Stamping out intolerance
Petitioners in Cincinnati and Cleveland Heights move to put pro-gay measures on ballot
Cleveland Heights--Heights Families for Equality gathered over half the signatures they need for a domestic partner registry during local elections on May 6.
At the same time, equal rights advocates in Cincinnati gathered a similar number of signatures in their effort to repeal Article 12, a city charter amendment banning city protections on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Cleveland Heights group filed a proposal with the city for a domestic partner registry on March 11, and are now seeking signatures to put the issue to voters.
At 13 of the city’s 22 polling places, 78 volunteers gathered signatures. Their current estimated total of 2,600 signatures puts them over two-thirds of the way to the 3,570 required. The group wants to gather at least 5,000 signatures to allow for some signers who are not registered to vote or not city residents.
“We know the vast majority of signatures yesterday are valid,” said HFE head David Caldwell the next day. Collecting them outside polling places on Election Day helps make sure the people are registered voters and city residents, he added.
Caldwell, a computer programmer, also developed software to check the validity of signatures.
In Cincinnati, 90 volunteers covered over a quarter of the city’s 100 polling places, bringing in over 2,100 signatures to force a referendum to repeal Article 12. Citizens to Restore Fairness co-chairs Rev. Hal Porter and Gary Wright of Citizens to Restore Fairness were pleased.
On the ballot in 1993 as Issue 3, Article 12 bars the city from passing any ordinance that grants “minority or protected status” to people based on “homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation.” Cincinnati is the only city in the nation that explicitly outlaws protections based on sexual orientation.
“It was great to see 90 people turn out on a Tuesday, on their own time, to fight for fairness in Cincinnati,” Wright said. “We’re finding when you tell people Cincinnati is the only city that discriminates against gays and lesbians like this, they say it’s wrong, and we’re encouraged by that.”
“We feel very good about this initial effort to start our referendum,” said Porter, pastor emeritus of the gay-inclusive Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church. “We feel very heartened by the response. It seems we’re well on our way to a repeal effort here in 2004.”
The goal of November 2004 was set so that the repeal referendum would coincide with a presidential election. Generally, more voters turn out for presidential elections than local or midterm elections.
CRF is trying to gather 18,000 signatures by February 2004. Their goal is double the requirements of valid signatures necessary to launch a referendum, giving them great leeway. In addition, the February deadline is their own, not that of the Board of Elections.
While there is no deadline for turning in the petitions for the Cleveland Heights domestic partner registry, HFE is aiming to turn in petitions by the beginning of July so they can be on the ballot in the upcoming November election.
The partner registry would be open to any two adults who are not related by blood or already in a marriage or registered domestic partnership. Couples would register with the city by filing a Declaration of Domestic Partnership and paying a fee that would cover the cost of the registry. They would not need to be city residents.
The National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce gave Citizens to Restore Fairness $10,000 to aid in the Cincinnati campaign. It also gave $5,000 to Heights Families for Equality and sent organizer Don Rodrigues to aid in their campaign.
In addition, members of both groups attended NGLTF’s Power Summit in Covington, Ky., at the end of April, which instructed them in tactics for winning elections and community activism.
According to Caldwell, the most potent weapon in their arsenal are one-on-one conversations with voters.
“Voters in Cleveland Heights, by and large, support this thing, but don’t know a lot about it yet,” he said. “Thousands of these one-on-one conversations need to happen in Cleveland Heights, but if they do, we’ll win.”
Eric Resnick contributed to this story.
A stroll through downtown breaks an AIDS fundraising record
Columbus--Toddlers and septuagenarians, children in red wagons and people in wheelchairs joined straight and gay friends, families, co-workers and their dogs on May 4 to raise money and awareness for AIDS.
Twenty-five hundred people became part of AIDS Walk Central Ohio that day, following a 4˝-mile course that began and ended downtown in Bicentennial Park.
This year, for the first time, the event also included a 5K run which drew over 200 runners. The walk and run were preceded by musical entertainment, celebrity emcees and warmup exercises.
The event broke a record in money raised. Last year, 3,000 walkers raised $128,000. This year, a preliminary count shows $181,000 raised at the walk plus $121,000 in corporate sponsorships, said Columbus AIDS Task Force volunteer coordinator Bob Barnes.
As in past years, ten agencies benefited from the walk. These are the Columbus, Union County, Delaware County and Licking County AIDS Task Forces, Camp Sunrise, Family AIDS Clinic and Educational Services, Ohio AIDS Coalition, Pater Noster House and Project Open Hand Columbus.
