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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 7, 2003

Ohios first domestic partner registry passes

Farina, Elliott and Schlagetter lose their city council bids

Cleveland Heights--Voters in this suburb created the first domestic partner registry in Ohio on November 4 by a significant margin.

The measure is the first partner registry to be created by a ballot initiative, and the first pro-LGBT measure of any kind enacted that way. It allows unmarried couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, to register with the city. The couples do not have to be city residents.

�We found our neighbors where they were and had conversations with them,� said Heights Families for Equality spokesperson David Caldwell of the voter identification strategy used by his group to pass the ordinance.

During the campaign, volunteers canvassed neighborhoods, identifying supportive voters. They then worked to get those voters to the polls on election day.

The identification target was 7,500 supporters. The measure garnered an even 7,600 votes to 6,290 opposed, or 54.72 to 45.28 percent.

�If you are not afraid to talk to people,� said Caldwell, �and you have the confidence to campaign with pride, you can win.�

Caldwell said every conversation with voters was an opportunity to earn votes, and that votes were earned throughout the city, even in neighborhoods where the population is not perceived as friendly to LGBT issues.

Cleveland Heights has neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations, and neighborhoods dominated by African-Americans of Baptist and other socially conservative faiths.

�This is the first victory of its kind, and it won�t be the last,� said David Fleischer, who is the director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force organizing and training department.

�This reaffirms the power of campaigning person-to-person and letting voters come to understand who we are,� said Fleischer.

The Task Force sent Fleischer and 17 other staffers and volunteers to Cleveland Heights to help get out the vote during the last ten days of the campaign.

Earlier, the Task Force contributed $27,500, staff and technical support.

�There�s no need to wonder whether there is broad support for LGBT people here,� said Fleischer. �The voters confirmed it.�

Caldwell said, �We could not have done it without the Task Force. It�s impossible to create all of these training and volunteer resources on a local level.�

According to Fleischer, the Task Force chose to get involved with the Cleveland Heights campaign because Heights Families for Equality was already highly organized.

HFE had formed in 2002 to defeat a possible referendum to repeal the domestic partner benefits ordinance passed by city council. The repeal attempt failed due to lack of petition signatures.

HFE organizers knew the anti-gay forces had organized, and did not want to wait for another anti-gay measure to appear. That�s when the idea to create the registry was launched with a petition drive to put it on the ballot.

Fleischer said the Cleveland Heights campaign will become the new model used by the Task Force, which has begun helping organizers of a Cincinnati campaign to repeal the anti-gay Article 12 from the city�s charter.

Fleischer said the Cincinnati Citizens to Restore Fairness gathered 6,000 signatures at the polls November 4 to put the repeal on next November�s ballot. Combined with signatures gathered earlier, they now have 12,500 of the 18,000 needed.

The Human Rights Campaign contributed $7,000 to HFE and urged local members to make individual contributions and to volunteer.

Task Force organizer Don Rodrigues said the Cleveland Heights campaign was successful because �we built power by organizing people and organizing money.�

�This is the beginning of something terribly exciting,� said Rodrigues, who was in Cleveland Heights for much of the campaign. �We have the fifth largest base of pro-LGBT voters in the country.�

Rodrigues pointed to the 80 Oberlin College students who volunteered during the ten days before the election, as well as students from Cleveland State, Kent State, and Case Western Reserve universities. He called them �the best cooperative model� he had ever worked on.

�Until 2001, our community lost three out of every four anti-gay or gay-related ballot measures,� said Fleischer. �We�ve now won 11 out of 14, an unprecedented winning streak that the great people of Cleveland Heights have just kept going.�

Caldwell said the victory �opens up a whole range of options� for Heights Families for Equality, which raised and spent nearly $85,000 during the campaign. �And the thinking about that starts today.�

Supportive council members return

Cleveland Heights voters also returned to city council the three incumbents who voted for the 2002 domestic partner benefits.

Dennis Wilcox, Phyllis Evans, and Vice Mayor Kenneth Montlack each nearly doubled the number of votes gotten by benefits and registry opponent James Redhed.

Redhed�s primary supporters were anti-gay opponents of both measures, and his campaign literature openly reflected his sentiments.

Evans, the top vote-getter, endorsed the registry campaign.

�We�re proud of [Evans],� said Caldwell. �It was believed that she was the vulnerable one. This proves that it is okay for elected officials to be associated with LGBT people and supporters. We were better friends than people thought.�

Cleveland Heights mayor Edward Kelley said, �This is just another occasion where Cleveland Heights has recognized and accepted diversity.�

Praising the overall high voter turnout, Kelley said, �I�m proud to be a lifelong resident.�

Kelley said he has instructed the city manager to investigate other registries in order to see what their fees are and what their forms look like.

