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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 26, 2003

Dance students lead Cleveland AIDS Walk

Cleveland--While the Bible says, �And a child shall lead them,� a troupe of children led the festivities at the 13th Annual John T. Carey Memorial AIDS Walk and Run on September 21.

The girls, dance students from the Spotlight Dance Center in Willoughby Hills, raised $22,000 over six weeks in the Dancers Responding to AIDS competition, taking first place in the national contest.

In honor of their achievement, the nine 11- to 13-year olds were named co-chairs of the AIDS walk. In that role, they were joined by some of the most powerful luminaries in northeast Ohio, including honorary walk chairs Jane Campbell, the mayor of Cleveland, and Tim McCormack, Cuyahoga County commissioner.

The walk itself drew over 3,000 people to Edgewater Park on the shores of Lake Erie. The five-kilometer run that accompanied the walk this year brought in 200 people.

While the attendance at this year�s event was up, the final fundraising tally, which is not yet available, will most likely be down, according to Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland. The Taskforce is one of eight organizations that benefit from the event.

Pike said that, while individuals were stepping up to the plate to support funding for AIDS, corporate sponsorships were down for the event, and had been waning for most events in the last eight months or so.

Despite the drop in corporate sponsorships, however, there were other bright spots to the day.

A city-wide lakefront bicycle ride partnered with the AIDS walk, bringing in donations from all the riders participating.

In addition, some of the winners in the 5k run donated their prize money back to the event, like overall female winner Beth Darmstadter, who completed the run in precisely 20 minutes.

�It was a really nice gesture on her part,� said Pike, who was surprised at the large turnout for the event.

�Where did all these people come from?� he remembers wondering. �The feeling was that there were a lot of people there.�

�There were a lot more young people there,� he continued, pointing to the diversity of the youth participating in the event. He noted groups of African American and Latino high school students that registered for the walk.

The diversity of the crowd and participants was mirrored by the diversity of the host committee, representing the political arena, social service organizations and the arts. Dobama Theater artistic director Joyce Casey and Cleveland Public Theater head James Levin shared the stage with Lakewood Mayor Madeline Cain, Planned Parenthood CEO Betsy Kaufman and State Reps. Michael Skindell and Shirley A. Smith, among dozens of others.

In addition to the AIDS Taskforce, the event also benefits the Free Clinic, the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, Planned Parenthood, the Women�s Center, Antioch Baptist Church�s Agape venture with the Cleveland Clinic, the Hispanic Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Addiction Outreach Program (HUMADAOP) and the Ohio AIDS Coalition.

While the walk itself is over for the year, donations can still be made online by going to www.kintera.com and using the search function to locate the Dr. John Carey Memorial AIDS Walk page.

 


Red Ribbon Walk tops last years total

Cincinnati--The 14th Annual Red Ribbon Walk for AIDS, a five-mile riverfront event benefiting AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, exceeded expectations on September 20.

Last year�s walk raised $100,000 for the organization, while this year�s event topped the previous year�s total by $15,000.

Event chair Kathy Nardiello points to online walker registration and donations as part of the reason for the increase.

�Kintera [the company that handles online registration] worked out to be a great tool for us,� she said. �Looking at some quick reports, we had 199 participants register online and collect donations through almost 300 online donation transactions.�

�I think that it produced great results for first-time use, and has much future potential for us to raise event awareness and collect donations in a fast, easy way,� she continued.

A number of corporate sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Max & Erma�s, Sara Lee, Trauth Dairy, Propel, Kahn�s, Starbucks and Husman�s, provided refreshments before, during and after the walk, including a pre-event continental breakfast and post-event lunch.

The success of the Red Ribbon Walk also reversed an overall trend of diminishing returns in AIDS walks of late.

