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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 12, 2003

Heights council honored; group endorses registry

Cleveland--The Cleveland Stonewall Democrats presented their 2003 Freedom Award to the Cleveland Heights City Council at their annual Freedom fundraising reception September 3.

The council was honored for their vote last year to extend spousal health benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian city employees.

The event, which was attended by more than 80 people, raised $5,000 to be used by the group for voter education and contributions to their endorsed candidates, according to executive vice president Kathy Connors.

The ceremony was co-chaired by Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones and Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Chair Jimmy Dimora.

The group announced its first round of endorsements on September 8: Madeline Cain for Lakewood mayor and openly gay Jeremy Elliott for Lakewood city council ward 3.

A priority endorsement was given to the domestic partner registry on the ballot this year in Cleveland Heights.

That initiative, led by Heights Families for Equality, would create a registry of same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners.

Though the registry is not legally binding, it creates documentation of a relationship that could be used for legal purposes. It would be open to city residents and non-residents, and paid for by a fee charged to couples who choose to register.

About 50 cities and two states have such registries, but this would be the first one created by voter initiative. It is the only GLBT issue on the November 2003 ballot anywhere in the United States.

According to Connors, Stonewall�s priority endorsement means the initiative will �put a higher call� on the group�s financial and volunteer resources.

The rest of the group�s endorsements, which will include additional Lakewood council races, Cleveland Heights city council and Cleveland judicial seats, will be announced October 13.

The Stonewall Democrats� recognition of the Cleveland Heights council was for their April 2002 vote making it the first Ohio city to offer health benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of its employees.

When the council members were introduced, the crowd rose to its feet for an extended standing ovation that caught the honorees off guard.

Cleveland Stonewall Democrats president Patrick Shepherd introduced the members saying, �These people stuck their necks out for us and we need to be there for them.�

�April 15, 2002, was a historic day in Cleveland Heights,� said council member Bonnie Caplan of the day the vote was taken, �but it was business as usual.�

�We figured all employees had the same benefits, but when we realized not, it was a no-brainer,� she added. �We had to do it. It was about treating all employees fairly.�

�It�s great to be first, but there needs to be a 12th, 13th, and 14th� city with the benefits, said Mayor Edward Kelley.

Echoing Caplan, Kelley said, �It was business as usual, and we would do it again and again and again.�

�This is the challenge to our friends in Cleveland and Lakewood,� said Kelley, �It�s time you got on board.�

Council member Dennis Wilcox spoke about the city�s human rights ordinance giving protection on the basis of sexual orientation, passed in 1995.

Unlike the domestic partner benefit ordinance, which did not have the support of one member, the 1995 measure passed unanimously.

�My only regret is that it didn�t pass 70 this time,� said Wilcox.

Wilcox is seeking re-election in November, along with ordinance supporters Phyllis Evans and Vice Mayor Kenneth Montlack. The three incumbents will be joined on the ballot by James Redhed, an opponent of both the domestic partner benefits and the registry. The three top vote-getters will be seated.

County partner benefits coming

Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones announced his intention to give Cuyahoga County employees same-sex domestic partner benefits this winter.

Jones said his last call of the day before coming to the reception was to county Personnel Manager Dennis Madden.

�I asked him for a cost assessment to see if the county could offer the benefits,� said Lawson Jones.

Jones, who became a commissioner in 2001, said he later learned that commissioners considered a proposal in 1999 that was not voted on, so it is �not new ground.�

He said his proposal would, like the Cleveland Heights ordinance, be limited to same-sex couples �because heterosexuals can elect to marry, and that is the point of the inequality.�

�Once we get through the technical questions, I will offer the resolution by late fall or early winter, no later than January,� said Jones.

Cuyahoga County Commission resolutions require two of three votes to pass and take effect immediately upon passage.

Patti Harris contributed to this article.

