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November 14, 2003

LGBT group marches in Veterans Day parade

Columbus--The Veterans� Day parade was an historic moment not only for the city but also for the American military establishment of Ohio.

Braver, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Buckeye Region American Veterans for Equal Rights, marched in the parade for the first time on November 7.

Todd Shinkle, who designed a LGBT veteran�s flag adopted by the national American Veterans for Equal Rights, marched with six others to honor the contributions of LGBT veterans to the U.S. armed services.

Shinkle was initially discouraged by the parade board from marching with the banners, which have the words gay and lesbian on them. Shinkle took his cause to the office of Mayor Michael Coleman with the help of Brian Shinn, a gay equal rights activist in Columbus. Eventually the parade board voted unanimously to allow braver to march with the flags.

Shinkle, though proud to be at the parade, was also nervous about being verbally or physically harassed.

Braver has been setting up a booth during the Gallery Hop in Columbus�s Short North district for the past several months. During September�s Gallery Hop a man walked up to the booth and upon perusing their literature started to shout at Shinkle and his partner.

�He was a middle-aged white guy who started saying that he didn�t want faggots in his military and that because faggots couldn�t procreate all they wanted to do was recruit and indoctrinate people to their perversion,� Shinkle recounted. The man then picked up a chair and attacked Shinkle with it, giving Shinkle a concussion. Shinkle�s partner too was beaten. Eventually someone from the adjacent booth came to their rescue and the abuser ran away.

Shinkle said that he was really proud to be at the parade, a sentiment shared by all the marchers.

Mike Warner, a Navy veteran of 25 years in the submarine command, said, �My message to the other vets and parade watchers is that we too have served our country and that cemeteries all across the nation are filled with gay and lesbian people who have died in defending America.�

 


Man jailed under voided importuning law sues city

Ohio Supreme Court struck down law seven months earlier

Youngstown--A gay man has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against the city of Warren after he was convicted and jailed for �importuning� seven months after the Ohio law against it was struck down.

The law had made it a crime to proposition someone of the same sex if it would offend them. It was found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court in May 2002, partly because the same act is legal for heterosexuals.

The city of Warren repealed an identical ordinance on November 13, 2002, as it brought its city code in line with changes to Ohio law.

But a month later on December 16, Keith E. Phillips of Youngstown was charged with breaking the Warren ordinance.

Unaware the measure didn�t exist, Phillips pleaded no contest two days later. He was given a 180-day suspended sentence, a $600 fine and five years probation including sex offender courses--paid for by Phillips--and monitoring of his computer.

A second importuning case in April was affected by this one, and Phillips had to serve four months in jail. He was released August 14.

Shortly afterward he found out that he had been jailed for breaking a nonexistent law.

Phillips, 21, filed suit November 12 at the U.S. District Court of Northern Ohio in Youngstown.

Defendants in the suit are the city of Warren and its municipal court, attorney and state senator Marc E. Dann of Youngstown and his employee, attorney Benjamin Joltin, who represented Phillips in the second importuning case.

Also named are social workers Linda L. Blum of Cortland and Stanley J. Palumbo of Youngstown, who prepared a pre-trial report on Phillips, and their employer, the Forensic Psychiatric Center of Northeast Ohio in Youngstown. Wayne A. Trimble of Warren, who was involved in the second case, is also listed.

The suit alleges 16 counts of violations to Phillips� civil rights under federal and Ohio law, including denial of due process and equal protection, false arrest, false imprisonment, legal malpractice, libel, negligence, assault and battery.

Phillips was convicted and sentenced by Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas P. Gysegem. The case was prosecuted by Warren Assistant Prosecutor Traci Rose.

Prosecutors and judges are responsible for making sure that defendants are tried only for breaking existing laws. Both have personal immunity, but are employees of the city.

Gysegem�s sentence came after a court-ordered evaluation by Blum, who is supervised by Palumbo.

The complaint alleges that Blum and Palumbo libeled Phillips in their report to the judge by �incorrectly labeling [Phillips] as having [a] clinical disorder� and �incorrectly and negligently assessing [Phillips] as a �Medium-High� risk for reoffending.�

In that report, Blum entered a diagnosis of �paraphilia, not otherwise specified.� �Paraphilia� means sexual desires outside the norm. Until the 1980s, the diagnosis was given to all gays and lesbians.

Blum based her conclusions on Phillips� statement that he participated in gay chat rooms, �his having an unrelated victim, a male victim, and that Phillips is under the age of twenty-five,� and that the 20-year-old had �never lived with a lover or committed partner for at least two years.�

Phillips�s second importuning arrest occurred at work on April 16. This time he was charged with felony importuning under a section of the law still in effect that deals with juveniles.