�AVOC is very happy with the results from the event, because over the years this event had gained outstanding momentum,� Nardiello said, �but, unfortunately, we have seen a decline in attendance and donation due to overall complacency about AIDS.�

�People are reading about advancements in treatments and interpreting that to mean the crisis is over,� she explained, �but not one single case of HIV or AIDS has been cured.�

�In fact,� she continued, �there is not a decrease in new infections--infection rates continue to increase. Outreach to communities of color, youth and the GLBT community continues to be deliberate and intense, as this is where the infection continues to disproportionately take lives.�

Donations are still being accepted online at www.avoc.org/aidsrunwalk/home.html.

 

 


Former officer sues hospital for anti-gay harassment

Columbus--A gay former police officer is suing the hospital where he worked for 14 months of anti-gay harassment.

Christopher Vickers is asking a federal court to award him $10 million in a suit filed September 19 against the Fairfield Medical Center in Lancaster, 30 miles southeast of Columbus. He left the hospital on May 5, after working there for 12 years.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court, southern Ohio district in Columbus by Vickers, 34, and his attorney Thomas Watkins of Stow. It alleges 26 counts of violations of federal and state law including false imprisonment, defamation by slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, battery and constructive discharge, which is an employer forcing a worker to quit without actually firing him.

Defendants in the suit are the hospital, Fairfield Medical Center Police Chief Steve Anderson, officers John Mueller, Kory J. Dixon and Dixon�s spouse.

The suit claims that Vickers� supervisors and hospital administrators joined in the harassment and retaliated against Vickers, threatening him with disciplinary action for reporting the incidents.

Most of the suit is brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1989 Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins case, can be applied to employment discrimination for non-conformity to gender stereotype.

Additionally, the suit cites the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, which says the prohibitions against sex discrimination include same-sex sexual harassment.

According to the complaint, Vickers� harassment began in March 2002, after he investigated a gay male medic�s sexual misconduct complaint against a male doctor.

Vickers befriended the medic, causing fellow officers Dixon and Mueller to question Vickers� masculinity.

The 71-page complaint contains descriptions of more than 100 incidents of anti-gay verbal and physical harassment and retaliation. It involves every level of hospital management, including the president, who allegedly either knew of the harassment and did nothing to stop it, or participated in it.

Watkins said that Vickers, who is trained to gather evidence, has documented each incident with recordings, documents, affidavits, and photos.

Among the incidents is a March 13 phone call to the hospital police department. Dixon answered the phone and said, �He�s here, he�s sucking dick.� Then he turned to Vickers and said, �It�s for you.�

The caller was Vickers� mother.

Vickers also says that Chief Anderson revealed publicly that Vickers had been sexually molested by a relative as a young child.

According to the complaint, Dixon and other officers continuously referred to Vickers as a �fucking faggot� and attempted to grab his genitals and crotch.

Officers and the chief began to refer to Vickers as �Kiss� and posted pictures of him with penises in or near his mouth, the suit says, and they put a topical anesthetic in his drink and an irritant in his jacket.

Vickers claims that Anderson laughed about these incidents, and publicly addressed Vickers as �Fruitcake.�

Another officer, Ken Darst, says he was also harassed when he protested what the others were doing to Vickers.

Watkins said Darst is one of the officers that swore an affidavit as a witness to Vickers� harassment.

Vickers hired Watkins in April to try to end the harassment.

According to the complaint, once Watkins was hired and met with hospital officers, things got �more intense� for Vickers and Darst.

�Darst is still employed there,� said Watkins. �I made it clear to them that if they retaliated against Darst, I would make him a plaintiff in the suit.�

Hospital officials told Watkins that Anderson, Dixon, and Mueller were going to be suspended for harassing Vickers.

However, Vickers learned that the three were reassigned to transport duty during their suspension period.

Vickers and Darst then learned that the hospital�s attorneys were also investigating, the complaint says, but for the purpose of disciplining Vickers in order to discredit him in the event he filed a lawsuit against the hospital.

Vickers ultimately resigned, rather than get �railroaded,� he said. He filed a complaint with the Ohio Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on June 19. Normally the commission would hear this case, but they gave Vickers permission to sue July 9 due to the severity of the harassment and the quality of the evidence.

