Columbus--The Ohio House Juvenile and Family Law Committee heard sponsor testimony on House Bill 272, the so-called �Defense of Marriage Act,� on October 8.
The measure would deny all recognition of same-sex couples, and could be used to void local domestic partner laws.
The bill�s sponsor, Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, told the committee his reasons for introducing it. The committee will also hear from other supporters of the bill as well as opponents before sending it to the full House for a vote. The entire process is expected to take four to six weeks.
Seitz would not give the Gay People�s Chronicle an advance copy of his remarks by press time, two hours before the hearing.
The bill, introduced September 9, is identical to the one introduced April 1 in the Ohio Senate by Sen. Lynn Wachtmann. The Senate version has not been assigned a committee. Both are identical to a DOMA bill passed by the House in 2001. That measure, also sponsored by Seitz, died in the Senate.
The bill declares that marriage between one man and one woman is the only relationship recognized by the state of Ohio, and denies recognition of any other couples.
Ohio law already defines marriage as limited to males at least 18 years old with females at least 16 years old, not nearer of kin than second cousins, and not having a husband or wife living.
DOMA laws that have been passed by 37 states are an attempt to dodge the �full faith and credit� clause of the U.S. Constitution, should any state decide to recognize same-sex marriages.
The clause requires states to recognize the �acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.�
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that for a state to avoid doing this, it must be understood that it is �against the strong public policy of the state.�
The DOMA legislation is an attempt to state that in a way that would withstand judicial challenge.
Partner benefits could be banned
Seitz�s bill, which is known as a �super DOMA,� goes beyond the DOMAs of other states. It has language that could block cities and counties in the state from enacting local laws recognizing or giving �specific statutory benefits of legal marriage� but does not define what those benefits are.
Opponents say this lack of definition would give any court in Ohio the ability to create any definition it likes.
The language could be used to undo domestic partner benefits for city workers, such as those in Cleveland Heights and being considered in Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland.
A domestic partner registry on the November ballot in Cleveland Heights could also be voided with Seitz�s bill.
But Seitz says domestic partner benefits would not be affected because they are not specifically named in his measure.
The Legislative Services Commission, which analyzes bills for the Ohio legislature, came to both conclusions.
According to the commission, the bill �provides that any other jurisdiction�s extension of the specific benefits of legal marriage to nonmarital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes has no legal force or effect in Ohio.�
Later, the analysis says, �For purposes of this provision, �state� means the state of Ohio . . . [and] does not include political subdivisions.�
Backers say bill voids local laws
However, the bill�s primary proponent, Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati, says the measure does void local partner benefits.
The group recently opened an office in Columbus to lobby for DOMA and an anti-porn bill. Their attorney David Langdon drafted Seitz�s bill.
In the May issue of their newsletter, CCV said, �They [gays] refer to the Ohio ordinance as a �super DOMA,� because it not only declares a strong public policy against same-sex marriages but also declares that extension of the statutory benefits of marriage to non-marital relationships is against the public policy of the state. That provision would prohibit so-called �domestic partner benefits� in government agencies.�
The newly-created Juvenile and Family Law Committee is chaired by Rep. Michael Gilb of Findlay.
Gilb is a second-term member who is most noted for his flat income tax bill.
Gilb is a co-sponsor of Seitz�s bill, as are members Linda Reidelbach of Columbus and John Willamowski of Lima.
Willamowski chaired the Civil and Commercial Law Committee that held hearings on the 2001 bill.
Non-sponsoring Republicans on the committee are vice chair Kathleen Walcher of Norwalk, John Widdowfield of Stow, Bryan Williams of Akron, and Nancy Hollister of Marietta. Hollister was the only Republican to vote against the bill in 2001.
Committee Democrats are Reps. Sandra Harwood of Warren, Todd Book of Portsmouth, Lance Mason of Shaker Heights, and Shirley Smith of Cleveland.
Opposition being organized
Opposition to the measure is beginning to grow.
Susan Bader of Columbus, who is the Action Vice President of the National Organization for Women of Ohio said her organization will have members testify against the bill, and will mobilize members against it at its October 11 state conference.
Bader, who has been part of the opposition to every DOMA since 1997, sees opposition to the bills as �more organized than it has been in the past.�
�Organizations are looking toward the 2004 election, doing trainings and trying out new techniques,� said Bader. �These new organizing skills can be used now.�
Bader added that it may be more difficult to defeat the bills this time, even with the better organization.