The arrest occurred two days after Phillips was chased in his car by Trimble.

The complaint alleges that while in their yard playing horseshoes, Trimble�s 14year-old stepson identified Phillips� passing car as the one whose driver had asked him if he wanted oral sex three days earlier.

Phillips says Trimble and the youth chased him in their car until they had him cornered in the parking lot of a shopping center across the street from where Phillips worked.

Phillips says Trimble opened his car door, punched him in the head, and removed Phillips� keys from his ignition.

Once on the scene, Warren police refused to take Phillips� statement.

Phillips� grandmother, Barbara Berndt, later contacted state senator Dann to see if he would represent Phillips in the second importuning charge.

The complaint says that Dann told Berndt he could not personally represent Phillips because Gysegem had consulted with him as to what kind of sentence to impose on Phillips in the earlier matter, and that Joltin could represent him.

The court set Phillips� bond at $10,000, which he could not pay.

Joltin attempted to have the bond reduced, but Gysegem refused, causing Phillips to spend 23 days in jail before trial.

Phillips says that his domestic partner, Matt Callahan, presented Joltin with Phillips� time card and four co-workers willing to testify that he was at work during the time the youth said he was solicited.

The complaint states, �Joltin�s answer was always the same: If they revealed the exculpatory evidence to the prosecution, the prosecution would just find a way around it.�

Phillips contends that on the day of his probation review hearing before Gysegem, Joltin told him, �Keith, they are not going to let you out. What they have provided me with [as a plea bargain offer] is 120 days to be served in jail, and there will be no probation violation [from the first case].�

�Is there any way you can get them to go lower? Did you show them what I showed you [the exculpatory evidence] about my alibi?� asked Phillips.

Phillips says Joltin told him, �Keith, the prosecutor wants you in jail longer. It would be different if you weren�t here four weeks ago for the same thing. And besides that, Gysegem has a hard-on for you. He wants you bad.�

In return for Phillips� plea of no contest, prosecutor Rose reduced the charge to misdemeanor importuning--the city ordinance that no longer existed--and Phillips was fined and sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 60 suspended.

Phillips says he took the deal under advice from Joltin, saying Joltin told him, �There are some things that are just not worth fighting for.�

None of the defendants had seen the complaint at press time, due to the federal court�s rules on serving them with it.

Also filed November 12 was a motion to vacate Phillips� earlier sentences. That motion is the only form of legal relief available to Phillips because the time to file an appeal lapsed while he was in jail. It will be heard by Gysegem.

If granted, that motion would effectively end all prosecution of Phillips until the federal matter is resolved.

Phillips� attorney, Randi Barnabee of Northfield Center, said if Gysegem does not grant the relief, she will have grounds to seek a temporary restraining order against the city in federal court.

 

 


Anti-gay groups hit list triggers review of AIDS research projects

Washington, D.C.--The National Institutes of Health have begun a review of research projects instigated by a �hit list� provided by the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition.

Around October 2, Republicans in Congress gave a list of research projects to the NIH that were described as �provocative,� including HIV research, studies on sex workers, truckers and other issues related to sex and drug use.

The list, according to Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California, was a printout of a computer database listing over 250 grants, interspersed with comments such as �nothing found on HHS search,� �HIV among Chinese �injecting drug users and their sex partners�,� and �has a couple of general health grants, but nothing related to the scope of our search.�

NIH officials began calling researchers about their work and their presence on the list, which was given to the NIH without a formal request for inquiry.

Waxman noted in an October 27 letter to Tommy G. Thompson, the Bush administration�s Secretary of Health and Human Services, that it appears someone on the inside at HHS had provided the list, since some of the information on it was not available on public NIH grant databases.

Waxman pointed to similar questions earlier this year that resulted in a string of audits of HIV education grants that were challenged as being an attack by the religious right on pro-gay AIDS education.

�It is apparent that someone created a list of researchers of concern and then conducted a search specifically for their projects,� Waxman noted. �The most obvious meaning of �HHS search� in this context is a search actually conducted at HHS.�

�It would be appalling for the department to be directly involved in the creation of a �hit list� of scientists and peer-reviewed research,� he continued. �Such involvement would send a clear message to scientists around the country that the Bush administration is prepared to attack leading researchers and sacrifice scientific integrity at NIH to further a narrow right-wing ideological agenda.�

A letter the following day from Waxman to Thompson noted that the Traditional Values Coalition, an arch-conservative group promoting �family values,� provided the list to conservative members of Congress. Waxman noted, though, that while some of the funding information on the list was available over the internet, some was not, indicating further that someone at HHS was providing information to the group. Waxman demanded records of all interaction between HHS and the Traditional Values Coalition.

