Columbus--A Cincinnati attorney has taken the first step towards amending the Ohio constitution to bar same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships.
David R. Langdon filed a petition initiative April 20 with Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro to amend the state constitution. If Petro approves the amendment and its summary, Langdon and the people he represents can begin gathering signatures to place the measure on the ballot.
The proposed amendment reads:
�Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.�
Langdon refused to say who he is representing, or if it is anyone other than himself.
�Not at liberty to say at this point,� he said.
The attorney often works with the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values, whose offices are at the same suburban Cincinnati address as his. With an Arizona anti-marriage group, he is also representing a Cleveland Heights council member in a suit against that city�s domestic partner registry, passed by voters last November.
The �political subdivision� language would void the registry and city worker partner benefits.
�It is a gun aimed right at the Cleveland Heights domestic partner ordinance,� said attorney Tim Downing, president of Ohioans for Growth and Equality, a pro-gay civil rights organization. �If this becomes law, there is no way Cleveland Heights can continue to have the registry.�
Both Downing and David Caldwell, a leader of the group that campaigned for the registry, also believe that the proposed amendment is an attempt to mobilize religious right voters to get George W. Bush re-elected.
�They�re scapegoating the gay and lesbian community and our families and our lives to get this done,� Downing said.
�This is an attempt to win the presidency for George W. Bush by drawing Ohio evangelicals to the polls,� Caldwell concurred. �Gay people�s lives shouldn�t be used for partisan politics.�
The summary, which will appear at the top of the petitions if Petro approves it, reads, �The amendment denies the validity and prohibits the legal recognition as marriage in Ohio of same-sex relationships and relationships comprised of three or more persons, and forbids according non-marital relationships a legal status intended to approximate marriage in certain respects.�
The language about �three or more persons� is believed to be a red herring, put in simply to get a casual observer to sign the petition.
There is no official deadline for the attorney general to reach a decision on the language.
�I�m aware that in another matter, the attorney general took some time,� Langdon said, referring to an initiative petition to repeal the state sales tax. That measure was returned as invalid to organizers, who were forced to resubmit it with altered wording.
Langdon�s submission to Petro contained petitions with the signatures of 218 people, all in the Columbus area. Signatures of at least 100 electors are required to move the matter forward.
Petition circulators included Linda Harvey of the anti-gay Columbus group Mission America and Barry Sheets, head of the American Family Association of Ohio who is also Citizens for Community Values� Columbus coordinator.
If approved by the attorney general, the petitions would then need 322,900 signatures of registered voters by August 4 to be on the November ballot.
Langdon believes that supporters can get the required number of signatures in 3� months.
�Certainly, there�s no question that it�s enough time to get the signatures,� he said. �What hasn�t been decided at this time is whether it will be pursued for 2004 or 2005.�
As for why he was filing the petition, Langdon pointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in November that marriage rights must be extended to same-sex couples.
�The Supreme Judicial Court has gone haywire,� Langdon said, accusing them of attempting to redefine marriage. �We want to take that ability away from the Ohio Supreme Court.�
�From my perspective, we have a runaway judiciary in a number of states,� he continued.
Langdon pointed to marriage as a cornerstone of society and as the basis for the continuation of society.
When asked why he didn�t introduce an amendment outlawing divorce or requiring opposite-sex couples to have at least two children, he replied, �There are certainly a lot of changes that can be made to the constitution.�
A number of organizations around the state are ready to campaign against the amendment while it�s still in the petition stages.
Caldwell noted, �We certainly are well organized in the Cleveland metropolitan area, and there is a well-organized group of people in the Cincinnati metropolitan area.�
He said that he was certain both his group and Citizens to Restore Fairness, the Cincinnati organization pushing for the repeal of the city�s anti-gay Article 12 charter amendment, would be happy to lend their expertise to groups in other parts of the state to organize against Langdon�s measure.
Downing, whose group will be testifying in the state legislature next week for State Sen. Dan Brady�s (D-Cleveland) bill barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, said that OGE and the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization supporting equal rights for LGBT people, would fight the amendment all the way.
�I�d like to send a message to those in our community that say that national organizations like HRC don�t send money back to the community,� Downing said. �In the last six months, HRC has given $50,000 here in Ohio for OGE and [Brady�s] Employment Non-Discrimination Act. HRC is on the ground here and they�re walking the walk and talking the talk.�
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is also aiding local organizations. They are working with the Cleveland Heights registry backers and CRF in Cincinnati, and will most likely be assisting in the campaign against the proposed amendment.
Toledo--After over a month of searching, David�s House Compassion announced on April 19 that it found local assistance to continue providing HIV-related services to northwest Ohio.