�The Board of Elections has 30-35 days to certify the results,� said Kelley, �In the meantime, the law director will work on the forms.�

Kelley said he expects city council to approve the fees and the administrative structure of the registry in December, so it can be available �early next year.�

Two gay candidates lose

Two openly gay city council candidates lost their bids in Lakewood, another Cleveland inner-ring suburb, and another lost his second run for Cincinnati city council (see next story).

John Farina was defeated by Mary Louise Madigan, with 1,301 votes to 1,759.

Farina, who had run twice previously for the Ward 4 seat, said he is not likely to seek the seat again, though he may run for a different office in the future.

Farina called the campaign his best to date, and said there were factors that add up that contributed to his defeat. He cited the �gay factor,� party affiliation, �and the fact that I am a man, and some voters said there needs to be a woman on city council.�

Farina, a Republican, compared his race to the Ward 2 contest where Republican Ryan Demro won an open seat. Lakewood is a heavily Democratic city. Farina said the difference between him and Demro is that Demro is not gay.

�Take a chance and run,� Farina advises LGBT people with political interest.

�More gay people need to run, and more people need to get used to gay people seeking office,� said Farina. �That is what the religious conservatives did in the �70s, and today they control Congress.�

Political newcomer Jeremy Elliott lost his battle with council president Robert Seelie 2,079 to 1,619. It was the tightest challenger race in the city.

Elliott, 21 and a Democrat, said he is not deterred at all from running again.

Elliott said being openly gay had �positive and negative aspects.�

�It generated media attention, but it also generated the hate campaign,� Elliott said.

Elliott said volunteers going door to door for him reported hearing, �I�m not going to vote for that--� which the volunteers cut off before the epithet with, �That�s what I thought.�

Elliott said his campaign shows Seelie, who was the lone vote against Lakewood�s recognition of Pride in June, how powerful the LGBT community is.

�He cannot neglect us,� said Elliott, �He should work to get us on his side, and in that way, he was educated by my campaign.�

 


John Schlagetter loses his second bid for Cincinnati council

Other endorsed candidates do well

Cincinnati--Openly gay candidate John Schlagetter was defeated in his second bid for city council in the general election on November 4.

Schlagetter also ran in 2001, coming in 21st in a field of 26 candidates vying for nine council seats. In this outing, he came in 17th. He also pulled in 1,151 more votes in this year�s election than he got two years ago, bringing in 11,420 votes, compared to 10,269 in 2001.

Schlagetter�s defeat came despite a dozen endorsements, including that of the Stonewall Cincinnati political action committee.

The Stonewall Cincinnati PAC�s other endorsed candidates, however, tended to fare better in the election. Both of their picks for the Cincinnati Board of Education, John Gilligan and Florence Newell, were elected, and took the top two spots in number of votes with 23% and 20% respectively.

Out of six fully-endorsed city council candidates, four of Stonewall�s picks, Laketa Cole, David Crowley, David Pepper and Alicia Reece won. Brian Garry was the only other Stonewall-endorsed candidate to be defeated.

The PAC also listed two candidates, John Cranley and Christopher Smitherman, as �highly recommended,� noting that the two candidates did not meet all of the criteria for an unqualified endorsement from the gay rights group. Both Cranley and Smitherman were elected to council.

In Columbus, the Central Ohio Stonewall Democrats also endorsed a slate of successful candidates.

The only race lost by a Stonewall Democrats-endorsed candidate was for Franklin County Environmental Court, in which John Hykes lost.

Three of their five picks for Franklin County Municipal Court were running unopposed, while the two remaining selections, Ted Barrows and Julia Dorrian, both won seats on the court.

The LGBT Democratic organization�s two picks for Columbus school board were the top two vote-getters, Stephanie Hightower and Karen Schwarzwalder.

The group�s four choices for Columbus City Council, incumbents Matt Habash, Mike Mentel, Charleta Tavares and Patsy Thomas were re-elected, as was Mayor Michael Coleman, who ran unopposed.

City Attorney Rich Pfeiffer turned back the challenge of Isabella Thomas by a 3 to 1 margin.

 

 


Robinson is elevated to bishop, but with dissent

His consecration brings the church closer to its GLBT members

Concord, N.H.--Canon V. Gene Robinson was officially elevated to Bishop of New Hampshire in a ceremony on November 2 amid nearly 4,000 supporters, becoming the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and the world Anglican Communion.