Many teams marched under banners for specific groups and causes. The Franklin family, Margie, Al and Juanita, had come with friends to march in honor of Ricky Franklin who succumbed to the virus in 1993.
“I have been coming since 1993 to raise awareness for others even though it is too late for Ricky,” said his sister Margie. With funding cuts all over the place, she added, the support shown at AIDS Walks should be “shown all year ’round till we get this beat.”
Ella Wertz, an HIV case manager with SE Incorporated and also for the Union County AIDS Task Force, was there as part of her job.
“But,” she added, “I am also here because many, many years ago when I was in North Carolina, I was a buddy to a beautiful young woman who lost her struggle to AIDS. She has impacted my life profoundly since.”
Wertz is one of those on the front lines of budget cuts affecting agencies dealing with HIV and AIDS.
“We need to get together and contact our Congress people, our senators both at the state and federal levels,” she said, “to get them to listen to us speak up about why these services are needed. And even though the cure is very important, they are currently cutting case management and prevention services, which are equally vital.”
Andrea Campburn, news anchor of WBNS Channel 10 who spoke at the opening ceremony right before the walk, emphasized the need for such an event.
The Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus sang several numbers during the opening ceremonies, and the Columbus Flaggots, a performance group, entertained the crowd as well.
The Flaggots marched at the front of the walkers this year, displaying flag-twirling skills and adding color and energy to the march.
Chase Manhattan’s group raised the most money, coming in with $7,000.
Columbus--A gay bathhouse at the center of a controversy reopened May 7, four days earlier than expected, after its owners decided the city was not keeping its part of a bargain.
The new Flex bathhouse on Livingston Avenue had closed voluntarily for one month on April 11 to help the city of Columbus resolve issues between it and neighborhood leaders who don’t want it there. It had been open for a week.
Walter Fisher, vice president of Fleck and Associates of Florida, which operates the Flex chain, said the reason for reopening early was that he “saw no activity on the city’s part” toward fulfilling a promise that led to the temporary closing.
“They worked like they were out to get rid of us, not to abide by what they said they would do,” said Fisher.
According to Fisher, city officials agreed to help Flex find a new location in one of the “adult entertainment” areas designated by a revised city adult entertainment ordinance passed April 14.
“The point is, we’re not adult entertainment,” said Fisher. “That’s a matter of law, and the city conceded that point.”
Fisher said Flex closed as a favor, not because they had to, and that the city really wanted them never to open at all, anywhere.
Fisher said the city “stalled for two weeks” before his complaint got maps of the adult entertainment areas delivered to facility manager John Logston.
Fisher neither confirmed nor denied reports that another part of the agreement included money.
But Mark Wolfe, who owns the building being leased by Flex, and others, confirmed that there was talk of the city finding a buyer for Flex’s option on the building.
Logston said earlier that they had spent about $500,000 to renovate the former Livingston Theater, which another gay bathhouse occupied from 1974 to 1996.
Stonewall Columbus Director Kate Anderson said it was her understanding from statements made by Columbus Community Relations Committee Chair Jim Stowe, that “if Flex relocated, they would not be expected to walk away from their investment” on Livingston Avenue.
Stonewall Columbus joined with the Community Relations Committee in an attempt to bring city government, Flex, and leaders of the predominately African-American Driving Park area together to discuss their issues. The Driving Park neighborhood groups adamantly oppose the bathhouse.
“The city showed contempt for the GLBT community as well as the Driving Park leaders,” said Anderson after a May 6 meeting attended by Mayor Michael Coleman, Director of Development Mark Barbash, State Rep. Larry Price, and “a large group representing the neighborhood.”
Anderson was not initially invited to the meeting. Neither Flex nor any other GLBT community representative was invited.
Anderson said the mayor and the neighborhood associations are “intent on getting Flex to leave Driving Park.”
Coleman’s office did not return calls for comment for this report.
Anderson said she told the neighborhood group she respected their right to protest Flex, but felt it was unacceptable for them to link with outside groups to do so.
That was a reference to an April 12 demonstration by Minutemen United, a militant Christian men’s group from London, Ohio, with help from some of the neighbors.
Anderson said Coleman opened the meeting by saying its purpose was not to be about gay bashing.
“And I appreciated that,” said Anderson.
