� and �forgive them� to his wife, Elizabeth Anne Brown, who was in the witness room with Brown�s friend.

Brown and his cohorts had gone to Jack David McGraw�s home on Memorial Day 1986 to drink with him, hoping that he would pass out so they could rob him.

But McGraw said he had to work the next day and couldn�t party with them. He was tackled, dragged back inside the residence and stabbed 78 times.

McGraw�s body was left in the mobile home, where he lived alone until it was found by neighborhood children. He had been robbed of $67 and several appliances.

At the time of the murder, Brown was out of jail on bond in an unrelated robbery.

Archie Bankhead, accused in court of cutting McGraw�s throat with a butcher knife, is now serving life without parole. Also convicted in the murder was James Lynn Bynum, who was paroled in 1997.

Mexico bans discrimination

Mexico City--The nation�s Congress banned discrimination based on �sexual preferences� in mid-April, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Article 4 of the Federal Law to Prevent and Eliminate Discrimination also bans discrimination based on ethnic or national origin, sex, age, disability, social or economic status, health, pregnancy, language, religion, opinion and civil status.

It further bans discrimination based on an individual�s decision to �openly acknowledge one�s sexual preference,� be that via �dress, talk [or] mannerisms.�

The law applies in the areas of education, employment, medical care, social security benefits, public services, private institutions providing public services, reproductive rights, property rights, sports, cultural and recreation activities, civil and political organizations, media messages and images, and free movement.

It criminalizes exploitation, degredation and physical or psychological abuse against protected individuals and prohibits promoting or engaging in hatred, violence, rejection, ridicule, defamation, slander, persecution and exclusion toward protected groups.

In the case of violations by public officials, the newly created National Council to Prevent Discrimination will demand an explanation from the accused party, call a conciliation hearing, and suggest solutions. If a solution is not forthcoming, the council will punish proven violators.

In the case of violations by private entities or individuals, the council will suggest a conciliation hearing and mediate between the parties.

 


 

�Now� has arrived

Ending 13 years of depression did not harm Linda Howard�s art

When you say it�s gonna happen now,
Well, when exactly do you mean?
See, I�ve already waited too long
and all my hope is gone.

--The Smiths

These words are from one of Linda Howard�s favorite songs, �How Soon Is Now?� On the eve of her solo show at Studio 16, the song resonates strongly with her life, her art and her struggle with depression from childhood through to early adulthood.

Howard works at the Coffee Table, one of Columbus� most popular gay hangouts, where she serves coffee and bakes. She also makes most of her art there �because the light is just so amazing in here� with its floor to ceiling windows.

She was born on the east side of Indianapolis on June 21, 1969. Before Linda, there was a son, David, and another daughter, Maria. One of the first startling facts the artist shares is that �Linda would never have been born� had her parents not lost triplet boys in between the first two children.

Her father, who is very religious and conservative, believes that �it was simply meant to be,� acknowledging that in life, even tragedy has meaning and purpose, manifest here in the complex and talented existence of his young artist daughter.

Like her father, Howard believes that �everything happens for a reason.� She has a good relationship with both her parents, �who are still married after all these years,� especially her mother, �very much the stereotypical Hispanic mother for whom the children are her world.�

�She is the sweetest, most giving person,� observed Howard. �Any emotion that she has is right there on her sleeve. I get that from her.�

The relationship she shares with her mother does have certain limits. She can�t share all of her art with her mother because �she worries too much.� As little that she shares with her, she shares none of her creative output with her father.

�My dad is in denial about the fact that I�m even a sexual being,� said Howard, �and it would only upset him to see my art and it would force him into the pressure of trying to save me.�

Howard�s art is sexually powerful, with darkly poignant and satirically funny undertones. �He wouldn�t approve of what I�m doing.�

Howard spent the years between the ages of 10 and 23 depressed until she started taking Zoloft. She �couldn�t believe how much it changed my life.� Howard is unabashed when she speaks about her affliction.

