Ohio�s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community leaders are working to create a campaign to oppose a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships and civil unions.
Petitions to put the amendment on the November 2 ballot were filed with Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro on April 20 by anti-gay Cincinnati attorney David R. Langdon.
Langdon is representing a newly-formed coalition called the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, which is led by the Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati. It includes the rest of the Ohio anti-gay establishment, including the Christian Coalition, Mission America, the Ohio Roundtable, and others. CCV president Phil Burress chairs the new coalition.
Similar marriage ban amendments are headed for the November ballot in at least five other states, including Kentucky. A dozen more are being considered by state legislatures or in petition drives.
Opponents of the amendments say the push for them originates in the campaign to re-elect President Bush.
�This is an attempt to win the presidency for George W. Bush by drawing evangelicals to the polls,� said David Caldwell of Heights Families for Equality, which ran a voter campaign to pass a partner registry in Cleveland Heights last November.
Same-sex marriage is the top polling issue driving Bush�s campaign. Polls now put him in a dead heat with Democratic presumptive challenger John Kerry.
In the nation and in Ohio, a presidential �battleground state,� opposition to same-sex marriage polls more favorably for Bush than the economy, Iraq, jobs, foreign policy or trade.
A Columbus Dispatch poll conducted in March concluded that 78 percent of Ohioans believe that �marriages between homosexuals should not be recognized by the law as valid.�
The same poll found that 60 percent of Ohioans favor a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
The proposed amendment does that and more. It 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.�
With that language, no Ohio city, county, village or school district could offer its employees domestic partner benefits. No government entity in the state would be able to recognize civil unions or registries, and the Ohio Supreme Court rulings of 2002 allowing same-sex couples to legally share a surname and file parenting plans could be challenged and overturned.
According to Ohioans for Growth and Equality president Tim Downing of Cleveland, the amendment could also allow for ordinances protecting LGBTs from employment and housing discrimination in 11 Ohio cities to be challenged and ruled unconstitutional.
�This is the worst possible language,� said Downing, an employment attorney.
PAC being set up
Downing said that initially OGE is �leading the charge� of opposition until a separate political action committee can be set up.
Downing expects the campaign to defeat the amendment will cost �seven figures, minimum,� noting that a week of television in Ohio�s media markets alone costs over $1 million.
Downing said the campaign will have a legal component, a field operation, a campaign component, voter identification, and a major fundraising component.
�It can�t be run like the Cleveland Heights registry campaign was run,� said Downing.
That campaign, which relied heavily on the identification of supportive voters and volunteers, was relatively inexpensive. It put a domestic partner registry on the November 2003 ballot and campaigned for its passage.
�There are not enough soldiers in the field to do it all like that,� said Downing. �There�s just not enough time.�
David Fleischer of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who has worked with the Cleveland Heights campaign and the current effort to repeal Cincinnati�s Article 12, agreed.
�Cleveland Heights is not necessarily the model because the time is way too short,� said Fleischer, �though it is worthwhile doing substantial voter identification.�
�The best campaigns are multi-faceted,� said Fleischer.
Heights Families for Equality recruited 1,000 volunteers to identify 7,500 supportive Cleveland Heights voters over 14 months to get the measure passed.
In population, the state of Ohio is over 200 times the size of Cleveland Heights.
Cincinnati�s voter identification campaign, organized by Citizens to Restore Fairness, has identified about a quarter of the 63,000 favorable voters it needs by November.
CRF currently has no plan to change its position or message toward defeat of the amendment.
�We see in the polls that people separate marriage and equality,� said CRF spokesperson Gary Wright. �It�s a mistake to look at these [the amendment and Article 12] as alternatives.�
�People need to keep their heads about them,� said Wright, adding, �Nothing would please our opposition more than looking for ways to think the Article 12 repeal is not winnable.�
Article 12 was passed as Issue 3 in 1993 by Equal Rights Not Special Rights, the forerunner to Citizens for Community Values, and also headed by Burress.
Downing hopes CRF will also be part of the campaign to defeat the amendment.
�They need to see that this amendment is a bullet aimed at the head of their effort,� said Downing. �No one can tell them what to do, but their messaging may need to be different due to this amendment.�
Downing said that even if Article 12 is repealed, the constitutional amendment would set up legal barriers to the city restoring the LGBT equal rights ordinance that Article 12 removed.