“But it is becoming clear that this issue with Flex is a symptom of a bigger problem that will be addressed,” said Anderson. “It is about the city not wanting to face community relations issues” between its black and LGBT communities.
Anderson said a meeting for LGBT leaders to discuss ways to deal with the larger problem is scheduled for May 10.
Akron--Two women were arrested May 2 in a child abuse case attracting a wave of attention across northeast Ohio.
Mary Rowles, 30, and her partner Alice Jenkins, 27, were arrested by Akron police and charged with five counts of child endangering. Jenkins also faces two counts of felonious assault in what one police detective called “the worst case I’ve ever seen.”
Rowles has six children by previous relationships with men, five boys and one girl. While police say the girl was physically fit and showed no signs of abuse, the five boys say they were locked in a closet for weeks as punishment, fed only a bowl of dry cereal and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich each day and were hit with hammers and kicked in the groin.
The boys, ages six, eight, 10, 13 and 14, were extremely malnourished.
“They don’t even place on the growth charts,” said Det. Crystal Bowen-Carter with the Juvenile Bureau of the Akron police department.
Each of the boys weighed a little over half of the average weight for males their age. The 14-year-old, for instance, weighed 75 lbs., while the average weight for 14-year-old males is 123 lbs.
Rowles and Jenkins, who the children were told to refer to as “Dad,” admitted to locking the boys in a closet to punish them. Among the reasons for punishment were accusations that the boys snuck out of their rooms at night to steal food.
“That was one that they did say, stealing food,” said Bowen-Carter. “Even if they didn’t do it, they were accused of it.”
On April 28, the eight-, 10- and 14-year-olds escaped the house through a second-story window and were found walking barefoot in the early morning hours. Police were notified. Rowles and Jenkins turned themselves in to police voluntarily.
According to the boys, two of them had been kept in the closet since February. The other three were confined to the bedroom containing the closet, allowed out three times a day to eat and use the restroom.
Rowles and Jenkins had removed the boys from school and intended to home-school them, although according to the six children their tutelage had not begun.
The couple have been together for seven years, and Jenkins worked during the day while Rowles stayed home with the children.
All six children have been removed from the women’s custody. The women, who claim they have received death threats, were given permission by Akron Municipal Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer to stay somewhere other than their house until they are brought to trial. Stormer warned the women against attempting to flee, however, noting that the news coverage of the case made them very recognizable and easy to track down.
Not about being lesbian
“The thing that is the most disturbing is, listening to the radio, it keeps coming out ‘lesbian,’ ” said Joni Christian, board member of the Akron Pride Center. “That’s very disturbing to me. Even though [the media] deny it has anything to do with being a lesbian, if they were a straight couple, they wouldn’t talk about how straight they are.”
Christian’s concerns are borne out by a May 4 Akron Beacon Journal story in which the two women would not comment to the press after being released on bond except to say they’re proud to be gay, a statement apparently made for no reason. Any other questions were met with no-comments or referrals to their attorney.
“They’re not breathing the same air,” Christian said of the women. “Something’s not right in their mind, and it has nothing to do with their sexuality.”
“I’m so far removed from this, I can’t even begin to imagine,” noted Christian, an actor who often pictures herself in her character’s place. “I hear about it, and it’s like Iraq.”
Detective Bowen-Carter, who has been with the juvenile bureau for a year and on the force for 11 years, was shocked at the extremity of the neglect.
“I’ve done robberies, rapes, homicides, and this is the worst case I’ve ever seen,” she said.
Warren, Ohio--The judge who denied a marriage license to a heterosexual couple because one is transgender will not be heard during their appeal. Neither will a Cincinnati anti-gay group that inserted themselves into the case.
The Eleventh District Court of Appeals in Warren ruled that Trumbull County Probate Judge Thomas Swift and Citizens for Community Values will not be heard during the appeal of Jacob Nash and Erin Barr of Warren.
Swift denied two separate attempts by the couple to obtain a marriage license last September based on his belief that Nash is female, and it would violate Ohio’s prohibition of same-sex marriages.
Nash’s Massachusetts birth certificate was corrected after his female-to-male sexual reassignment surgery. Swift only knew Nash was transsexual because he granted Nash’s official name change in 1999.
Nash and Barr appealed Swift’s ruling in October.
Swift, represented by the Trumbull County prosecutor, filed an attempt to become a party to the case as though his court were being sued instead of appealed.
Marriage licenses are “ex parte” proceedings, meaning there is only one party--the couple.