�I am open about my depression like a diabetic is about the fact that they take insulin every day,� she said. �I�m just not blessed with the right chemicals in my brain.�

Howard worried about the medication�s affect on her creativity. It is the double-edged sword of every tortured artist. �Taking the drug meant that the very essence of who you are is being tampered with,� Howard argues, �and if I�m not tortured, how is the art going to change?�

�I�m not going to be able to cut my ear off and send it to someone if I�m on medication,� she jokes with a loud laugh.

Howard fondly remembers a day after she had started taking Zoloft �when I was walking to work and I felt a breeze on my face with the sun and the warmth and I just had this big smile on my face.�

�I felt so good and I didn�t remember ever feeling something so simple as that,� she concluded.

The worries about the medication were soon allayed when her productivity increased. �The added motivation allowed me to work more, because even though I had always drawn I never had that thing in me to drive me on.�

Today, life is good. �I have a great life,� she exclaims with her trademark smile, her gray-blue eyes lighting up from the depths of her soul. �Today when I think of myself back then, I think about what if I had known then that this darkness would not go on forever.�

Howard has little formal training in art, just a year at the Heron Art School in Indianapolis where she �failed miserably.�

�I literally flunked out because I was so depressed and so bored with the fact that they were trying to teach me everything they had already taught me in high school,� she said.

Much of Howard�s journey has found itself into her art, which is detailed, beautiful, powerful, enigmatic, technically masterful and saturated with maturity and meticulous layering. Each piece that Howard works on, no larger than 8 by 11, takes her anywhere �from 40 to 60 hours of very fine, detailed cross-hatching and pointillism with ball-point pens, markers and color pencils.�

Howard�s work is a powerful combination of the figurative, the iconographic, the allegorical, all steeped in dream imagery, rooted in psychological churnings and manifested as vivid stories within a single frame. Her work owes its artistic allegiances to a host of diverse artists including Frida Kahlo, Balthus, Egon Schiele, Hieronymous Bosch and Goya, among others. A lot of German expressionists figure strongly in her lineage of influence along with �Picasso�s Blue Period where everyone looks sick.�

�I love that,� jokes Howard.

She makes her art because it �makes me feel good and because I love doing it.� She is as fascinated by the process as she is by the complete high that she gets from work on fine detail for an hour to an hour-and-a-half at a time. �That takes me into a meditational space,� she explained, �and of course I also love seeing other people�s reaction to the work because it gives me a whole new insight into myself.�

�I work on each image for about sixty hours, layers, shading and during that whole time of executing the current work I am thinking about the next one,� she explained of her methodology. �It�s usually about something that is going on in my life right now or something that keeps coming back at me from the past that I am trying to figure out.�

She usually starts with a story in her head, then takes it all and starts �breaking it down into characters.� The characters are all usually varying aspects of her own multi-faceted persona, and �between the natural self and the other constructed selves from what we�ve been taught,� there is usually a lot of conflict.

In Hound, this process is vividly illustrated. �This piece is about when I first shaved my head,� Howard explains, pointing to the figure at the right of the painting. �I was amazed when I used to walk through campus, with my hair unshaved, and not necessarily dressed up or with make-up on, and I would get all these unsolicited remarks from men. As soon as I shaved, the remarks stopped.�

Howard believes that it was these men�s �own homophobia that caused those lewd comments to stop. After all, they didn�t want to admit being attracted to this boyish thing.�

What is amazing about her work is the way the viewer is forced to come close to the piece in order to see all the facets of the image. In doing so, the spectator must confront something discomfiting. Howard�s skilled technique thus works at two levels, allowing her to create beautifully textured pieces while giving her a way to lure her audience right to the surface of the paper.

As Linda Howard looks to the future it is certain that she has at the front of her mind that Smiths song. Given her talent and self-actualization, she won�t have to look any further for the answer. Now is right here.

The show will run from May 2 to 28 at Studio 16, 431 West 3rd Avenue, 614-2975909, with an opening night reception from 7 to 10 pm.

 

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