 


Restaurant mascots Max and Erma enjoy the performance of Sing Out Toledo at the 13th annual David�s House SRO fundraiser. Photo: Anthony Glassman

 

Larger crowds enjoy wide variety of food at SRO street fair

Toledo--Thirteen was a lucky number for David�s House Compassion, Inc., northwest Ohio�s largest AIDS service organization, who held their 13th annual Supporters Reaching Out benefit on September 6.

�Takin� it to the Street,� this year�s installment of the SRO benefits, reversed the last two years� trend of lower attendance, bringing in 700 people for the fundraiser, according to preliminary estimates.

The planning committee, headed by Neal Ward, organized the event as a street festival this year, taking place from 6 pm to midnight on Adams Street between 11th and 13th. At the 13th St. end of the festival was the main stage, featuring talented performers including Sing Out Toledo, the city�s LGBT and ally chorus. A second, smaller stage was near the main entrance at 11th St.

Food was provided by an incredibly diverse array of restaurants, from Cajun shrimp pasta from Max & Erma�s to lobster bisque and French bread with a garlicky pesto spread from Avenue Bistro.

�Now that�s what food sex is all about,� quipped Ward of the offerings of Avenue�s chef Kevin St. Bernard.

A dozen types of gourmet cheeses, shrimp, pastries and other delicacies lined Adams St.

In addition, a silent auction helped raise more funds for the organization, although estimates are not yet available on the yield from the event.

One of the most notable attractions of the auction was an original watercolor painted at the event by artist Aaron Bivens.

�Overall, I think it was wonderful,� said Ward of the evening. �I was extremely pleased. I can see this as starting something really wonderful.�

In addition to the efforts of the planning committee, the event was aided by Mother Nature, who delivered a beautiful, clear, comfortable night for the event.

�I saw the moon and Mars so bright on that picture-perfect evening, and I thought, �This is good,� � Ward mentioned.

According to Ward, the most important part of the evening for him was the knowledge that it will help fight the increase in transmission of HIV. Ward and his partner Jim Jeffries, a board member at David�s House, have lost over 400 friends since the 1980s, and it horrifies him that anyone could think that the crisis is over.

�We have to go out there and party our asses off to raise money for this, or we�ll start seeing more funerals,� he said, noting that the event also functions �for those of us who are living to remember those who are not.�

That point was underscored by the presence of panels from the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at the event, bearing silent witness to the lives lost to the disease that David�s House is pledged to fight.

Ward also believes that the continued existence of David�s House is a testament to the people of Toledo, as much as a statement on the continued struggle against HIV and AIDS.

�We�re a small city,� he noted. �We have openly gay people on city council, we have an anti-discrimination policy on the books, but we continue to go out and support the good causes. David�s House has always had a special place in the hearts of Toledoans.�

 


Senate panel considers marriage limit amendment

 

Washington, D.C.--An oversight hearing on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and implicitly, whether a constitutional amendment is necessary to prevent same-sex marriage, concluded with gay civil rights advocates heartened and social conservatives at least mildly disappointed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee�s Subcommittee on the Constitution held the hearing on September 4.

A �Federal Marriage Amendment� limiting it to opposite-sex couples has been introduced in the House, but not in the Senate.

�I have long opposed government recognition of same-gender marriages, and this legislation [the existing DOMA] is consistent with that position,� said committee chair Sen. John Cornyn, RTexas, in his opening statement. �The question before us now is whether the popular and bipartisan legislation will remain the law of the land as the people intend, or be overturned by activist courts.�

Five Democratic senators actively took on some of the witnesses from the right.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., set the tone for the Democrats when he reviewed the many pressing issues facing the country and said, �I wonder whether this issue really should demand the attention of Congress.�

�I fear that it may be political acting for some outside of the Congress who want to be able to score political points at the expense of gay and lesbian Americans,� he continued.