The consecration was not without opposition, however. When asked if there were any objections, a formality similar to that in marriage ceremonies, assistant Bishop David Bena of Albany read a statement on behalf of 28 Episcopal bishops and 10 in the Anglican Church of Canada.

In another nearby church, around 400 people, organized by the conservative American Anglican Council, prayed together.

An expected split from the �global south� did not fully occur. Conservative primates, or leaders of the Anglican churches, said they are in a state of �impaired communion� with the Episcopal Church because of the consecration, which they view as a departure from scriptural law.

The primates, mainly from Africa, Latin America and Asia, are examining the possibility of creating a parallel bishopric in the United States for conservative Episcopalians who oppose Robinson�s ascension.

A larger effect of his consecration, however, will be the perception that the church is open to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, according to Jeff Grano, co-chair of the GLBT Community Alliance at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland.

�There are so many gays and lesbians who have been damaged goods because of society trying to take our God away,� he said. �This should help other people who are on the fringes to go back to their roots and discover their spirituality.�

The perceived openness of the Episcopal Church was appealing to Grano, who came to it from another gay-friendly denomination.

�I was a part of the United Church of Christ for a very long time, and I moved into Trinity mainly because of Tracey [Lind], and Tracey�s ability to be a spiritual leader,� Grano said, speaking of the cathedral�s openly lesbian dean.

Some dioceses had moved toward declaring a schism before the consecration, most notably the Diocese of Pittsburgh under the leadership of conservative Bishop Robert Duncan. In September, the diocese released a statement asserting that the property in the diocese belonged to local parishes, in an attempt to keep control of church buildings and land if it splits from the national church.

On October 28, however, a state court ruled that the property was being held in trust for, and thus belonged to, the national church.

The suit was brought by a progressive priest, Rev. Harold Lewis, and the Calvary Episcopal Church. It named Bishop Duncan and the diocese as defendants.

Lewis argued that Duncan violated church law, which said that individual parishes could not take church property if they split with the national organization. Lewis filed the case ad litem, which seeks to force members of associations to follow bylaws.

Lewis� church is the second-largest in the diocese, and the case is being viewed as a template for others seeking to keep conservative factions from taking Episcopal property with them if they leave.

 


Civil unions proposed as DOMA amendment looms

Boston--Attempts by Massachusetts House Ways and Means chair John H. Rogers to construct an anti-marriage but pro-civil union bill before next week�s constitutional convention are �overblown and taken way out of context� according to same-sex marriage advocates.

A joint session of the state House and Senate is set to meet November 12 to consider amending the Massachusetts constitutional to ban same-sex marriage.

If passed, Rogers� bill would give Massachusetts a compromise: civil unions in exchange for a �defense of marriage act,� or DOMA.

The civil union measure, which has received much media coverage but may or may not be introduced, was produced by a group of mostly conservative current and former legislators assembled by Rogers.

Rogers introduced an ill-fated �defense of marriage� act in the state�s legislature in 2000, which led to a boycott of his recognition by the Massachusetts Bar Association as legislator of the year.

�Rogers wants something to vote for as a cover for the constitutional amendment [against same-sex marriage] going down,� said Massachusetts ACLU legislative director Norma Shapiro.

�Rogers wants to be the next speaker of the House,� said Shapiro, �and he wants to be seen as having engineered the compromise.�

In addition to the proposed constitutional amendment, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is considering a case that could legalize same-sex marriage.

A constitutional amendment would trump any decision by the court.

The court passed its own 130-day deadline for a ruling on July 12, leading observers to compare it to another state high court�s handling of a same-sex marriage case.

In 1998, the Hawaii Supreme Court, which had made a preliminary ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, avoided a final ruling for it by waiting almost two years to rule. This gave time for lawmakers to put a DOMA state constitutional amendment on the ballot and see it passed by voters. The court then dismissed the case, saying any ruling it made would be moot.

According to Shapiro, the Massachusetts situation is both similar to Hawaii�s and very different from it.

Shapiro said it is similar in that the court is waiting to see what the legislature does, and the legislature is waiting to see what the court does.

But unlike Hawaii and Alaska, Shapiro said recent polls suggest that 77 percent of Massachusetts residents said they would accept a same-sex marriage ruling from the high court and 60 percent said they support civil marriage for same-sex couples.