In addition to HFE and OGE, other organizations launching the campaign include the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center; Stonewall Columbus; the ACLU of Ohio; Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; and others.
National organizations joining NGLTF include the Human Rights Campaign. Downing hopes to add the Democratic National Committee and the Kerry campaign.
Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson said Columbus Pride will respond through events, speakers, and by going heavy on the �inform� part of the June festival�s mission.
Cleveland Pride coordinator Brynna Fish said the Cleveland program will not change, but groups working to fight the amendment should take full advantage of the event to organize and do advocacy.
Petition must be approved
The 218 signatures filed by Langdon must be verified by the attorney general. If 100 of them are valid, Petro will need to approve the summary language which appears on the petitions that will be circulated.
That summary now reads: �The amendment denies the validity and prohibits the legal recognition as marriage in Ohio of same-sex relationships and 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.�
Petro, who was on vacation at press time, has no specified timeline to issue his ruling.
The Cuyahoga County Republican has indicated interest in the 2006 gubernatorial race. He the most moderate in the Republican field which also includes Auditor Betty Montgomery and Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.
Petro opposed the anti-gay DOMA legislation signed by Governor Taft February 6 expressing his belief that same-sex couples should not be denied rights, which both the legislation and the amendment do.
Petro cannot pass judgement on the amendment itself, but he has to approve the summary language for accuracy.
Downing said the summary language should be challenged because it doesn�t mention that unmarried opposite-sex couples are affected, or the extent to which rights will be denied.
The mention of �three or more persons� is a red herring that can also be challenged.
Downing said anyone, but especially attorneys, should immediately contact Petro urging him to reject the summary, and require the petitioners to submit a new one.
The next round of petitions, which require 322,900 valid signatures collected in at least 44 counties, cannot be circulated until the summary is approved.
If the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage fails to collect the needed signatures by August 4, the measure cannot appear on the November ballot.
Columbus--�I want to make it clear that I am advocating on behalf of gay citizens in Ohio,� testified State Sen. Dan Brady, a Democrat from Cleveland�s west side before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Civil Law April 28.
Brady and Cleveland attorney and Ohioans for Growth and Equality president Tim Downing testified on behalf of Brady�s bill, S.B. 77, also known as the Ohio Employment Non-Discrimination Act, in an attempt to move the bill forward.
Brady introduced the bill a year ago to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, public accommodations, housing, and credit. He has since modified the bill on Downing�s recommendation to include only employment and exempt religious organizations.
Downing believes the more basic version has a better chance of passing the committee for full Senate consideration.
�We know [House Speaker Larry] Householder isn�t going to allow this or [State Rep. Dale] Miller�s similar House bill to move,� said Downing, �but if we can get this one to the Senate floor for consideration, it would be a legislative coup.�
Downing�s testimony was not available at press time, but he said a focus was to get Republicans who pushed the Defense of Marriage Act signed by Governor Bob Taft in February to �put their money where their mouth is.�
�All we heard from them during DOMA debate was how they have nothing against gay people and opposed discrimination,� said Downing. �This is their chance to prove it.�
The DOMA passed the Senate 18-15 in January with four Republicans joining all 11 Democrats in opposition. Two of those Republicans are on the Civil Law Committee, including its chair David Goodman and vice chair Steve Stivers, both of Columbus.
If they join the three Democrats on the committee, Marc Dann of Youngstown, Eric Fingerhut of Shaker Heights and Kimberly Zurz of Green, in voting for the bill, it will move past the expected opposition from Republicans Ron Amstutz of Wooster, Louis Blessing of Cincinnati, Jay Hottinger of Newark and Lynn Wachtmann of Napoleon.
Dann, Fingerhut, and Zurz�s predecessor Leigh Herrington are co-sponsors of the bill. The four other Republicans all supported DOMA and have decisively anti-gay records.
Brady considers the bill the �centerpiece� of his legislative agenda in this session. He and OGE lobbied hard for the hearing.
�Interestingly,� testified Brady, �a prohibition against job discrimination due to sexual orientation covering state employees was created by an executive order by Governor Celeste in 1984 and continued through the two terms of Governor Voinovich. But the policy expired on the last day of Governor Voinovich�s term, and Governor Taft replaced it with Executive Order 99-25T, intentionally omitting all references to �sexual orientation.� So, for 15 years, our own state employees enjoyed the protections that would be afforded in Senate Bill 77.�
Brady�s amended bill would do three things if passed. It would prohibit public and private employers from discrimination by sexual orientation, creates legal remedies for such discrimination, and empower the attorney general and civil rights commission to enforce the law.