Leahy�s appearance was noteworthy because, while he is the ranking Democrat on the full committee, he does not serve on the subcommittee.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said that he was one of the few senators who voted against DOMA in 1996. Gay marriage was far down the list of concerns of his constituents raised during the 21 town meetings he held in his home state during the August recess. He questioned why the body should be devoting time to �a divisive issue that is best left to the states and courts.�

He said the Federal Marriage Amendment �would have the effect of writing discrimination into the Constitution . . . A state should be able to grant rights and protections to same sex couples, if it wants to, and the federal government should not interfere with that decision.�

Aside from the mistake of Prohibition in 1919, �the Constitution has never been amended to limit basic rights,� Feingold said. �We should not seek to amend the Constitution in a way that will reduce its grandeur.�

Cornyn reminded the room that the hearing �is not about whether we should adopt a constitutional amendment. In my view, that is premature.�

Gregory Coleman, the former solicitor general of Texas, reviewed the history of legal challenges on same-sex marriage and two key decisions on gay issues by the U.S. Supreme Court. They were the 1996 Romer v. Evans case that struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment banning gay and lesbian civil rights laws, and the Lawrence v. Texas decision that struck down sodomy laws earlier this year.

He concluded, �As things currently stand, given the outcomes and rationales in Romer and Lawrence, it is likely, though not inevitable, that DOMA itself and prohibitions on same-sex marriage more generally will be held to be unconstitutional . . . within the next five to fifteen years.�

�The courts are robbing the American people of their fundamental right to self-government,� charged Michael Farris, an attorney and leader in the Christian home schooling movement. �We are on the verge of a judicial revolution that has got to stop.�

Dale Carpenter disagreed.

�The theory of the Federal Marriage Amendment� now being proposed seems to be that the states must be saved from themselves. That they must be saved from their own legislatures. They must be saved from their own courts. And that they must be saved from the people,� said the law professor at the University of Minnesota and gay columnist.

Carpenter said that the amendment might also negate domestic partnerships, civil unions and other protections.

There are hundreds of thousands of children being raised by gay and lesbian couples in the United States, he said. �Where are the protections under the law for these children?�

Keith Bradkowski spoke movingly of his 11-year relationship with Jeff Collman, a flight attendant on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and of the difficulty of everything from obtaining a death certificate to maintaining their house, because they were not legally married.

�The terrorists who attacked this country killed people, not because they were gay or straight, but because they were Americans . . . Two years ago we were all united against the common threat of terrorism, now I�m sitting here and being told that our relationship was a threat to our country.� He said did not understand that.

During the question period, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said the marriage amendment would undermine religious freedom �by telling churches that they can�t consecrate same-sex marriages, even though some churches are now doing so.�

Feingold read from Justice Antonin Scalia�s dissent in the Lawrence case, in which he asserted that the majority decision would lead to �bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication� being declared legal. Feingold asked if �Congress should enact a series of constitutional amendments based on these predictions?�

Farris didn�t think they have �the same political traction� as same-sex marriage. He asserted, �A law ultimately says what is right and what is wrong. If morality alone cannot justify these particular laws, then no laws can be justified.�

More than 10,000 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed since the nation was founded, said Carpenter. but only 17 have been passed in the last 200-plus years, �That system has worked enormously well. We ought to be very reluctant to touch that document.�

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., expressed his support for traditional marriage and noted that he had voted for DOMA in 1996. But when it comes to amending the Constitution, �I don�t want to take a roller to a Rembrandt.� He called it �premature to the extreme.�

 


Jack Hart, the program development director for the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, discusses the formation of the Aubrey Wertheim Institute.
Photo: Martha J. Pontoni

�Lavender university� launches in Cleveland

Cleveland--The Aubrey Wertheim Institute, an educational program of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, launched September 6 with a wine and cheese reception attended by about 70 people.

The institute was named in honor of Aubrey Wertheim, an activist and playwright who died in January.,

Upon his return to Cleveland from New York City in 1987, Wertheim secured funding from the city to change the Gay Education and Awareness Resources Foundation into the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and created its HIV drop-in center, the Living Room. he also began the Maryann Finegan Project anti-violence program and the PRYSM youth group during his tenure as director of services for the center.