The organization will partner with Compass Corporation for Recovery Sevices for 90 days. In that time, Compass will provide help managing David�s House and its finances, as well as providing some staff, enabling the organization to continue running.
David�s House announced in March that it would pare down its services while finding another organization to take up its grants and programs. The group blamed a drop in donations for financial difficulties that threatened its existence.
�We have been in negotiations with various agencies in town,� David�s House executive director Heather Stombaugh said. �Compass was the group that our board of directors chose to go with.�
An offer was sent to David�s House board members on April 15, and a management assistance agreement went into effect the following day.
Negotiations continue with Compass, and should both sides agree at the end of the 90-day period, David�s House will become a subsidiary of Compass, while still keeping the name and identity.
�We are especially happy about this opportunity because Compass understands the value of the David�s Hosue name,� said Leisa Leininger, the board president-elect of David�s House, in the press release announcing the partnership. �They are very interested in assisting us in remaining a viable entity in the community.�
She continued, �They are supportive of our services, funding sources, personnel and clients continuing to work with an agency called David�s House Compassion, and for that we could not be more appreciative of the staff and board at Compass.�
Compass itself provides both inpatient and outpatient drug addiction services, primarily focused on issues of alcohol abuse. Another subsidiary, Substance Abuse Services, Inc, provides assistance to people dealing with issues centering around injection drugs and crack cocaine.
SASI merged with Compass about six months ago, giving Compass experience in the field of supporting and absorbing other organizations� workloads and grants.
�Health care is a vital issue in our community, and CCRS [Compass] has a successful track record in helping people with difficult substance abuse issues,� Compass president and CEO William Sanford said. �I am confident that, with our support, David�s House Compassion will be able to continue to meet the needs of individuals who depend on them for services.�
The services are currently being provided out of the David�s House facility, which is up for sale. Once the building is sold, according to Stombaugh, Compass will decide where to move the organization.��
State is ordered to register 3,022 already done,
Portland, Ore.--A judge stopped Multnomah County from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on April 20, but also ordered the state to register the 3,022 marriage licenses already given to same-sex couples.
Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank L. Bearden ordered the county to stop the licenses until the legislature had a chance to rectify discrimination caused by denying marital benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
Bearden�s ruling gave the legislature a deadline of 90 days from the beginning of the next regular or special legislative session to pass a measure creating civil unions or legalizing same-sex marriage.
In his decision, Bearden examined the actions of the high courts of both Massachusetts, which set a deadline of May 17 for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Vermont, which allowed the legislature to create a parallel institution to grant rights to same-sex couples without the word �marriage.�
�The court finds that Vermont�s approach represents a sound remedy to this issue of first impression,� Bearden wrote. �Also, the Vermont constitution is closer to our constitution than the Massachusetts constitution, so it is easier to draw a parallel in analysis.�
Bearden�s ruling also allows Multnomah County to begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples again if the legislature fails to meet its 90-day deadline.
That deadline goes into effect the moment a new legislative session starts. The next regular session will begin in January 2005, but a special session was slated for early June to handle tax reform proposals.
When that session opens, however, the clock starts ticking for same-sex marriage or civil union legislation, so the special session may be scuttled to give legislators more time to work on the matter.
Bearden also dealt harshly with the state�s Department of Human Services, the agency in charge of the Health Service�s Center for Health Statistics, and the state registrar.
�[The law] states, in mandatory language, that a record of �each marriage performed in this state� shall be filed with the Center for Health Statistics and shall be registered by the state registrar,� Bearden wrote, ordering the marriages already performed to be registered. �Failing to register same-sex marriage licenses and solemnization certificates is a direct violation of the law.�
The case is being expedited through the court system, since all sides acknowledge that it will ultimately end up in the state�s supreme court.
�This is a truly historic day for all of the lesbian and gay people of Oregon, but especially for the 3,000 couples who have already married here,� said Basic Rights Oregon executive director Roey Thorpe. �While you already know in your hearts that you are married, an Oregon court has just taken a giant step toward making sure the state treat your marriage just like all other marriages.�
The marriages are unlikely to be registered until the state has exhausted its appeals. The case will next move to the state appellate courts, whose decision will then be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court.
Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on March 3.
Benton County tried to follow suit, but was ordered by the state not to issue the licenses. The county then instituted a policy against issuing any marriages, whether to same- or opposite-sex couples.
Any ruling on the constitutionality of the existing marriage law could be rendered moot by the actions of the Defense of Marriage Coalition, a group of fundamentalist pastors who have begun collecting signatures to force a referendum on a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.�������
Man jailed under voided law is allowed to appeal
Warren, Ohio--A gay man who served jail time for �importuning� months after the Ohio Supreme Court voided that law has won the right to take his case to the Eleventh Ohio District Court of Appeals.