Watkins says he will seek testimony from all 2,000 employees of the hospital looking for workers �who are not loyalists to this kind of abuse� and that he will not settle the suit for �less than seven figures.�

�It was appraised as being worth up to $10 million,� said Watkins, �if it goes to a jury.�

The hospital has 20 days to file an answer to the complaint. They are represented by William C. Moul of the Columbus firm Thompson, Hine, and Flury.

�The hospital believes the allegations are not well-founded and will defend it accordingly,� Moul said.

The case is assigned to Judge Gregory L. Frost and magistrate Mark R. Abel.

 

 

 


Ohio House committee to hear
DOMA on October 8

Columbus--Ohio�s so-called �Defense of Marriage Act� will get its first hearing before the newly-created Juvenile and Family Law Committee on October 8.

House Bill 272, sponsored by State Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, declares that marriage between one man and one woman is the only relationship recognized by the state of Ohio, and denies recognition to any other couples. It is identical to Senate Bill 65, introduced on April 1 by State Sen. Lynn R. Wachtmann of Napoleon.

Seitz will give his sponsor testimony that day. Committee chair Michael Gilb of Findlay, who is also a co-sponsor of the bill, will schedule proponent and opponent testimony after Seitz�s testimony.

�There is more reason to pass this now than then,� Seitz said, referring to an identical bill passed by the Ohio House in 2001. That bill died in the Senate.

Seitz noted Canada�s legalization of same-sex marriage in Ontario and British Columbia.

Tim Downing of Cleveland, an attorney who is the interim president of the LGBT lobby Ohioans for Growth and Equality, says the �Defense of Marriage� name for the bill is wrong.

�This is a denial of benefits bill,� said Downing. �There is no need to define marriage in Ohio. It has had the same definition as one man and one woman for over 100 years.�

Downing said OGE is lining up witnesses to testify against the bill.

Seitz said it may get less time for proponent and opponent testimony than in 2001.

�There�s less reason for hearings since it already passed the House once,� said Seitz.

�We will unsheath the bill for what it is,� said Downing, �and show how it adversely affects tens of thousands of Ohioans, not just same-sex couples.�

Downing said the bill could be used to interfere with domestic partner benefits granted by city governments as well as parenting agreements, guardianships, and powers of attorney for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

Seitz�s bill denies the �specific statutory benefits of legal marriage� to any relationship other than civil marriage, but does not say what those benefits are.

�Since it is not defined, one could make an argument before a court that any of those are �specific statutory benefits�,� said Downing.

Seitz, also an attorney, says that in order for a benefit other than civil marriage to be denied, it would have to be specified �pursuant to statute,� and �since it�s not, those benefits don�t qualify.�

Seitz also said his bill and Wachtmann�s follow the federal guidelines used to draft the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, by inserting the revised definition of �marriage� and �spouse� every time it appears in federal law.

Seitz�s bill does the same thing to Ohio law. Although Seitz says his bill does �no more than the federal law does,� the federal law does not mention �specific statutory benefits of marriage� anywhere.

Seitz repeatedly denies that his bill affects benefits such as local domestic partner ordinances, but does not say why such ordinances would not be �specific statutory benefits of legal marriage� if challenged in court.

Already a strong public policy

Seitz believes the measure is also needed because it declares that same-sex marriage is �against the strong public policy of the state.� The language is an attempt to avoid honoring records from other states--such as same-sex marriages--as is required by the �full faith and credit clause� of the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that for a state to go against the clause, it must be understood that what is rejected is �against the strong public policy of the state.�

But Seitz has said before that the �strong public policy� is already there. He joined five other Republican legislators as a friend of the court in the Ohio Supreme Court case In re Bonfield last year. They opposed court recognition of a shared parenting agreement between a lesbian couple and their children.

Seitz and the others including current bill co-sponsors Michelle Schneider of Cincinnati, Linda Reidelbach of Columbus, Larry Flowers of Canal Winchester, Timothy Grendell of Chesterland and Senate co-sponsor Jim Jordan of Urbana, argued that Ohio already has a strong public policy against same-sex marriage.