The institute is modeled after �lavender universities� being organized by LGBT community centers across the country, and offers a slate of low-cost or free courses covering topics as varied as financial planning, art appreciation and safe sex. In addition, Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center mainstays like the Chick Flicks women�s movie nights and 10% Book Discussion Club have been put under the institute�s banner.

Among the speakers at the reception were former executive director Linda Malicki, current executive director David Smith and program development director Jack Hart, who has spent months organizing the institute.

�I do think it represents a good cross-section of the community, from African dance to tax worries,� said Martha Pontoni, a longtime friend of Wertheim and the publisher of the Gay People�s Chronicle who attended the opening wine and cheese reception. �They are very eclectic.�

�Aubrey was forever teaching. Teaching about AIDS, coming out, homophobia, self empowerment,� Pontoni said. �Every one of his plays taught us something, from teenage girls coming to grips with lesbian feelings to the rise of the woman actor, to Fannie Fern, who was an incredible observer of people, as was Aubrey.�

 

 

 


Truck driver arrested in death of Michigan teen

Grand Rapids, Mich.--A 63-year old truck driver was charged on September 6 with kidnapping, gross indecency between males, being a sexually delinquent person and first degree sexual assault for the latest in a string of rapes of young men.

James D. Moore has also, according to police, admitted to abducting, drugging and sexually assaulting 18-year old Justin Bogdanik. He died of his injuries on July 8, two weeks after being left in a roadside ditch with his eyes glued shut.

A medical examiner has yet to rule Bogdanik�s death a homicide. His death led to concern that someone was targeting young gay and bisexual men, since Bogdanik considered himself bisexual.

Detective Thomas VanderPloeg told the Grand Rapids Press that Moore originally admitted to drugging Bogdanik but denied sexually assaulting the teen. He later confessed to the sexual assault and using super glue on him, but was unaware that Bogdanik had died.

�Then we dropped the bombshell,� VanderPloeg said.

According to VanderPloeg, Moore said, �How can that be? I didn�t leave him that bad off,� to which VanderPloeg replied, �Had he not met you, he�d be alive today.�

Moore was caught after his most recent attack, on Labor Day.

According to the survivor of the assault, D.J. Dempsey, a 19-year-old who was about to begin culinary classes at Grand Rapids Community College, Moore offered him $100 to help unload his semi.

The young man, whose step-grandfather was a trucker, agreed.

Moore noticed Dempsey�s stutter, and suggested that he take an entire box of over-the-counter medication, saying it had helped a friend of his overcome his stutter. Again, Dempsey agreed.

Shortly thereafter, Dempsey fell unconscious, and remembers nothing more until police woke him up in a roadside ditch 100 miles away.

When Dempsey recalled the events to police, they were able to get security camera footage of Moore purchasing the pills. The footage helped them identify Moore, and the information about the pills may lead to charges against him in the Bogdanik case.

The medical examiner said that Bogdanik died of hemorrhaging in the brain and lungs, but there were no external injuries to suggest the cause. Now able to identify the medication used to drug him, however, the examiner may be able to rule that the large dose caused the hemorrhaging.

Police are also examining the similarities between the Bogdanik and Dempsey cases and a report from September 2002, when a truck driver offered a young man $50 to help him unload his truck. When the truck driver tried to give him pills, he fled and called police.

�It is a great relief that an arrest has been made which may connect a single person to several sexual assaults in Michigan, and the July murder of Justin Bogdanik,� said Jeffrey Montgomery, the executive director of the Michigan LGBT advocacy organization, the Triangle Foundation. �From the time we learned of Justin�s abduction and death, we were concerned he was the victim of a serial predator. Our fears have sadly, but apparently, been confirmed.�

�The Grand Rapids Police should be commended and applauded for their determined and unflagging investigation of this case. Moore�s arrest is the result of great police work,� Montgomery continued. �Moore�s arrest and reported confessions are welcome news, to say the least.�

 


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News Briefs

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.