�There are more conservatives in the Statehouse,� said Bader. �And hatred toward gays and lesbians is more on the surface this time.�
Cleveland--The Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center�s annual meeting on October 5 was a bittersweet affair, beginning with the announcement that Dr. David Smith would be ending his tenure as executive director of the organization.
Smith, who has a doctorate in education, assumed the post last December. He will finish teaching his course in LGBT history at the center�s fledgling Aubrey Wertheim Institute and assist the interim administration in the beginning stages of their stewardship.
His resignation was brought about by a resurgence of a chronic illness, he said.
�I�m not as well as I would like to be,� Smith told the crowd of nearly 40 people assembled for the meeting, at which the annual Rainbow Community Awards were presented. �I cannot continue to work, so I�m taking this opportunity to let you know.�
He continued, �I wanted you to know that I�ve enjoyed being here and thank you for that opportunity.�
Smith ascended to the position after a seven-month search for a successor to long-time director Linda Malicki, who resigned in 2002 after six years in the position.
Smith hired development director Mary Zaller and program development director Jack Hart, who will serve as co-executive directors for the near future, working with board president Thom Rankin as the leadership team for the organization.
A farewell party for Smith, who has not yet decided on his next destination, will be held on October 23 at Snickers restaurant in Cleveland.
Rankin said it will be at least 60 days before the board forms a search committee to find a replacement. At the October 13 board meeting, Rankin expects the group to focus on the task of updating the organization�s bylaws since much of the selection process is governed by them.� The rules, which last underwent a major revision around 15 years ago, are currently being studied by attorney Joy Savren.
In happier news at the meeting, Smith noted that, despite a difficult year for the economy overall, the center�s finances were in good shape, with a number of major fundraisers like the Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend and the Garden Party yielding better returns than were expected.
�The usage is up 50%,� he said of the community center. He noted that it may, in the near future, need to look at the possibility of expanding its space.
The Rainbow Community Awards were presented to a diverse array of people and organizations.
Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell received an award for being the city�s first mayor to recognize June as Pride Month. Former center staffer Judy Maruszan, now with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, was recognized for her work with LGBT youth and safe schools programs. Kathryn Hall, affirmative action and diversity director for Cuyahoga Community College was honored for organizing the school�s Diversity Week.
Volunteer David Hardie was given an award in absentia for his contributions to the community center. Hardie was in Toronto with his partner, whom he met at the center. Campbell and Maruszan were also unable to attend the event, although city health director Matt Carroll arrived later in the meeting.
Bill Tiedemann, the Cleveland health department�s HIV/AIDS Unit manager and a former staff member of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, was honored for his work in the community.
Aaron Patterson, the center�s youth services coordinator who presented Tiedemann with his award, called him �an ocean of compassion.�
�Friends who died did not live to their fullest potential,� Tiedemann told the audience. �We have a gift; we must live to our fullest potential.�
Awards were also presented to Liberation Soulforce Cleveland, the local chapter of the national group fighting anti-gay religious doctrine, and A Place for Us, an LGBT retirement community being planned for downtown Cleveland.
�We started five years ago,� said Ralph Sanderson, accepting the award for A Place for Us. �We are committed to creating a safe space for people to age in place . . . We are truly blessed with the cooperation of the [city] planning department.�
In the end, though, the day was about David Smith and his accomplishments at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center.
�On behalf of the staff and board, we wish you a safe journey,� Rankin told Smith, eliciting a standing ovation for the exiting executive director.
Akron--Police arrested a man accused of raping a gay male University of Akron student almost two months after the incident, although the suspect�s name and address were known.
Patrick C. Geiger, 35, of Akron, is being held in the Summit County jail on charges of rape, kidnapping and felonious assault resulting from the August 8 event.
Geiger was arrested October 2, after the 34year-old student filed charges September 17. He pleaded not guilty at an arraignment four days later.
Akron Municipal Judge Brian D. Stormer set Geiger�s bail at $500,000. The student will testify before a grand jury October 9, and the case will be bound over to Summit County Common Pleas Court on October 15.
�I think it took too long, but I�m glad it finally happened,� said the victim about the arrest.
The student hired a lawyer, Tom McNerney of Macedonia, out of his concern that Akron police moved too slowly in arresting Geiger because the victim is gay and male. Geiger is represented by Akron attorney Scott Rilley.
Charges were not filed until mid-September, although the victim said he could have signed them much earlier. He complained that detectives reneged on promises to have charges prepared for him to sign several times in August, even though he picked Geiger out of a photo array, and a witness also identified him.