Keith Phillips, 22, of Warren was charged with importuning in December 2002, seven months after the high court declared the law unconstitutional.
The 30-year-old Ohio law had made it a crime to ask someone of the same sex for sex, if it would offend them. It was struck down partly because it did not apply to heterosexual situations.
Unaware that the law was no longer valid, Phillips pleaded no contest and received a suspended sentence. Weeks later, a second importuning charge led to four months in jail.
Phillips discovered after he got out that the law he was jailed under did not exist.
The Eleventh District court granted his appeal in the second case on April 7.
Ordinarily, people convicted of a crime have an automatic right to appeal. Special court permission was needed here because the 90-day deadline had passed while Phillips was in jail.
He had no lawyer in the first case, and is suing his attorneys in the second one for malpractice.
The city vacated his conviction in the first case. The Eleventh District appeal is for the second one, with jail time.
In addition to his state appeal, Phillips has filed an $11 million federal civil rights suit against the city, his attorneys Marc Dann and Ben Joltin of Youngstown, and others.
Also named in that suit is Warren Municipal Judge Thomas P. Gysegem, who presided over both cases. He is being sued for defamation by slander for comments he made about Phillips in a local newspaper.
The city was not asked to revoke the second conviction because doing so would have allowed them the opportunity to charge Phillips again and re-try the case, said his new attorney, Randi Barnabee of Macedonia.
She believes that in order to �partially vindicate itself in the federal lawsuit,� which claims wrongful prosecution, the city of Warren would attempt to convict Phillips again of anything it could find, given the chance.
Barnabee said when the city withdrew the first erroneous conviction, they threatened to find something else to charge Phillips with because they thought he was guilty of something.
�They made noise, but they could do nothing,� said Barnabee of the city.
But Barnabee thinks the city might not respond at all to her appeal brief to the Eleventh District, because to do so would �put ammunition for the federal suit on the record.�
The city has until April 27 to respond. At press time, no attorney has made an appearance on the city�s behalf.
Barnabee said the appeals court might also not schedule oral arguments on the matter.
�There is no law, so there was no law broken,� said Barnabee. �They may not need oral arguments to sort this out.�
The Eleventh District is the same court that sent the importuning law itself to the Ohio Supreme Court for constitutional review, in State v. Thompson.
Columbus--Ohio�s highest court will not hear the appeal of a gay man who says McDonald�s forced him to quit when they learned he had AIDS.
The ruling means the fast food chain will get a new trial in the case, after a jury awarded the employee $5 million in the first one.
The court handed down its 6-1 decision April 14 without comment, allowing an Eighth District Court of Appeals order for the new trial to stand.
McDonald�s appealed the case a year ago following the unanimous 2001verdict for Russell Rich, 36, of Akron. Rich had worked for the company for 20 years.
The fast food chain has not paid Rich any of the jury award. They say they did not violate Rich�s rights, and that they did not get a chance to present all of their evidence at trial.
In an opinion written by Judge Anne Kilbane, the Eighth District said McDonald�s should have been allowed to submit 100 new pages of jury instructions and 43 questions, a day after the judge ordered them due.
Kilbane said that error was enough to retry the entire case.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Alice Robie Resnick, Terrance O�Donnell, Maureen O�Connor, Francis Sweeney, and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton decided against hearing Rich�s appeal. Justice Paul Pfeiffer dissented, also without comment.
The case has been returned to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Ronald N. Suster, who assigned the first trial to retired judge John J. Angelotta. It is not known whether Suster will hear the retrial. No trial date has been set.
�My plan is to win this case so thoroughly and well that no future appellate court could do anything other than order McDonald�s to pay Russell,� said Rich�s attorney Paige Martin.
McDonald�s could be forced to pay Rich punitive damages in the new trial, as well. The first jury was forbidden to award these because Angelotta dismissed part of Rich�s claim, that McDonald�s lied when they told him his health coverage would not be affected by his pre-existing AIDS condition.
Angelotta reasoned that the Ohio law that claim was based on is pre-empted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which sets the federal standards for health insurance and pension plans.
Martin argued that Ohio law is not pre-empted by ERISA, and even if it is, the Ohio court has jurisdiction to hear the claim.
The Eighth District did not rule on that claim. The Supreme Court�s decision not to hear the case leaves this issue open to be resolved by the lower courts.
McDonald�s does not dispute Rich�s version of what he was told about the insurance coverage. Instead, they argue that if ERISA is the governing law, what they told him does not matter.