Massachusetts civil unions proposed

Boston--Massachusetts Senate President Robert E. Travaglini is looking at introducing civil union legislation in the state.

The Supreme Judicial Court, the state�s highest judicial body, is set to decide if banning same-sex couples from marrying violates the state constitution. The court was expected to rule on the issue by early July, but waived its self-imposed deadline on rulings.

The civil unions option is being examined as a way to render the court�s decision moot, or make it so that the court will not need to order the legislature to fix a problem.

A proposed amendment to the state�s constitution defining marriage as being between a man and a woman would override any court ruling.

Travaglini�s proposal would mirror Vermont�s, offering virtually all of the state benefits of marriage to same-sex couples who enter into a civil union. Some gay civil rights supporters are disappointed that he opposes same-sex marriage, but appreciate what they refer to as Travaglini�s attempt to protect the rights of gay and lesbian citizens.

Two sought in TG woman�s death

Council Bluffs, Iowa--Police have released composite sketches of the men they believe stabbed Selena Alvarez-Hernandez, a transgender woman.

Her transgender status caused investigators some trouble, since Alvarez-Hernandez, born Nelson Alvarez-Hernandez, had multiple identifications with her when she was killed on July 31.

According to neighbors, there was an argument between Alvarez-Hernandez and the two men, one believed to be very large and stocky, the other tall and muscular. When they went outside to investigate the commotion, Alvarez-Hernandez was bloodied and calling out a female name.

A candlelight vigil was organized for September 5, to pay respect to the slain woman and call for justice.

Police believe that two or three other people were with the subjects of the sketches when Alvarez-Hernandez was stabbed.

Partners from other cities recognized

Minneapolis--People from out of town will have their domestic partnerships recognized as of September 6, the date a measure unanimously approved by city council took effect.

Minneapolis joins New York City as the only two major cities to recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions made elsewhere.

Openly gay council member Scott Benson said that it provides a sense of security enjoyed by married people, who do not have to worry about getting re-married if they move to a new state.

When Minneapolis established its domestic partner registry in 1991, it was the second-largest city in the nation to do so.

City council also made the city�s anti-discrimination law more specific, prohibiting discrimination against domestic partners in professional organizations, public accommodations, public services and real estate transactions.

California�s sweeping domestic partner legislation, passed recently by the legislature and expected soon to be signed by Gov. Gray Davis, also recognizes domestic partnerships and civil unions from other states, which would include Vermont�s.

Police arrest two in D.C. murders

Washington, D.C.--Police have made two more arrests in murders of transgender women.

Corena Watkins was charged in the April 9 murder of Mimi Young.

Young was seen arguing with a couple of men when witnesses say that Watkins joined the argument and stabbed her.

Police also arrested Antwan Lewis for the August 21 murder of Emonie Kiera Spaulding, born Aaron Marshall.

Spaulding�s murder was one of three� killings of transgender people in the space of a week. Elvys Perez� alleged murderer was caught within days, and it is believed that he killed Perez after hiring her to perform a sex act, then later learning that Perez was biologically male.

According to police, Lewis picked Spaulding up and the two argued in Lewis� car. He then shot Spaulding, killing her. Police either do not know or have not revealed the cause of the fatal argument.

State Dept. accused of HIV bias

Washington, D.C.--A lawsuit was filed September 3 in federal court alleging that the State Department violates federal law by prohibiting people with HIV from serving in the Foreign Service.

The case involves 48-year old Lorenzo Taylor, who holds a foreign service degree from Georgetown University and is fluent in three foreign languages.

Taylor passed the oral and written exams for the position, but was rejected twice because of his HIV status. He appealed the first decision and was rejected for the second time.

According to gay and lesbian legal advocacy group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the State Department and the military are the only two governmental bodies that routinely discriminate against people with HIV.

The State Department argues that people with HIV may be assigned to a country and then need medical treatment that is not available there.

�That isn�t just bad policy, it�s also illegal,� said Jonathan Givner, AIDS Project staff attorney for Lambda Legal.