On October 29, a letter ostensibly from TVC executive director Andrea Lafferty to Waxman was put on the TVC web site, listing some of the grants they found objectionable.

�If, as you argue, these projects are being directed from the �most distinguished� universities in America, my suspicion is that they are operating out of the basements of some fraternity houses rather than any legitimate science buildings,� Lafferty responds in the letter. �What plausible defense can be constructed for �investigating� the sexual practices of prostitutes who service truckers? And exactly what are the public health benefits of figuring out jealousy among homosexuals?�

She then argues that the NIH �obviously requires more adult supervision.�

Lafferty�s letter and the review by the NIH drew an angry response from Vanessa Edwards Foster, chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.

�This is religiopolitical extremism gone wild,� she argued. �The faith-based initiatives are preparing to line up at the federal grant trough, and they don�t want competition from academe, especially if it doesn�t produce the results and values their particular sect espouses.�

�The chill effect this has on legitimate research is far-reaching,� she continued. �The bush administration had distinctly religious ideology they�re forging ahead with, which means that the church will determine what is true science, not academia nor scientific or medical researchers. Extending this logic to its apparent goal, one can expect that all future treatment for HIV, AIDS or any communicable disease will be prayer.�����������

 


Sale of baseball bat sculpture boosts Cincinnati Pride

Cincinnati--Despite vandals in the dugout, an openly gay artist and his gear slid safely into home base November 6 as the town�s grand-slam public art �Bats Incredible� players scored in the final inning.

A slugger of an auction was held near the old site of Crosley Field, where long ago the Cincinnati Reds played baseball. The gala event benefited Cincinnati Pride and other non-profit teams such as the Reds Community Fund, ArtWorks, and dozens of other groups.

A locker room replica with two lockers and sports equipment from top to bottom, including a swim cap signed by openly gay diver Greg Louganis, artist Kelly Corken�s �Rainbow Over Fields of Dreams� sold for $1,500, with half going to Cincinnati Pride.

The buyer was Wayne Harris, owner of Spurs, a leather-Levi bar on the edge of downtown and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood near historic Music Hall.

��We were delighted to hear that Kelly designated [us] as the beneficiary from the sale,� said Pride chair Ken Colegrove. �The sculpture truly speaks to the essence of what gay pride is all about. We are grateful to Wayne Harris for purchasing the sculpture and giving it a permanent home at Spurs where everyone in the community can enjoy it.�

Being named the beneficiary of the proceeds �is exactly the kind of financial support we will need to achieve Cincinnati Pride�s goal of year-round Pride events, including the new OutFest planned for October of 2004,� Colegrove added.

Inspired by his late father, who played on a Cincinnati Reds farm team, Anderson Township�s Corken assembled Louisville Slugger bats and locker room paraphernalia into his work.

It won a place in an exhibit similar to earlier summers� �Big Pig Gig� pig replicas and �Flower Power� pots displayed here and in northern Kentucky to boost both tourism and local visitors to downtown.

Vandals hit the gay- and AIDS-related sculpture at least twice while it was in Piatt Park near the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. It was moved for safekeeping into a fenced area at Vine and Ninth streets directly outside the library�s new building..

Some 21 gay bars and groups teamed up to pay about $175 each to sponsor Corkin�s sculpture.

�I recruited anybody who flies the [rainbow] flag,� the artist said.

�We�re thrilled that Kelly went to bat for us,� said Suzanne L. Mehl of Cincinnati Pride. �His design came to life and was proudly displayed in the courtyard of the Children�s Library downtown.�

Bidding for the recuperated slugger sculpture began at $1,000 during the �All-Star Auction� in historic Union Terminal�s Museum Center.

�When bluebirds fly over this painted locker, you�ll be inspired to go play ball in your field of dreams,� said Tamara Harkavy, Bats Incredible executive director at non-profit ArtWorks. �Its beautifully-embellished sky and rainbow of bats reminds us all why Judy Garland wanted to fly over the rainbow.�

ArtWorks is an award-winning summer job program that gives talented local teenagers from all over the area an opportunity to work, learn, and earn in summer jobs as apprentice artists, said Harkavy.

Corken, 44, has performed for 23 years as an actor, singer, musician, and dancer. He studied at the University of Cincinnati�s College Conservatory of Music in 1989-91, then lived in New York City for nine years.