The victim also said that once he had escaped from Geiger�s Hawkins Ave. apartment and summoned police, officers would not enter Geiger�s apartment to arrest him.
Akron police detective Capt. Elizabeth Daugherty was also pleased with the arrest, adding that the delay had nothing to do with the victim being gay.
Daugherty previously told the Gay People�s Chronicle that �suspect identification has never been an issue in this case.�
According to the victim, the incident began when Geiger invited him to a party at his apartment after the two met at Thursday�s Night Club, which is not a gay bar. Geiger called himself Corbett, his middle name.
When others left the apartment, Geiger told the victim there was no party and began forcing himself on him, removing his pants and attempting oral sex.
The student said Geiger told him, �If you don�t at least try, I�m going to break every fucking bone in your body,� before punching him.
The victim said he was penetrated both by Geiger�s finger and his penis during the struggle.
Photos taken after the incident at St. Thomas Hospital show the victim severely bruised. He was also swabbed for DNA evidence at the hospital.
The victim said Geiger told him it didn�t matter if he had sex with him alive or dead and that if he cooperated, he would be �killed fast and easy,� but if he fought, he would be tortured and killed slowly.
The victim recalled that Geiger told him during the attack, �I have to kill you because no one knows I�m gay and I know you�ll go to the police.�
The victim escaped after jamming his thumb into Geiger�s eye and biting him hard enough to get a mouth full of blood.
Akron Victim Assistance spokesperson Yvette Lester did not know how long it typically takes Akron police to arrest rape suspects when their identity is known.
�It depends on a lot of different things,� said Lester, �and we don�t hear many complaints that it takes too long.�
The organization�s director, Rev. Robert Denton, did not return numerous calls for comment, though Lester suggested he knows how long arrests take.
In this case, filing of charges and the arrest occurred after the victim hired an attorney and the Chronicle reported on the case in early September.
Trial on the felony charges will be set by Summit County Common Pleas magistrate John Shoemaker.
Events across Ohio celebrate National Coming Out Day
Columbus--Saturday, October 11 marks National Coming Out Day, and events across the state honor the day and the surrounding Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.
Ohio State University�s Office of LGBT Student Services organized an entire week of events, as did Spectrum, the LGBT student organization at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Kent State University�s Pride! Kent and Ohio University�s Office of LGBT Programs in Athens.
Columbus events earlier in the week included perennial favorite �Guess the Straight Person,� challenging participants� assumptions about stereotypes, a program featuring comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, weather forecaster Chuck Guerney and Road Rules� Sophia Pasquis holding a panel discussion entitled �Being an Out Celebrity,� and performances by gay playwright Jeffrey Solomon.
Columbus� festivities continue with an October 11 performance of Solomon�s Mother/SON and Friday and Saturday performances of his Santa Claus is Coming Out, or How the Gay Agenda Came Down My Chimney.
Gay writer and National Public Radio commentator David Sedaris will appear on October 13 at OSU�s Mershon Auditorium, also as part of Coming Out Week.
In Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University Spectrum presented an October 6 kick-off picnic and an October 8 open forum on coming out stories. A dance at the Spot on Juniper Rd. will wrap up the social events of the week on October 10.
In addition, gay historian John D�Emilio will be in town for two events. On October 10, he will present �Where We Look Is What We Find: The Past and Future of Queer History,� a free public lecture co-sponsored by the Western Reserve Historical Society and the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center. The following day, D�Emilio will be the linchpin of a panel discussion on LGBT oral history.
Pride! Kent and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent are presenting Sappho�s Muse LGBT art show throughout the month at the church, as well as a series of screenings of queer films.
Ohio University�s Open Doors group and the OU LGBT Alumni Organization are presenting dozens of events over the course of the next week and a half. For full information on those events, log onto http://welcome.to/opendoors.
In addition to the school-related events around the state, a number of LGBT-friendly churches are presenting services, including Eternal Joy�s National Coming Out Day Prayer Breakfast and a Coming Out Day Interfaith Worship Service at Bellevue, Kentucky�s St. John UCC.
Cincinnati Pride will have a Coming Out Day Party featuring Dayton�s Frozen Feet, Miss Vickie D�Salle and Antara at the Yadda Club in Covington, while Celebrity Showbar hosts a National Coming Out Day Kickoff to benefit the Dayton Lesbian-Gay Center, both on October 11.
In addition, the Out in Akron cultural festival will be continuing throughout the weekend.