CCV, through attorney David Langdon, also asked the appeals court’s permission to speak against the marriage as though the organization were involved.
Writing for the court, Administrative Judge Donald R. Ford denied both motions to appear at oral arguments. Both groups will be allowed to submit written briefs, however.
“Simply stated,” wrote Ford, “in situations involving the denial of a marriage license, from which an appeal emanates, we can find no authority for the proposition that the probate court is a party to the action.”
The case has not yet been set for oral argument.
McDonald’s appeals $5 M verdict for worker with AIDS
Cleveland--McDonald’s says it should not have to pay $5 million to a gay former employee the company forced out in 1997 after it found out he had AIDS.
The hamburger chain is appealing a jury’s award to former manager Russell Rich, 38, of Akron.
Judges Patricia Blackmon, Michael Corrigan, and Anne Kilbane of the Eighth Ohio District Court of Appeals in Cleveland heard oral arguments in the appeal May 5.
Rich sued McDonald’s corporate operating company and their Hudson, Ohio franchise under Ohio’s wrongful discharge law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which covers AIDS.
After nine days of testimony in October 2001, the jury concluded that McDonald’s wrongly forced Rich out of employment because he has AIDS. The entire award was compensatory damages, figured to include $135,000 per year cost of medication for the rest of Rich’s life.
According to Rich’s attorney, Paige Martin of Columbus, the interest on the award has added another $2.7 million to date, and grows by more than $1,300 each day McDonald’s delays.
Corporate McDonald’s is represented by in-house counsel Brett Rawitz, and Steve Catlett from the firm Jones, Day of Chicago. Michael Pearson and Robert Wolf of the Cleveland corporate defense firm Duvin, Kahn and Hutton represent McDonald’s of Hudson.
Each side was allotted 30 minutes to argue before the judges, who allowed Catlett and Pearson to speak largely interrupted, while Corrigan and Kilbane peppered Martin with questions.
McDonald’s says Rich is not disabled, and has no claim against them.
Martin said McDonald’s also argued those points at the earlier trial, and neither the jury nor the judge agreed. McDonald’s also moved to end the case on those grounds, both times rejected by the judge. The company now argues that the judge erred in those decisions.
McDonald’s also contends that the trial judge should not have refused to give their 44-page series of questions to the jury to prove that they understood the issues in the case.
Martin said this is the strongest point of McDonald’s appeal, but adds that the questions were unnecessarily difficult to understand and would have only confused the jury.
Catlett dismissed all questions on McDonald’s attempt to re-try facts already settled by the jury as “a mischaracterization” as the legal team darted for the courthouse elevator.
Asked if McDonald’s was trying to delay until Rich dies so they won’t have to pay the award, Catlett said, “No response.”
McDonald’s also claims that they are “being punished through the back door” by the verdict.
The jury was not instructed by the trial judge to award punitive damages, and they didn’t. But McDonald’s is now protesting that the judge rejected their motion to instruct the jury that they were not to use the award to punish McDonald’s for their conduct.
Martin said McDonald’s misrepresented to the appeals court that they offered Rich a “six figure settlement” before trial.
“We were in mediation,” said Martin, “and the most they would offer was $80,000. Then, after the $5 million verdict, they came back offering $350,000.”
McDonald’s wants the appeals court to either reduce the verdict or order a new trial.
Martin said if the appeals court grants another trial, she wants the trial court to be directed to consider punitive damages as well.
Rich is currently unemployed and without insurance coverage for AIDS-related illnesses. He does not qualify for Medicaid, and is dependent on drug assistance programs to afford the $4,000 a month needed to buy 30 pills and two injections per day.
Rich said some months, there are drugs he does without, which causes his body to build resistance.
To date, McDonald’s has not paid him anything toward the award.
Canton--The city’s two public high schools will soon get gay straight alliances due to the actions of gay students.
Timken High School junior Brian Shannon and McKinley High School sophomore Ashley Farrish told the Canton City Schools board of education that they worry about their safety at school and requested formation of gay straight alliances in their high schools April 28.
Currently, a GSA that serves students from all of Stark County’s schools meets at Glen Oak High School in neighboring Plain Township twice a month.
Shannon and Farrish told the board that they are harassed by other students because of their sexual orientation, and that teachers ignore their claims of abuse.
School superintendent Dianne Talarico supports the students’ attempts to form the GSA, but said there was no need to bring the issue before the board.