Their attorney, David Langdon of Cincinnati, who drafted Seitz�s bill, argued in another case before the Ohio Supreme Court that �Ohio has a strong public policy that favors traditional solemnized marriage and withholds any kind of sanction from non-marital cohabitation.� He made a similar argument in an Eleventh District case.

Langdon does not deny the contradictions, and told the Gay People�s Chronicle after the Supreme Court case that he argues whichever position gives him advantage.

�What Langdon thinks isn�t worth a damn,� said Seitz.

�Besides,� said Seitz, �Langdon lost those cases. This bill would remove all doubt.�

Seitz says it is not important that the bill has fewer co-sponsors now than in 2001, 46 then and 32 now. He says there will be more opportunities to add sponsors once the bill moves through the committee.

Seitz expects the bill to be passed by the full House �sometime this fall� by a margin similar to the 66-29 vote it got in 2001.

�I guess then it gets heard in the Senate,� said Seitz.

The Senate bill has not been assigned a committee, and opponents speculate that it is because the Senate lacks the votes to pass the bill.

Proponents, including Ohio Christian Coalition executive director Chris Long, have begun a petition drive and Christian radio campaign to urge Senate President Doug White of Manchester �to assign the bill so it can get to the Senate floor.�

 

 

 


Two gay candidates get a boost for Lakewood council

Lakewood, Ohio--The campaigns of two openly gay candidates for city council in this inner-ring Cleveland suburb got a boost on September 18 when the Lakewood Sun Post endorsed both of them for the September 30 primary.

For the Ward 3 race, the paper suggested that a race between Jeremy Elliott, a young gay man who formerly worked for Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and is studying for his master�s degree in social administration, and incumbent Robert Seelie, would present the best options for voters.

In the Ward 4 race, pro-gay incumbent Nancy Roth will not be running for re-election, leaving the field open to a number of would-be replacements. The Sun Post suggested Cleveland AIDS Task Force director of public policy John Farina, who is making his third run for city council. The paper also endorsed Francis W. Holmes.

For Lakewood voters, one of the hot-button issues is the proposed West End development project, in which the city is trying to use eminent domain to acquire a number of residential properties to build a commercial development similar in nature to Shaker Square on Cleveland�s East Side. A number of Lakewood residents believe that the city is unjustly classifying the area as blighted to justify seizing the property.

Elliott opposes the West End plan, while Lakewood Council President Seelie is in favor of it. Farina originally favored the project, but now expresses concern over its impact on businesses in other parts of the city, where empty storefronts line major streets like Detroit and Madison Avenues.

In the Ward 3 race, however, a more LGBT-specific issue arises. Seelie has consistently voted against gay-positive issues that have come before council.

In 2000, for instance, Seelie spoke against the proposed expansion of the city�s ethnic intimidation ordinance to include age, gender, sexual orientation and disability. Seelie, who is confined to a wheelchair, noted wryly that, because of the news coverage of this ordinance, he discovered that being in a wheelchair makes him disabled.

The expansion of the ordinance passed, and Seelie and former council member Pamela Means were the only two members voting against it.

While the Sun Post endorsed two candidates in each ward, voters can only select one during the September 30 primary. The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the November 4 general election.

At the opposite end of the state, gay Cincinnati council candidate John Schlagetter does not face a primary challenge. His bid for city council will be decided in the general election on November 4, when Cincinnatians fill nine open council seats.

 

 


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Police jail two in bar holdup, seek hustler for robberies

 

Cincinnati--Police arrested two people on September 16 for aggravated robbery after a 2 am holdup of the Golden Lions gay bar, six other Clifton businesses and two individuals.

They are still seeking a male prostitute from Covington, Ky., in two other robberies, including one where he used a weapon to rob a gay man.

The Golden Lions at 340 Ludlow Ave. was robbed of $760 at 2 a.m. in the morning of September 6, said Detective Eric Karaguleff.

A canine search with several officers failed to find the perpetrators because a vehicle may have been used, said Officer Jay Johnstone.

Police later arrested Anthony Green, 46, and Charlotte Ringel-Shelton, 42.