The $5 million award in the first trial was calculated by the jury to cover the cost of Rich�s medication for the rest of his expected life.
Rich does not qualify for Medicaid and relies on drug assistance programs to pay for his medications. These are not reliable, and sometimes Rich does without, causing his body to build resistance to the treatment.
His friends have staged demonstrations in front of McDonald�s outlets protesting the Eighth District�s decision and the company�s appeals of the verdict.
Rich is chronicling events of the trials at www.mcverdict.org.������
Columbus--Every two years the city hosts Art for Life, a gala that raises money for the Columbus AIDS Task Force by giving patrons and supporters a chance to buy art at live and silent auctions.
This year the Columbus Museum of Art, the Columbus College of Art and Design and Sotheby�s auctioneers collaborated to create the largest Art for Life yet.
In the 20 years it has been held the event has raised over 3 million dollars towards the funding of AIDS services and HIV awareness and education.
The April 17 auction exceeded its goal of $500,000, said event co-organizer Jose Rodriguez. Exact figures won�t be known for about two weeks, he added.
Amid fierce bidding, 245 art works were auctioned off. All the items at the live auction went for sums higher that expected, and keeping expenses down means most of that money goes to CATF.
�We keep our costs to under fifteen percent of the total amount raised,� said Rodriguez.
Pieces for the live auction were selected by a jury of artists and art critics. The public also had a chance to select three pieces.
Dr. Sue Koletar of Ohio State University said she was there �to support the cause and because it�s a great opportunity for people to come out, mingle, see fine art and do good.�
�We have made so much progress but we are no where near a cure and we have to keep raising awareness,� she added.
Dr. Ken Griffiths, a member of the CATF board who was volunteering that night, echoed Koletar�s sentiments. He said that the primary goal of Art for Life was to �bring back to the forefront of people�s awareness the need for a continued community awareness and support for HIV/AIDS.�
Over 450 people attended the event which included a sit down dinner at the Columbus Museum of Art. This was followed by the live and silent auctions at the Canzani Center at CCAD and an outdoor party which included bands and entertainers.
Rodriguez expressed gratitude for his fellow co-chairs Wayne Lawson, Stephanie Hightower, and Jody Scheiman. He particularly thanked CATF development director Sally Blue �without whom this would never have been possible.�
Art for Life will return in 2006.
Henderson, Ky.--The Kentucky Fairness Alliance, a pro-LGBT group with branches across the state, is gearing up to fight a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The measure passed the state Senate on April 13, one day after it made it through the state House of Representatives. It does not need the governor�s signature to be placed on the November 2 ballot.
Rachel M. Hurst, the western Kentucky organizer for KFA, is girding for battle.
�This is on the ballot for November,� she said. �Our work is to speak to people one-on-one across the state of Kentucky and talk about our families.�
�The people of Kentucky are very fair-minded and very justice-oriented,� she said, believing that the personal conversations will sway voters against the amendment.
Hurst witnessed firsthand the power of individual voter education during last year�s campaign to pass a domestic partner registry in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Hurst helped with Heights Families for Equality�s efforts, canvassing door-to-door to dispel misconceptions and false propaganda put out by the opposition. She believes that experience will be mirrored in this campaign.
�Issues like this really encourage people to think and feel that anti-gay materials are okay,� she said, referring both to incidents of name-calling that she and her partner are encountering for the first time after being open in their community, as well as cases of anti-gay and racist fliers being distributed across the University of Louisville campus.
According to Hurst, KFA�s first priority is to �counteract stereotypes and misinformation� spread by arch-conservative politicians and groups like the Family Foundation of Kentucky, a religious right organization affiliated with the Family Research Council.
�Racist and homophobic fliers come from the same type of people,� she noted.
Asked if her organization was planning to call on the aid of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which has been successful in recent years in their efforts to further pro-gay referenda and turn back anti-gay measures, Hurst said the KFA was open to receiving help from all corners.
�This issue is an important battle, and we�re looking to partner with other organizations that have information they can share with us,� she said.
The efforts to defend the Kentucky constitution, however, will be home-grown.
�All the work is going to be done by the Kentucky Fairness Alliance and the people of Kentucky,� she said, �because this is a Kentucky issue.�
The state already has a �defense of marriage� law on the books. Proponents of the amendment argue that, were the law to be challenged on state constitutional grounds, it might be overturned, hence the necessity of an amendment.
The proposed amendment, however, goes far beyond simply barring state recognition of same-sex marriage. Like Ohio�s �defense of marriage� legislation, passed in February, it would also bar recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships.