“It’s a matter of protocol,” said Talarico. “They don’t need the board’s approval for this.”
“The school board does not give approval for any other student organization including the Chess Club, the Drama Club, or Christian Youth,” Talarico added.
Talarico said that all students need to do is find an adult sponsor for the group and get a building use permit, as all other groups do.
“And the principals can approve it just fine,” said Talarico.
Talarico said she met with Shannon prior to the board meeting, and getting a GSA at Timken High School was “a work in progress.”
“He had already talked to me and there were supportive staff identified,” said Talarico, “but by showing up at the board meeting, he cut some of that work off at the knees.”
Talarico said Shannon and other students observed the recent Day of Silence at Timken, which she added has an administration more receptive to them than McKinley High’s.
“My concern,” said Talarico, “is that if they are already being harassed, I don’t want these clubs to become targets. We need to make sure that the structure is in place so that we can protect these students in our buildings.”
Talarico said she supports sensitivity training around GLBT issues for teachers and support staff, and that the school system is adding sexual orientation to its employment non-discrimination policy as part of a total policy manual revision that will be completed soon.
Since Shannon and Farrish addressed the board, Talarico said she has been getting letters from people telling her to teach the students the Bible instead.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt,
Suit seeks to strike Nebraska marriage ban amendment
Lincoln, Neb.--Nebraska’s unique constitutional ban on same-sex marriages was challenged April 30 by a federal court lawsuit that says the broadly worded measure violates the equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples.
The constitutional amendment, adopted in 2000 after approval by 70 percent of voters, bans any “civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship.”
It prevents gay men and lesbians from sharing health insurance or any other benefits with their partners.
Thirty-six states have so-called “Defense of Marriage” laws, but Nebraska is the only state whose constitution explicitly bans same-sex couples from enjoying many of the legal protections that heterosexual couples enjoy, said the American Civil Liberties Union, who filed the suit along with the gay and lesbian Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
“While different-sex couples may seek and obtain legislation and government employment policies that protect their domestic partnerships, same-sex couples are prevented from doing so,” the ACLU said.
The marriage ban, Section 29 of the state constitution, would have to be repealed by an election before the legislature could pass any law for same-sex couples.
A bill proposed earlier this year to allow domestic partners to make funeral arrangements for each other would violate it, said the state attorney general.
The ACLU said the lawsuit does not ask for recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships. Instead, it seeks “nothing more--and nothing less--than a level playing field.”
Petitions seek rights law’s repeal
Albuquerque--A Las Cruces Republican is organizing a petition drive to repeal New Mexico’s newly enacted gay civil rights law.
Pam Wolfe the party’s state central committee that she initially will try to gather enough petition signatures to prevent the law from taking effect. To put the anti-discrimination law on hold until the next election will require nearly 126,000 signatures by June 20.
The new law, which takes effect July 1, broadens the Human Rights Act to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
The state constitution allows citizens to try to overturn a law passed by the legislature by putting a repeal question on the ballot in the next general election.
To prevent the law from taking effect pending a referendum will require signatures totaling 25 percent of the state’s 2002 general election turnout. If the law takes effect, a repeal referendum can be forced at the next general election by gathering signatures totaling 10 percent of the 2002 election turnout. That would require about 50,400 signatures, which must be submitted to the secretary of state at least four months before the November 2004 election.
Parents say Santorum was rude
Washington, D.C.--Two couples with gay children met with Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., on May 1, trying to get him to change his stance on homosexuality.
In an April interview, Santorum said that a possible Supreme Court ruling that state sodomy laws violate privacy rights would open the door to incest, polygamy and adultery.
Allen and Francis Kirschner of Center City, Pennsylvania, and Melina and Richard Waldo of Haddenfield, N.J., met with the senator as parents of gay children. Santorum, who is the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, was reportedly rude to the quartet, at times talking over them and dismissing their concerns.
According to the couples, Santorum kept referring to “the law of the land,” noting that he is an attorney and saying that they were parents and did not understand the law.
“We weren’t there to make a legal argument,” Allen Kirschner told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We were there to support our children.”
Santorum has argued that there is no constitutional right to privacy, in direct opposition to a number of Supreme Court rulings.
B.C. court rules for marriage
Vancouver, British Columbia--Canada should change with the times and recognize same-sex marriages, a British Columbia appeals court ruled May 1 in the latest legal challenge to a federal ban.
The ruling overturned a lower court decision that marriage should be restricted to heterosexuals, calling such a limitation discriminatory.