Lambda argues that the policy is in violation of the Rehabilitation Act,� a federal law prohibiting the government from discriminating against people with disabilities.

 


 

Short and sweet

Frida presents a life less long, but far more
remarkable

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--

It gives a lovely light!

--Edna St. Vincent Millay

That which is truly great seldom comes easily, a theme echoed both in the narrative of the film Frida and in the story of bringing that film to the masses.

At one point, three competing projects sought to bring biographies of renowned bisexual Mexican painter Frida Kahlo to the screen, with Salma Hayek, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez in almost a dead heat. When the dust settled, however, Hayek�s project was the one completed, a lush, visually stunning and emotionally vivid portrait of a woman whose life was an endless gallery of pain.

With Latino/a Heritage Month beginning on September 15, now would be the perfect time to grab the DVD and settle in for a magnificent show.

Kahlo, known as the greatest female artist in Mexican history, was for many years best known as the wife of muralist Diego Rivera, a strident Communist who helped get Leon Trotsky political asylum in Mexico following his fall from grace with Stalin.

The daughter of a Jewish German immigrant father and a mother who was Mexican and Native American, Kahlo started painting while bedridden, recovering from a crippling bus crash. Having already suffered from polio and its related twisting of the spine and pelvis, pain became a constant companion to the young artist.

That pain was often reflected in her work, predominantly self-portraits. She poured herself onto the canvas, agony rippling across the surface like electricity arcing between two wires.

Salma Hayek and director Julie Taymor, best known for her Tony Award-winning stint with The Lion King on Broadway, breathed life into Frida. The film is based on the biography by Hayden Herrera.

One of the special features on the DVD is a conversation with Hayek, in which she talks about the effort she put into getting the film made to honor the artist, one of her childhood heroes. While searching for a director for the project, Hayek found that many had ideas that differed greatly from her vision for the movie. When she met with Taymor, however, she realized that the director would be able to visually make the film what it needed to be, as much a string of paintings as a motion picture.

That conceit is perhaps Taymor�s greatest accomplishment in the film. She brings some of Kahlo�s paintings to life, seamlessly blending the two-dimensional and three-dimensional, causing the viewer to question whether he or she is actually looking at a painting or at actors posed as if in a painting.

Hayek�s fame and the high esteem in which she is held by her fellow actors allowed the film to bring together an incredible cast, one worthy of the greatest female artist in Mexican history.

Playing Diego Rivera is Alfred Molina, whose turn as Kenneth Halliwell in the 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears briefly made the stocky British actor a beloved figure in the gay community. Molina truly brings Rivera to life, perhaps even better than simply viewing Rivera�s greatest work would.

Antonio Banderas plays David Alfaro Siqueiros, a Communist friend of Rivera, while Ashley Judd plays their associate Tina Modotti.

Portraying Leon Trotsky is Geoffrey Rush in perhaps his most understated performance, especially compared to his star turns as the Marquis De Sade in Quills and Casanova Frankenstein in Mystery Men.

A really nice surprise is Roger Rees as Guillermo Kahlo, Frida�s loving father. The relationship between father and daughter is beautiful and loving, and strangely mirrored in her relationships with Rivera and Trotsky, both of whom were significantly older than she.

The most visually stunning relationship she had, though, was with Josephine Baker while displaying her paintings for a show in Paris. While this is Broadway dancer Karine Plantadit-Bageot�s only film role thus far, having undoubtedly been brought in by director Taymor, the interaction between she and Hayek in their love scene is remarkable. While jokes are often made of heterosexual men�s fixation on the thought of two women having sex, this is a lesbian sex scene that anyone can enjoy.

In the end, though, it is not the theatricality of Kahlo�s paintings, or the stunning effect of those same paintings coming to life, or even the wonderful cast that make this film the wonder that it is. In the end, that credit goes to the life represented in it, short though it was. She only lived 47 years, but her brilliance will ensure that those decades shine on forever.

 

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