�It is every aspect of family law,� Hurst said. �Businesses would no longer be free to decide what�s best for their employees and offer them domestic partner benefits. This is really out of touch with what the people of Kentucky want.����
Cleveland--The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio saw echoes of the clash over New Hampshire�s openly gay bishop as it selected and consecrated its new bishop on April 17.
With the New Hampshire bishop, Canon V. Gene Robinson and 30 other bishops from around the world in attendance, the Right Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr. became the eleventh bishop of Ohio. He replaces the retiring Right Rev. J. Clark Grew II, who served since 1994.
Hollingsworth, 50, is from Massachusetts, where he served that diocese as an archdeacon.
The Ohio diocese covers 48 counties in the northern half of the state, and is headquartered at Cleveland�s Trinity Cathedral. It has been affirming of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Episcopalians since long before the issue became controversial in this and other mainline Protestant denominations.
Trinity�s dean, the Very Rev. Tracey Lind, is openly lesbian.
Five of the diocese�s 103 churches have rejected pastoral guidance from it to protest the Ohio delegation�s vote for Robinson at the denomination�s convention last summer.
They held an extra-canonical confirmation service on March 14, the first in the nation to protest Robinson.
In a statement, Grew called the service �unauthorized and clandestine.�
The protesting congregations have been assigned their own bishop for spiritual oversight by a national network of conservative churches also opposed to Robinson. They are the Holy Spirit and St. Luke�s, both in Akron, St. Anne in the Fields in Madison, St. Stephen�s in East Liverpool, and St. Barnabas in Bay Village.
Representatives from the five churches did not attend the ceremony. They have also asked Hollingsworth not to visit their churches.
Episcopal bishops are elected by majority votes of both bishops and lay leaders.
Hollingsworth was elected on the third ballot at the diocese�s convention in November. He and the other contenders, the Very Rev. James B. Lemler and Rev. Patricia L. Merchant, all said they would have supported Robinson and are supportive of the church�s affirming position on GLBT participation.
�I believe the challenge of living together within our diversity provides us with the opportunity of achieving a deeper unity in Christ,� said Hollingsworth, �and I believe the danger before us is segregating ourselves by like- mindedness in a way that lets us off the hook.�
In response to the congregations threatening to break away from the denomination as a result of Robinson�s consecration, the House of Bishops met in March. They issued a document called �Caring for All the Churches� which says, �In the circumstance of disagreement regarding the actions of the 74th General Convention on issues of human sexuality, we commit ourselves to providing and to making provision for pastoral care for dissenting congregations, and we recognize that there may be a need for a bishop to delegate some pastoral oversight.�
The document allows congregations rejecting GLBT inclusiveness to be supervised by someone in agreement with their position without the diocese giving up jurisdiction over that congregation.������ |
Cleveland--The Cleveland Play House is taking a journey back in time with the biographical play Cookin� at the Cookery.
In 1911, a sweet young girl, about 14 years old, started singing at Dago Frank�s, a crime-infested club in a dangerous, mob-controlled city.
The girl, Alberta Hunter, went on to become a true queen of the blues, writing and recording songs later re-done by the likes of Bessie Smith, whose own career overshadowed Hunter�s. She also had the distinction of becoming the first African American performer with an all-white backing band.
She quit music in 1956 and became a nurse, turning her back on the entertainment industry for over 20 years, until she staged a successful comeback at the age of 82 in 1977. She kept recording until her death seven years later.
Of course, perhaps the most stunning part of her success was the fact that it came despite her lesbianism at a time when gay men and lesbians were almost universally vilified.
There were others, of course. Gladys Bentley and Ethel Waters were both lesbians, and the bisexuality of other blues singers down through Janis Joplin is legendary.
Hunter, however, was the most famous, and one of the earliest.
She married briefly to defuse rumors about her sexual orientation. Claiming that she couldn�t have sex in the house her mother was living in, the marriage was not consummated, and her new husband left her quickly, within weeks.
After that, she began a relationship with the niece of entertainer Bert Williams, Lottie Taylor. During that time, Hunter�s accompanist on the piano was Tony Jackson, an openly gay African American man.
Cookin� at the Cookery�s title refers to Hunter�s return to the microphone at the New York club, the Cookery. The play does not provide a heterosexualized version of Hunter�s life, referring directly to her relationships with women, as well as the fact that the Hunter women in general did not have much use for men. (Her father left shortly after her birth, never to be seen by the family again, and Hunter�s mother never remarried.)
Cookin� at the Cookery stars Gail Nelson as Alberta Hunter and Carla Woods as the narrator. The show will run from April 27 to May 30. For information on performance times and ticket prices, call the box office at 216-7957000 ext. 4, or log onto www.clevelandplayhouse.com.
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