��Fifty-five percent of Catholics support same-sex civil marriage,� Shapiro said, �and this is a 45 percent Catholic state. The results are consistent across the state.�

Massachusetts Freedom to Marry Coalition advocacy director Joshua Friedes said what Rogers is doing is �legislators� attempt to center themselves� with the public.

Currently, Massachusetts has three bills before the legislature dealing with same-sex couples: a domestic partner benefit bill, a civil union bill, and a civil marriage bill.

�Rogers wants a civil union bill with a DOMA attached,� said Friedas, �and no one is going to be blackmailed here with the specter of a DOMA.�

Friedas said the current proposal has a few more rights for couples than what Rogers� committee proposed last year. That measure was quickly rejected and the committee hasn�t met since.

�No one in Massachusetts is going to accept civil unions,� said Friedas. �Rogers just doesn�t see that civil unions are discriminating because he has blinders on from his own bigotry.�

�The debate matters a lot,� said Shapiro, �and that will send a message to the court.�

Shapiro said she expects the debate in the legislature to be about benefits, not marriage itself.

For a constitutional amendment to pass, it must be approved by a majority of the November 12 joint session and another one in 2005, then approved by voters.

As such, no anti-marriage amendment could be approved before 2006, and neither Shapiro nor Friedas expect the court to wait that long to rule.


A masked gala celebratess Stonewalls 22nd year

 

Columbus--Masked in the fa�ades of the City Center mall, Stonewall Columbus marked their 22nd anniversary with their annual �A Night Out� fundraiser on November 1.

The mall, which has been losing stores for the past few years, has turned some of its retail spaces into multi-purpose venues. The event was set in the former location of the chic women�s retailer Henry Bendel.

This year�s theme, organized by Patrick Gallaway, was in keeping with the Halloween spirit and was titled �Masked �til Midnight.� Guests were able to indulge in mask-making at the start of the evening�s festivities.

A Night Out is the annual event held by Stonewall to recognize community leaders and GLBT individuals who work towards the betterment of the community.

The event, in addition to the awards ceremony, included live music by Afunkalypse, gourmet food provided by local restaurants and vendors, and a silent auction of items ranging from spa packages to tickets for theater and sporting events.

Two web designers, Wayne Self and Dennis Allio, and Ad Fed Columbus shared the Stonewall Service Award this year. Ad Fed was recognized for their donation earlier this year of over $200,000 in professional marketing and advertising services, including a new logo and radio and TV commercials. Stonewall�s facelift in the community at large has been very noticeable due to the work of Ad Fed.

Self and Allio were awarded the Service honors for revamping and maintaining Stonewall�s web site free of charge. The site has many new features including online donation and ticket purchasing capabilities.

Rob Berger, president of Stonewall�s board of trustees, said that Ad Fed�s donations coupled with the pro bono work of Self and Allio far exceeded Stonewall�s annual operating budget, indicating that without the generosity of the award recipients none of this would have been affordable.

The nominees for the Stoney Award for Community Service were Frank Barnhart, a longtime leader in the local arts; Bruce Dooley, a well known community organizer and fundraiser; Todd Shinkle, a GLBT veteran who has designed a nationally recognized flag for GLBT vets, and Ken Sullivan, executive director of the Ohio AIDS Coalition. The award went to Dooley, also a real estate broker.

The Pink Triangle Award, given annually for leading the struggle for civil and legal rights, went to Dorrie and Karen Andermills, a grass roots activist couple who have organized and led the charge to educate elected officials and to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ohio. The other nominees in this category were Katheryn and Dawn Kereluik, a lesbian and trangender activist couple who have turned their marriage and a hate crime committed against them into an educational movement in central Ohio; Brian Shinn, a political activist who has built many bridges between the GLBT community and the mainstream political establishment, including the office of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman; and a joint nomination to the Log Cabin Republicans and the Stonewall Democrats for their political activism work.

The President�s Award, a surprise announcement that night to both the audience and the recipients, went to longtime partners Karla Rothan and Linda Schuler for their work on Columbus Pride over the past five years. In particular, this June�s festival, with record crowds and record money raised, was a triumphant achievement for the couple and the community they served.

The final award of the evening, the Rhonda Rivera Award, was given to longtime activist Douglas Whaley. Whaley has been with Stonewall since its inception in 1981. Whaley, however, has been active in GLBT activism since the early 1970s when he moved to Columbus.

Whaley, currently a law professor at OSU, encouraged Rhonda Rivera to join Stonewall in 1982. He said that he was honored to be receiving the award named for his longtime friend and mentor.

The evening brought out approximately 200 guests.