This summer�s project of about 250 sculptures, which used 11,000 major league regulation size baseball bats, were on public display through the World Series.


Hospital and officers deny they harassed a co-worker

Columbus--A Lancaster hospital and three of its police officers deny that they harassed a gay fellow officer into quitting his job.

The Fairfield Medical Center, 20 miles southeast of Columbus, and the officers made the denial on October 29 in their answers to a $10 million anti-gay discrimination suit brought by former officer Chris Vickers, 39.

Vickers� suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Columbus on September 19. It accuses the hospital, the officers and one officer�s wife of false imprisonment, defamation by slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, battery and constructive discharge, which means forcing an employee to quit.

The suit claims that supervisors and hospital administrators joined in harassing Vickers, then retaliated against him for reporting it by threatening disciplinary action.

Vickers was employed by the hospital for 12 years until his resignation May 5.

The suit was brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the 1989 case Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, that the act can be applied to employment discrimination for non-conformity to gender stereotype behavior expected by a person or social norms.

The individual defendants are officers Kory Dixon, John Mueller, and police chief Steve Anderson. Dixon�s wife, who is identified in court papers as �Jane Doe Dixon,� is also a defendant.

The hospital admits that Vickers �notified his supervisor of certain conduct he claimed was unwelcome,� but denies �that [Vickers] notified his supervisor of sexual harassment.�

The hospital denied nearly all the allegations and says the �bantering� between Vickers and the other officers was �not unwelcome.�

According to Vickers, the �bantering� consisted of the defendants continuously referring to him as a �fucking faggot,� and attempts to grab his genitals and crotch.

It also included tampering with Vickers� firearm, he says in his complaint, and impressing �FAG� on all of his two-part pressure-sensitive report forms so the epithet appeared on the second page of each one.

The individual defendants also deny most of Vickers� claims, although they admit �playing around and wrestling with handcuffs.�

Neither the hospital nor the officers say that the legal argument under Title VII or the Price Waterhouse line of cases is wrong, though both the hospital and the employees argue that Vickers is not covered by it.

Both portray Vickers as part of the problem, and say that his claims are unrelated to discrimination.

Both ask the court to dismiss the suit in its entirety.

The case is before Judge Gregory L. Frost and Magistrate Mark R. Abel. Unless it is settled, a hearing will be set for sometime in the next few months.


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Ex-gays to be focus of three Cleveland events

Cleveland--�Ex-gays� will be the center of attention in Cleveland over the next week, with a nationally-known author coming to the area to speak against reparative therapy and two competing events at the campus of Baldwin-Wallace College.

Author Wayne Besen, formerly of the Human Rights Campaign, will be at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center on Saturday, November 15 to read from his new book Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. As an HRC staffer, Besen photographed �ex-gay� poster boy John Paulk in a Washington, D.C. gay bar in 2000.

Besen�s presentation will be at 2:30 pm at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, 6600 Detroit Ave. For more information, call 216-6515428.

Four days later in Berea, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship have organized an �ex-gay� event to convince people that sexuality can be changed through prayer. Baldwin-Wallace College Allies and Lambda are presenting gay-friendly clergy and psychological views.

�This has gotten so huge,� said Allies executive board member Brent Erstad.

Their presentation, at 7 pm on Wednesday, November 19 in the John Patrick Theater of the Kleist Center for Art and Drama, 95 Bagley Rd, Berea, will feature Rev. Don King of Hope Lutheran Church and Rev. Kate Huey of Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ.

Also speaking at the Allies� and Lambda�s event will be Dr. David Dwyer of the Baldwin-Wallace psychology department, on the negative effects of reparative therapy.

The event is called �What it Means to Truly Love.�

�We�ve been working pretty closely with Campus Crusade throughout all of this,� Erstad said, deflecting possible rumors of a cultural clash at the school. �We�re concerned about students on campus who may be in a vulnerable place.�

According to Erstad, the �ex-gay� event, entitled �Coming Out with Courage,� was being organized entirely by the two campus Christian organizations using area clergy and speakers, not ones provided by national organizations like Exodus International, an umbrella group for �ex-gay� ministries across the country.

When posters for �Coming Out with Courage� originally went up a few weeks ago, Erstad said, it sparked an email debate among faculty and staff of the school, some of whom were bitterly opposed to the event while others argued that it must allowed to further academic freedom.

 

 


 

Scary, but funny times

Comic Jason Stuart worries about the nation

Columbus--Jason Stuart is thrilled to be the first openly gay comic to perform at the Funny Bone, but he is concerned about the nation.