Listings for these and other events can be found in Charlie�s Calendar.
For more information on National Coming Out Day, visit the Human Rights Campaign�s web site at http://www.hrc.org/ncop/ncod/index.asp.
Columbus--The September 27 Chrome circuit party, in its first year as a non-profit corporation, was �definitely in the black,� according to treasurer Chris Fairman.
�The main event attracted supporters from all over the country,� Fairman said, �including New York City, D.C., San Francisco, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Chicago, as well as Ohio and neighboring states of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.�
The main Chrome party had an Atlantean theme, with the fabled city �sinking� at 1 am, mermen emerging from the columns decorating the ballroom and seaweed mobiles ascending to the ceiling. Los Angeles trapeze duo Eric Newton and Sagiv Be-Binyamin performed above the crowd, completing the effect.
Ralphi Rosario, a prominent circuit DJ, then played until 5 am to a crowd estimated at 1,000.
Other Chrome events, hosted by Axis, Wall Street and Millennium, featured Rosario�s DJ partner Abel, Alyson Calagna, Monty Q and Tom McBride, as well as local deejays like Chuck Quarles, Rick Corder and Rob Engel.
Financial figures were unavailable pending a final tally of the weekend�s expenses, but organizers were �excited about the success of Chrome 2003 and the prospects for future growth.�
The funds raised by the party will be donated to Columbus-area organizations providing HIV and AIDS services or promoting the arts.
Washington, D.C.--The last remaining sodomy statute in the United States is being challenged in court. Article 125 of the U.S. Code of Military Justice prohibits oral and anal sex by both heterosexuals and homosexuals, and it is regularly enforced by the military.
The military�s highest court on October 7 heard arguments in the case of United States v. Eric P. Marcum, a sergeant in the Air Force. In May 2000 he was found guilty of performing consensual oral sex on a fellow airman in the privacy of Marcum�s home.
The case has been appealed through the military courts and is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. That is the highest court in the system, subject only to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The major legal development since the case began is that in June of this year, in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision, the Supreme Court threw out all of the remaining state sodomy laws as unconstitutional.
However, because of the high court�s traditional deference to the military on most matters, there is some question as to whether the Lawrence decision applies to the military.
Government lawyers argued that it should not apply because it did not recognize a �fundamental right to engage in sodomy� and the court should defer to the judgment of the military on how it runs itself.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network took the lead in filing an amicus brief with the appeals court on October 2. Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union joined them in arguing that �Lawrence wiped away the sole justification that kept this court from striking down Article 125 a decade ago.�
It said, by overturning its own 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision that accepted the criminalization of sodomy, the high court �made clear that the long-established right to personal autonomy precludes the criminalization of private, intimate conduct,� and that also applies to the military.
Citing Pentagon reports on the widespread practice of oral and anal sex by people of all sexual orientations, SLDN maintained, �Article 125 undermines morale and discipline by criminalizing sexual acts that are widely practiced, thereby forcing military personnel to dissemble about their sexual conduct.�
A second amicus brief argues that there is no evidence to suggest that doing away with Article 125 would harm unit cohesion or the good functioning of the military. Among those submitting that brief are Charles Moskos, known as �the father of don�t ask, don�t tell, and retired admiral Bobby Inman, who headed up Naval Intelligence, the super secret National Security Agency and later was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
SLDN executive director C. Dixon Osburn said the appeals court generally deals with administrative issues and seldom with constitutional ones. He believes that one of the five appeals judges is �a lost cause� on this issue, but the other four are open to legal arguments.
The decision may come as early as the end of this year. A favorable ruling would knock out one of the main props that support the �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy.
Signatures gathered for statewide Article 12-like amendment
Los Angeles--Seething over taxes and red ink, California voters dumped the unpopular Democrat Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican political novice Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Meanwhile, a state senator is pushing a constitutional amendment similar to Cincinnati�s Article 12.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting early on October 8, the recall was favored by 4,092,411 voters or 54.3 percent, and opposed by 3,438,424 voters or 45.7 percent.
The question for the state�s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens now is: What will Schwarzenegger�s election mean to them?
His web site expresses his opposition to same-sex marriage, but goes on to say, �I do believe that gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based on their relationship.�
According to Equality California, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization, a majority of voters in an exit poll expressed support for the state�s domestic partner registry and its expanded benefits and responsibilities, which are slated to take effect in January 2005.
State Sen. Pete Knight, a conservative Republican, has filed a lawsuit against the new domestic partner law, claiming that it violates Proposition 22, a 2000 voter-approved ballot initiative that banned recognition of same-sex marriage.