Between the two suspects, ten charges of aggravated robbery with a gun, a first-degree felony, and illegally possessing a gun are pending. Detectives presented the first case to a Hamilton County Grand Jury on September 22, and it handed down three indictments, police said. Other indictments are pending.

In the two reported robberies thought to be committed by a young hustler in the same area, Cincinnati detectives are seeking help from police in Covington, Ky., across the Ohio River.

Officials are also asking the local GLBT community for help. They suspect other men may have been robbed but fear reporting the crimes because sex for money was involved.

Stonewall Cincinnati�s anti-violence project would track and document these incidents if the agency got a call from the victim or was informed by the police, said board member Doreen Cudnik. She said she did not know if any incidents reported to the group were related to the case. In the past, Stonewall has helped police on gay-related murders and other crimes.

Both of the two men were robbed in Clifton Heights near the University of Cincinnati. One cooperated by giving police details of his robbery, but the other did not, said Det. Karaguleff. The victims could not pick out the perpetrator from a line-up on September 20, he added.

The first man said that on August 22, he picked up a 5�10� white male prostitute in his early 20s, with black hair and �sparkling eyes� at Washington and Pike Streets in Covington. He took him to his home in Clifton Heights, �completed the transaction� and dropped the hustler off in Covington, the detective said.

Two days later, the hustler showed up at the victim�s house, saying he was stranded. He lured him outside where he and another man robbed him with a gun and a knife, threatening to cut off his fingers if he did not give up his Ohio University class ring.

On August 26, police think the second victim may have been spotted leaving the Golden Lions to go to his car on Shiloh St. Two white males, 18 to 20 years old, forced him into an alley. One man called him a �fag.� Both are described as being six feet tall and weighing about 210 pounds. The victim, from out-of-town, was hit from the back and had a gun put in his mouth to steal his jewelry, said Karaguleff.

�There have been no other such reports since August 26, and it bothers me that there may be a series of these attacks going on,� said Karaguleff. �I believed these two are linked because the suspects each have the same description. Some men may not be reporting crimes because they fear they could be charged with soliciting prostitution or be embarrassed. And I�ll tell you, it�s rare in Clifton Heights to see one or two white males pulling such robberies.�

Anyone calling Crimestoppers at 513-3523040 anonymously with information leading to an arrest may get a reward.

Police are not permitted to charge a misdemeanor offense such as soliciting for prostitution if they do not actually witness the crime. Also, reports to police are kept as confidential as possible, police said.

Official crime reports from January to August in Clifton and University Heights do not list aggravated robberies per se, but they show no murders, one rape, 23 robberies, seven aggravated assaults, 97 burglaries, and 186 robberies.

 

 


 

Great Danes

Queer dance band makes a splash
on both sides of the pond

Junior Senior is taking the world by storm with their debut album D-d-don�t Don�t Stop the Beat, combining elements of French disco, rock and ska for an energetic album that is hard to classify. With wild videos for �Move Your Feet� and �Rhythm Bandits� and an energetic live show, look for Danish gay-straight alliance Junior Senior to get the world dancing.

The duo sat down for an interview in late August.

DJ Ron: How long have you been here in the U.S.?

Senior: We�ve been here since, let me see, Saturday. Yes, we did Central Park Sunday.

How was your performance with the Sparks?

We�ve always had a lot of respect for them so it was quite an honor to play before them, and they hadn�t played in New York for twenty years.

What�s your take on American crowds?

We haven�t played that much here so I don�t really want to generalize, but I think it�s really good. Yesterday it seemed like people are up for a good time. I know as opposed to like New York, it�s very different from the Midwest and stuff like that, but we haven�t really played there- we have played in Austin, Texas. Like a showcase, like a music showcase that�s down there, South by Southwest and that was kind of crazy as well, so it seems like everyone is liking it no matter where we go.

I hear your shows go down big in the U.K.

Yes, but they�ve done really well here as well, so it�s not like the audience is different. Actually, I don�t really think the audience is very different for where we go.