In its decision, the three-judge panel said the federal government should change the law by July 12, 2004, to allow same-sex marriages.
Otherwise, the court said, it would rewrite the legal definition of marriage to read “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” as opposed to the union of man and woman.
Courts in two other provinces--Quebec and Ontario--also have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights, but this decision was the first by an appellate court to do so. The federal government is appealing the Quebec and Ontario decisions, but it was not immediately clear if it also would appeal the British Columbia ruling.
Marriage ban moves with bad mark
Boston--A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in Massachusetts will proceed through the legislative process with an automatic negative recommendation following a committee’s failure to act on it by the April 30 deadline.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard hours of testimony about the initiative in late April, did not take action before the Senate clerk’s office closed.
The House and Senate may now accept that negative recommendation, reject it, or take no action before adjourning, as was the case last year with a previous amendment to ban gay marriage.
In order to appear on the ballot in 2006, the constitutional amendment would have to receive support from a majority of the state’s 200 lawmakers during the 2003-2004 legislative session and again during the 2005-2006 session.
The last anti-gay marriage amendment, proposed by citizens, received a negative recommendation from the Public Service Committee but still remained a volatile political issue until the Constitutional Convention adjourned last July without taking action.
Gay minister opens U.S. House
Washington, D.C.--An openly gay minister delivered the opening prayer in the House of Representatives on May 1.
Key West police officer Steve Torrence, a chaplain for the department and Metropolitan Community Church minister, prayed for Congress and the citizenry of the United States to be compassionate and just to all people.
Torrence was the pastor of Key West MCC starting in 1985, and became a police officer and the department’s chaplain 12 years ago. MCC is a Christian denomination that ministers primarily to the LGBT community.
Torrence, in addition to being the chaplain, is also a community relations officer in Key West, which has a large LGBT population.
Federal hate crime bill returns
Washington, D.C.--Comparing hate crimes to terrorist acts, senators called for laws that would expand federal penalties for acts of violence based on sexual orientation.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Gordon Smith, R‑Ore., would include protections based on sexual orientation, disability and gender to existing laws that target violence because of race and religion.
The bill would also eliminate restrictions on federal jurisdiction to investigate hate crimes. It passed the Senate in June 2000 as an amendment to a defense authorization bill, Kennedy said. But the House has consistently refused to pass it.
Texas passes 37th state DOMA
Austin, Texas--Lawmakers sent legislation to ban recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions to Gov. Rick Perry on April 30, following its 118-9 passage in the state’s House of Representatives.
The measure will make Texas the 37th state to enact a so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.
Perry has three options. He can sign the bill into law, allow the bill to become law without his signature, or veto the bill.
Opponents of the law argue that it does nothing but oppress gay men and lesbian, and point to the fact that Texas law already defines marriage as being an opposite-sex institution.
Mob boss killed for being gay
New York City--A federal court in Manhattan was told April 30 that one of New Jersey’s top mobsters was killed in 1992 for having sex with men.
Anthony Capo, a member of the DeCavalcante crime family, testified that he killed John “Johnny Boy” D’Amato, the head of the family, after hearing D’Amato’s girlfriend tell stories of trips into New York City to visit sex clubs where they would switch partners and D’Amato would have sex with men.
After she told him, Capo and another member of the family picked D’Amato up from her house one day. While the other man was driving, Capo turned around and shot D’Amato four times.
According to testimony, it would have been normal procedure to consult with other crime bosses before eliminating a member as senior as D’Amato, but Capo and his cohorts found it too humiliating to reveal their reason. Instead, only members of the DeCavalcante crime family were consulted.
Capo was testifying in the trial of Stefano Vitabile and two others.
X marks the spot, again
A very gay sequel shines as brightly as the original
Even though official summer is still six weeks away, Hollywood has kicked off the summer movie frenzy with the second installment in the X-Men franchise.
The first film, released over two years ago, kicked rival bootie at the box office, and it was all but certain that a new superhero film franchise had been born. Unlike traditional single hero films such as Superman and Batman, the X-Men films focus on a group of superheroes.
In the original Marvel comics, the X-Men are the next link in the evolutionary chain. Each of these heroes was born with a genetic mutation granting extraordinary powers. Under the tutelage of Professor Charles Xavier, the world’s most powerful telepath, these “gifted” students are taught how to control their powers for the greater good of humanity.