In addition to the suit, Knight is also collecting signatures to force two ballot initiatives, one to repeal the domestic partner law, and one to amend the state constitution to specifically ban any protections for LGBT people.
Elections officials approved both initiatives for signature drives on October 2.
The constitutional amendment is similar to measures passed in Cincinnati and Colorado in the 1990s. Colorado�s Amendment 2 was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but Cincinnati�s Article 12 is still on the books.
The California amendment seeks to prohibit all state laws and policies "providing protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment to homosexual, bisexual, transsexual or transvestite orientation, status, conduct or relationships.�
�We are cautiously optimistic about the newly elected governor�s positions on issues that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,� said Equality California executive director Geoffrey Kors. �Although a campaign spokesperson stated that Schwarzenegger would not have signed the domestic partner bill, we hope that he will join the majority of Californians in supporting this important legislation that protects families.�
While the views Schwarzenegger espoused over the course of the campaign cost him the support of many of the state�s more conservative Republicans others believe that the political novice will hold true to his party�s platforms.
�I think the people are believing he's going to be some anti-politician. He's a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, being guided by the Republican Party. So the only thing California is going to get is a Republican governor,� former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura told MSNBC�s Chris Matthews.
Ventura, a Libertarian, made his name as a professional wrestler and appeared in the film Predator with Schwarzenegger.
Two videos show the lighter side of coming out
No road is more riddled with land mines than the path of coming out, the life event honored by National Coming Out Day this weekend, October 11.
Luckily, the marvelous world of entertainment loves being timely and appropriate, so there�s always something being released to match the occasion, whatever it might be.
In this case, two new video releases fit the bill. One, Coming Out Party, features seven openly gay or lesbian comedians recounting their coming-out stories.
The other, Absolutely Special, features the two Absolutely Fabulous television movies that accompanied the series, The Last Shout and Gay. For the purposes of this article, the latter movie is far more important, since the audience finally meets Edina�s long-lost son, Serge, played by Josh Hamilton of House of Yes.
Serge, as fans of the series will know, left home years before, escaping the suffocating embrace of his rather crazy mother. His half-sister Saffron always claimed that he was in some exotic location, studying arctic weather patterns or the migration of flying sheep in the Galapagos or some such activity in a remote, unreachable place.
In Absolutely Fabulous: Gay, however, the audience learns the truth: Serge is gay and living in New York. Edina is thrilled.
When she and her drug-addled best friend head to New York for Fashion Week, Edina decides to find her son. Along the way, she runs into Whoopi Goldberg, playing a counselor at a gay community center, queer British talk show host Graham Norton and a slew of fashion designers before finding her darling boy, who is so breathtakingly normal that she doesn�t know quite what to do with him.
Coming Out Party, however, is filled with people whose ordinariness is completely relative.
The first comedian on stage is Ren�e Hicks, who ascends the stage wearing roller skates. Her reason for wearing them becomes clear later on, but her presence starting the show is welcome since, as she mentions, you can�t have a big party without at least one black person.
The other six comedians in the film are female impersonator Jackie Beat--dressed as a boy, interestingly enough; Sabrina Matthews; Dan Renzi from The Real World on MTV, proving that you can be pretty and funny at the same time; John Riggi; Bob Smith; and Terry Sweeney, who became the first openly gay person to star in a network television show when he began appearing on Saturday Night Live in 1985.
Sweeney is the elder statesman of the bunch, kind of like when the government trots out Jimmy Carter to head up negotiations. He can talk about being a gay adult in the days before AIDS, unlike most of the others. Renzi, in fact, was six or seven when America first started dealing with the AIDS crisis.
Bob Smith�s act was the most like his appearances on Comedy Central. Some of the jokes were identical, although some of the material was newer. Sabrina Matthews� bits were similar to her cable appearances, as well.
John Riggi, having written for The Larry Sanders Show, The Bernie Mac Show and Nathan Lane�s short-lived Charlie Lawrence, has the most anecdotal performance, relying less on zingy punch lines than some of his compatriots.
Jackie Beat, with his twisted sense of humor and love of surprise endings, gave perhaps the best performance. Anyone who can use �Maybe I�ll talk about breast cancer� as a punch line is someone to watch out for.
For some people, coming out is a time fraught with challenges, when they face rejection from friends and family. For others, it is an uplifting, liberating experience.
Watching these two videos, however, coming out is a very funny thing.
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