Where do the crazy video ideas come from? The art cartoons for the first video, the �70s graphics for the second video? Where did they come from?

It was four guys from London called Senola, and we sent them ideas about what we�d like, that we�d like to have some animals in our videos and classics and stuff. And then they came back with the clip, and we really liked that.

Do you spend a lot of time online?

We�re quite busy now these days, but yes. It�s kind of good here in the U.S. because in most hotels they have broadband and stuff, so you can keep up to date while you�re over here.

The last big pop stars from Denmark was Aqua--are you proud or ashamed of that?

How should I put it without being really rude? It�s really got nothing to do with us. It�s a bit hard because people remember them and it is kind of, how shall I put it? If you hear �Move Your Feet,� some people might want to think that it could be [similar]. I don�t think it�s anywhere near it, but if you hear the album you can hear that we come from a very, very different background. So I don�t really have any opinion on them because it�s not really anything I listen to.

Is there a big cartoon/comic fetish in Denmark?

No, not really, no.

Would you call your album a �dance� album?

Oh no, not at all. But we always say it�s music you can dance to, but it�s not dance music.

Because we Americans need to label everything.

Yes, it�s all over, they�re like that in the U.K. as well. But I think if you listen to our album I think it would be really strange to call it a dance album. At least in the words that, when you say a dance thing, it�s different here in the U.S. than it is in the U.K. So it is kind of, but how would I put it? Yes, we say it�s an album you can dance to, it�s definitely up-beat, it�s very energetic. But it�s like in the old days, you know with rock and roll, that was the dance music of the time, and we have a lot of that. So we just I suppose mixed a lot of dance genres through the decades.

How do you like the different remixes that are being done of your songs? Like the new Santos remix or Rhythm Bandits, have you heard it?

I�d say, in general, we aren�t big fans of remixes, especially when it�s our own songs because we�re kind of, how shall I put it? We�re very sort of protective about them and put a lot of effort into them to make them sound like we think they should sound. And so it�s just like another world that we don�t really know about, with the Santos. And the Santos mix is doing really well in the U.K. and the big DJs are spinning it and we just don�t really sort of get it, but we know it has to be good since everyone it playing it. We sort of respect people that have listened to it. I don�t know if you�ve heard the Rascal mix [of �Move Your Feet�]?

Yes, the Rascal mix is really true to the original, they keep all the elements.

Yes, that we really like, because it�s kind an edit, it doesn�t take away the elements but it sort of just adds something, so that�s kind of more our style.

Have you ever gotten a rub-down with chili oil like in the video?

No, I haven�t, but I�m a huge fan of chilis though, I probably wouldn�t mind. I like the chilirosso, I�m kind of a sucker for it, so yes.

Who gets more groupies--you or Junior?

You know, we don�t really get any groupies, to be honest, really. We�ve always been really bad at picking up people. We�re very sort of quiet about it, not quiet, we don�t really take advantage of the situation, as to say.

Crunchy Frog, your home label, is that name from the Monty Python skit?

Yes, it is, yes.

Some people are calling �Move Your Feet� the perfect pop song. What do you call the perfect pop song?

Oh wow, there are so many perfect pop songs. I could give you some examples like �Be My Baby� with the Ronettes, or �You Keep Me Hanging On� by the Supremes, those are like really perfect pop songs. I think you can in general say that a perfect pop song is just a really, really good melody that is good but you don�t get fed up with it after you listen to it five times.

Probably a lot of people do with �Move Your Feet,� but on the other hand I think it�s a song that people keep coming back to. And also the perfect pop song is a song that everyone understands. Rock people can like it and old people can like it, and young people. And at least in the U.K. we sort of achieved that with �Move Your Feet.� Actually, it crossed over a lot of borders.

What would you do if you heard your song �Chicks and Dicks� on the radio?

Turn it up.

DJ Ron Slomowicz has been spinning on Vanderbilt University radio station WRVU for a decade. He has also spun various clubs and parties around the country, and can be contacted at Djron91@aol.com.

 

 

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