 

Coming out is only a footnote

Soprano Christine Brandes performs in Cleveland

Christine Brandes hesitated only briefly before coming out in print. The venue was Opera News� monthly Soundbites column.

Hitting the stands between her spring 2001 New York City Opera performances in Handel�s Acis and Galatea and her San Francisco debut in Handel�s Semele, the feature included the soprano�s reply to the standard question about spouse and children. The news that she and her partner resided in the Bay Area ran without ceremony at the bottom of the article.

�It�s a decision everyone has to make them for themselves,� Brandes acknowledged in the Oakland, California home she shares with her partner, conductor Karla Lemon. The two tied the knot in Vermont three years ago. �I go back and forth about it. People don�t really need to know if I�m a vegetarian or a lesbian or want to be a dancing boy. That should have no bearing on me as an artist.�

Life, however, is not always as it �should� be. Acknowledging that we live in �a strange time culturally and politically,� Brandes opined:

�I feel it�s my obligation to be out and offer an example. If someone comes to a concert, is moved by my singing, and has some sort of avenue to their own soul opened, I hope that learning of my relationship will cause them to step back and re-evaluate any preconceived notions about gay relationships and our right to fair and equal treatment under the law.�

Brandes has been with Lemon for eight years. They met after one of Lemon�s friends recommended Brandes as the soprano for a performance of the St. Matthew Passion that Lemon was conducting at Stanford University.

�Karla realized that I was one in the same person that her friend, mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, had been speaking to her about for years as a potential partner,� reveals Brandes with a smile. �As it turned out, I got the girlfriend and I got the gig.�

Brandes, 39, was in ninth grade in Canton, Ohio when she decided to become a singer after performing in Bach�s St. Matthew Passion. Later completing graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University, she moved to New York City in the fall in 1989. Discovering herself free to create �a whole different life,� she began to freelance in the New York early music scene.

Brandes soon had the good fortune to sing with such stellar conductors as Nicholas McGegan, William Christie, Christopher Hogwood, Nicholas McGegan, and Philip Herreweghe. After countertenor Michael Chance introduced her to IMG Management, a guiding hand was secured.

Since then, venues and repertoire have broadened considerably. Operatic highlights include Handel�s Ariodante with Houston Grand Opera last fall, Handel�s Orlando at Glimmerglass this summer, and long relationships with the �fantastic people� of Opera Company of Philadelphia and New York City Opera. Spring 2005 promises Houston appearances in Verdi�s Falstaff with fellow lesbian soprano Patricia Racette and baritone Bryn Terfel.

Brandes is especially proud of her concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra.

�It�s one of the great orchestras,� proclaimed the Ohio native of her home orchestra. They have a string sound that cannot be beaten--just perfection.�

She has also embraced new music, working on El Nino with John Adams, Esa Pekka Salonen�s Five Views of Sappho with Esa Pekka Salonen conducting, and the world premiere of Augusta Reed Thomas� In My Sky at Twilight with Pierre Boulez. While she is slowly venturing into bel canto, Brandes feels vocally and temperamentally unsuited for core 19th-entury Romantic opera.

�Clearly I�m not someone who going to sing Butterfly�s �Un bel di,� even when I�m 50,� she states with certainty.

Readers wishing to imbibe Brandes� voice at its best need look no farther than two stellar recordings: Handel�s L�Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (Virgin Classics), a joyous performance that also features gay countertenor David Daniels; and Telemann Chamber Cantatas and Trio Sonatas (Dorian), a disc with Musica Pacifica that won a 2003 Chamber Music America/WQXR Award.

In October, Brandes joined the Cleveland Symphony and conductor Julian Wachner in San Diego for performances of Handel�s Israel in Egypt. She praised the �wonderful� Cleveland chorus whose singing dominated the gigantic oratorio on the exodus of the Israelites. As with everything she sings, she acknowledges that the key to a successful performance is to keep her heart open throughout.

�Art serves to humanize. It expands one�s heart and mind and notion of what beauty is in the world. Even in your daily life, those experiences can change the way you go through the world and the kind of human being you are. They help you see what you can contribute and change for the betterment of the world. My part in that is very tiny indeed. But I feel very strongly about it.�

Brandes joins the Cleveland Orchestra and conductor Robert Porco in Severance Hall for Handel�s Israel in Egypt on November 13, 15 and 16. For tickets and information, see www.clevelandorch.com or call 216-2311111.

Jason Victor Serinus writes for Opera News and whistled Puccini as the voice of Woodstock in a Peanuts cartoon. He lives in Oakland, Calif.

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