Stuart was just leaving his salon in Los Angeles after a haircut and a healthy dose of political chat when he paused for an interview by phone. One thing emerges over many conversations with him: he is certainly a very political person. He is also consistently hilarious.

�This is a scary time in our history,� he began, referring to the current Bush administration and their actions to date, both domestically and internationally.

Talking about the California recall which Arnold Schwarzenegger won, Stuart said, �I am a diehard Democrat and I voted against the recall.�

�I am amazed,� he continued, �that we spent 23 million dollars we did not have. I am an actor and a comedian and have never been in the habit of spending more money than I have had.�

Not that Stuart was a huge fan of present governor Gray Davis. �I don�t see how Arnold will be worse than Gray,� he said, �because they both are of the privileged sort and don�t understand the problems you and I have.�

Stuart is set to headline the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Columbus from November 19-23 with his latest stand up comedy show, �My Big Fat Gay Jewish Comedy Tour.�

He just completed a co-starring role with Faye Dunaway in the movie Kill Switch, an independent film in which he plays an Geraldo-esque talk show host who ambushes Dunaway�s character on a TV show. The film also stars Sean Young (Blade Runner, Ace Ventura) and Tony Goldwyn (Ghost).

Dunaway has an almost mythological reputation for being a difficult actress, but Stuart said she was �nothing but professional and great.�

�She was on the set in character,� he said, �and she was like Superman to my Lois Lane. She put her arm around me and we flew as actors working together on a scene.�

Stuart is known for his recurring role as Dr. Thomas, the gay shrink on the ABC sitcom My Wife & Kids starring Damon Wayans.

�I loved that role,� Stuart said, �because here was a gay character telling straight couples what to do to better their relationships.�

He�s also appeared on Will & Grace, The Drew Carey Show, Charmed, Providence, Murder, She Wrote and HBO�s Gia with Angelina Jolie.

�Stuart said that, although he loved the Will & Grace cast who were very gracious and professional, the editing process left much to be desired.

�It�s like being on Survivor,� he joked. �They cut and cut till you�re practically not there.� He said Will & Grace is a �very tight ship with people aboard who really appreciate their success and fame.� He found that Damon Wayans allowed him to �be more funny, be more creative� during the process of shooting, though.

Recently, Stuart had a dramatic role in an episode of the Lifetime Network�s series Strong Medicine, which is produced by Whoopi Goldberg. Stuart plays the role of a host on a cooking program.

Last year Jason completed a dramatic role in another indie film, Letting Go, by filmmaker Barbara Daoust, playing the role of a man in the late 1980s who finds out he is HIV-positive and decides to die with dignity and grace.

Stuart said, �I have been looking forward to doing some serious work and growing as an artist and an actor.�

Stuart, as star and producer, and Michael Gallant, as producer and director, won the Best Picture Award at the Barcelona Gay and Lesbian Film Festival for their film 10 Attitudes last summer. The romantic comedy co-stars Alexandra Paul, comedienne Judy Tenuta, David Faustino, Sean Kanan, Lydia Nicole, Sheila Kay, Mitch Hara, Scott Kennedy and Jim J. Bullock. Stuart said that the film will be released by the end of the year.

Stuart describes this film as a �Julia Roberts meets Woody Allen meets MTV�s Real World kind of film and it asks the question: Can a real gay guy find true love in L.A.?�

Before his Columbus shows, Stuart will be cruising. Not for a pickup, but performing on a ship in the Caribbean for ten days. The cruise, not a gay one, was looking for �someone who appealed to both straight and gay audiences alike,� said Stuart.

�So by the time I come to Columbus,� he joked, �I will look fabulous!�

Stuart is constantly working on new material and the �Big Fat Gay Comedy Tour� will not flinch from the controversial stuff like war and Osama bin Laden.

�Really,� he said, �what is wrong with our intelligence when they can�t find bin Laden, a six-foot-three guy attached to a dialysis machine?�

He will also include material about his parents, about dating, and also about getting older--�I hate it! It�s the worst!� He acknowledges that he looks better than he has ever looked, but he still abhors the idea of aging.

Stuart has also always been very open about his relationships and his desire �to find a husband.� Currently single, Stuart said he longs for the day when he can find his mate so that he can finally sing the popular tune, �I Finally Found Someone.�

Getting back to politics, I asked him if President Bush has a good chance of getting re-elected.

�Gosh I hope not!� he exclaimed with a gasp. �I have no idea what any gay man will want with more of any kind of bush for four more years.�

Catch Jason Stuart November 19-22 at the Funny Bone Comedy Club at Easton Town Center in Columbus; call 614-4715653.

 

 

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