In a world filled with hatred and prejudice, these mutants are outcasts who are feared and loathed by those who don’t understand or accept their differences.
In this second installment, one of the mutants decides to come out to his parents about his “difference.” They ask him questions like: “How long have you known?” “Have you always been this way?” “Can’t you choose not to be like this?”
The X-Men films speak very loudly to GLBT audiences. The major metaphors in are filled with queer subtext. These messages are further accentuated by the fact that many of the major players in the franchise are queer.
From director Bryan Singer to editor and composer John Ottman and from Ian McKellen to Alan Cummings, the X-Men franchise is as openly queer as any major Hollywood film is likely to get.
One of the biggest themes throughout the X-Men stories is the constant struggle for peaceful co-existence between the mutants and the rest of the humans. Professor Xavier believes that this is possible and works hard towards its fruition.
The villain in this film is William Stryker, a man with an insidious plan to exterminate all mutants. Stryker uses his high-level position in the government as well as the public’s paranoia of all things “different,” to launch draconian measures towards the extermination of all mutants.
Many of the ideas on government power explored in the film raise eerie parallels between what has been transpiring in this country and elsewhere after September 11, where, in an attempt to make the world safer, civil liberties and individual rights have been curtailed.
Magneto, in the film, asks Xavier, “What will happen if they pass that stupid law (the Anti-Mutant Registration Act) and they come to your mansion to take your children?”
“Stryker represents the oppressive, racist, intolerant kind of person that mutants fear the most,” says veteran Brit actor Brian Cox of the villain he plays. “He doesn’t want to take over the world. He just wants to rid the world of those he feels are responsible for the damage to his family and the downfall of society: mutants. First he wants to control them, then he wants to destroy them
The film tries to accomplish a lot. Not only does it have to advance the plot and engage the characters from the first film, but it presents a whole new palette of mutants. At first glance it may seem impossible to do all this in one film, but Singer and his crew manage admirably. The plot is not particularly strong or complex, but it is engaging. Even though there are 11 superheroes vying for screen time, they are developed fairly well and feed the storyline in interesting ways.
As Magneto, openly gay Sir Ian McKellen exudes an infectious confidence and charm. Magneto is an anti-hero with devilish impurities, and McKellen has a lot of fun crunching tons of metal like most people crush soda cans.
Patrick Stewart, as Xavier, is solid as always, although his character doesn’t get to do a whole lot in this film. As Cyclops, James Marsden is cool and romantic as he woos Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
Halle Berry’s Storm is sexy and powerful, as is Rebecca Romijn-Stamos’ Mystique, a sultry shape-shifter.
As Rogue, Anna Paquin, an Oscar-winner like Berry, has a rather strange power which allows her to sap another mutant’s abilities by simply touching them. This makes it difficult for her to have intimate relations.
Aussie Hugh Jackman is superb as Wolverine, the tough guy with claws of steel and amazing healing powers. He exudes a tantalizing ease and sexuality.
As Nightcrawler, Allan Cumming (Broadway’s Cabaret) is theatrical and funny. He has a ball as a German circus performer with the ability to teleport from place to place, leaving a trail of blue smoke in his path.
One of director Bryan Singer’s long-time collaborators is John Ottman, who does double duty on this film as editor and composer. Ottman has two of the toughest jobs with the film. Most films, particularly action films, are made or broken on the editor’s table and Ottman has sliced together a slick series of sequences which allows both the actors and the effects to shine through. His score is powerful and together with the editing makes the film compelling all the way through.
Director Singer is drawn to tales of power and redemption, as well as those that champion the underdog. He has spoken about how being gay and Jewish has affected his outlook on his work and his overall aesthetic.
In a recent BBC interview, Singer was asked whether he was exploring his own situation through these films.
“Absolutely,” he answered. “And what better way that in a giant, action, summer event movie! I could think of no better place to spill out one’s own personal problems and foist them onto the world. And for that, I apologize.”
Singer has no need to be sorry. He has crafted a taut film with amazing effects and great character development. It may be thin on plot, but in its genre, X-Men 2 is as entertaining as they come.
The film has a rather wry sense of humor as well, which engages the audience at levels above and beyond the expected realm of thrills and chills.
In times like these, with many gay rights still not won, with so much homophobia and with an overall political environment in which “the other” is being so brutally misrepresented and generalized, this is one action film which is much more. X-Men 2 presents a cautionary tale about governmental powers unchecked and about popular hatreds unexamined.
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