�My gay constituents are from all walks of life,� said Brady, �but what they have in common is the desire to be fully accepted by our society and adequately protected by our law.�
Brady also told the committee that 55 major corporations and 10 political subdivisions in Ohio already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, chiding the state for not doing better.
I urge this �committee to carefully weigh this opportunity to make a positive contribution to the worthy cause of social progress by looking favorably on this legislation,� said Brady.
At press time, the committee was not expected to vote on the bill. Additional hearings are at the discretion of Committee Chair Goodman.
Wooster, Ohio--The annual Day of Silence went off without a hitch on most participating campuses on April 21, but the College of Wooster�s Allies and Queers group found itself the target of an anti-gay protest.
The Day of Silence is a national event that encourages pro-gay students and faculty at high schools and colleges to be silent on a designated day to protest society�s silencing of LGBT people.
Allies and Queers planned their Five Days of Gays week around the Day of Silence. A 6 pm rally was held to break the silence.
However, across the street from the rally were ten people carrying signs speaking out against LGBT people.
According to Wooster junior Jeremy Miller, president-elect of Allies and Queers, the group consisted mostly of women, a couple of whom brought their small children.
The college group found itself in the same quandary faced by other organizations dealing with anti-gay demonstrators, whether to ignore them or react to their rhetoric.
Two women from Allies and Queers staged a brief, impromptu kiss-in in the middle of the crosswalk, and other members of the group reacted verbally to the demonstrators.
Six police cars arrived to clear people out of the crosswalk, but there was no violence. Pro-gay forces stood off against the demonstrators for two hours, until they left to attend a performance by lesbian Columbus singer Katie Reider.
Allies and Queers, however, is still facing the aftermath of that evening, with divisions in the group lingering over whether to engage or ignore the protesters.
�I think it was good for Wooster to see this,� Miller said. �We�ll get this resolved by the end of the year.�
The protesters were apparently drawn to the rally because the schedule for the week�s events was posted in the local newspaper. The rest of the events passed uneventfully, although Miller was surprised at the number of straight allies present at the Gayla dance on April 23.
�It�s the first major confrontation we�ve had as a GLBT group, so it�s caused an unwanted uproar,� Miller noted. �It�s interesting to me that these anti-gay haters are protesting against people who love someone of the same sex. Haters against lovers, doesn�t quite make sense.�
Other schools, however, had less dramatic observances of the Day of Silence.
While it is difficult to gauge the number of people on a college campus who participate in the event, Brett Beemyn, the director of GLBT Student Services at Ohio State University, was pleased with the reaction in Columbus.
�We had a good number of people participate,� he said.
There was also a decent turnout at the �Night of Noise,� the evening presentation to end the Day of Silence.
When asked if there were any protesters like those in Wooster, Beemyn was surprised at the thought.
�We don�t really have that happen too much,� the director answered.
Winnie Lai, the president of Spectrum at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, expressed surprise at the turnout for their Day of Silence rally, also couched in a week of pro-gay events.
�It went way better than expected, especially for the Case campus,� she said. �The whole week was very, very successful. It was a pretty good week. Pretty emotional, but pretty good.�
Ohio University also devoted a week to gay-themed events.
�Everything went well here,� said OU GLBT programs coordinator Mickey Hart. �We didn�t have huge participation here.�
The lack of �huge participation� at Ohio University in Athens seems to be the exception, not the rule in this year�s event.
�The Day of Silence received an unprecedented outpouring of participation, support and attention this year, which speaks to both the level of awareness that now exists around the harassment faced by LGBT students and the understanding that action must be taken to combat this very real and dangerous discrimination,� said Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the national group that organized the Day of Silence.
Both the Democratic National Committee and Sen. John Kerry, the de facto Democratic presidential nominee, released statements supporting the Day of Silence.
�I want to recognize the efforts of youth across America who are participating in the National Day of Silence,� Kerry said. �Too many LGBT students are skipping school because they feel unsafe. Too many LGBT students are threatened or attacked for being gay.�
�We cannot and must not forget the lessons of Matthew Shepard�s tragic death,� he continued. �We need an America where every child--gay or straight - feels safe.�
Two weeks to the weddings
In Massachusetts, marriage foes and supporters have last-minute scrambles
Boston--With same-sex marriage only two weeks away in Massachusetts, the governor and legislators on both sides of the issue are engaging in high-stakes gambits to make sure the weddings happen or attempt to stop them.
The Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in the state, ruled in November that barring same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional, and gave the legislature six months to rectify the matter.
The legislature passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being an opposite-sex institution but establishing civil unions during their constitutional convention last month. However, the amendment requires another two-thirds majority vote in the 2005-2006 session, so the earliest it could go to voters would be in November 2006, long after same-sex marriages become legal on May 17.
Gov. Mitt Romney, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, has ordered court clerks to adhere to a 1913 law barring out-of-state couples from marrying if their marriages would not be valid in their home states.
The law was originally passed in an attempt to block interracial marriage, and has not been enforced in decades.
On April 22, State Rep. Robert B. Spellane filed a bill to repeal it.
The day before, Rep. Emile J. Goguen, a conservative Democrat, filed a bill to remove the four high court justices who voted to allow same-sex marriage.
The �bill of address,� which was shopped around for months by a group calling itself the Article 8 Alliance, has only Goguen as sponsor. The alliance claims that a number of lawmakers expressed support for the measure privately, but are afraid to push it publicly until they find out if they will be opposed in their November reelection races.
Lawmakers last used the constitutional mechanism to remove a sitting justice in 1803. A 1922 effort failed.
�We don�t want to go down a path that would cause judges to fear removal from their position for making unpopular decisions,� Richard V. Nostrand, president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, told the Boston Globe.
Romney is also seeking a bill from the state legislature giving him emergency powers to directly ask the high court for a stay of their ruling. State law requires him to ask Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly to send the request, and Reilly has refused.
House speaker Thomas M. Finneran vowed to hold hearings on the bill, but Senate president Robert E. Travaglini refused to consider it, drawing Romney�s ire. Romney accused the legislature�s passage of the constitutional amendment of being a feint.
�I�m wondering whether the first step they took . . . was a fa�ade, or was it a real effort to limit marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman,� Romney asked. �Otherwise, we will have same-sex marriage in Massachusetts without a decision of the people.�
Travaglini�s spokeswoman Ann Dufresne countered Romney.
�We moved on to the budget,� she noted. �We have had four days of intense debate at the constitutional convention, and we have turned our full focus onto other, more pressing matters.�
The Catholic Action League, opposed to same-sex marriage, filed with the court to attempt to gain a stay of the decision.
Reilly, who may oppose Romney in his next bid for the governor�s mansion, countered with a brief arguing that the league has no standing to step in to the case, nor can they prove any harm that will be done to them by same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, in preparation for the May 17 deadline, license forms are being changed to read �Party A� and �Party B� instead of �bride� and �groom.�
Daniel Winslow, Romney�s legal counsel, also send a message to justices of the peace ordering them to resign if they are unable to marry same-sex couples.
Hayward, Calif.--The trial of the alleged murderers of a transgendered teen continued on April 27 with the third day of testimony by a man who took a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against his former compatriots.
Jaron Nabors, 21, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Gwen Araujo, and will serve an 11-year sentence after the conclusion of the trial.
In exchange for the leniency, he is testifying against the other three men who he says participated in Araujo�s murder, Michael Magidson, 23, Jose Merel and Jason Cazares, both 24.
On April 22, Nabors testified that when he first met Araujo, who was biologically male, the thought sprung into his mind that she might be male.
When he brought up the idea with the three defendants, none of them, including Nabors himself, took it seriously.
The first night the quartet met Araujo, Nabors and Merel engaged in light sexual activity with her, whom they knew as Lida.
When the trial resumed on April 26, Nabors described Araujo�s murder in great detail, claiming that he and Cazares helped bury the body but did not kill her. Nabors� testimony spurred Cazares� defense attorney, J. Tony Serra, to accuse Nabors of putting forward Cazares in his place to save himself.
�I suggest to you that it�s in your nature that, when it�s convenient for any objective that you have in mind, you will deceive,� Serra said, according to the Tri-Valley Herald.
The jurors appeared alternately riveted by the testimony and weary of the sparring between the defense attorney and Nabors, which was scheduled to continue on the morning of April 28.
Earlier, the trial was delayed when lawyers in the case said
Nicole Brown, the former girlfriend of Jose Merel�s older brother Paul, testified April 20 about the night Araujo was killed.
The men wanted to examine Araujo�s genitalia, but she refused. She eventually acquiesced to go into the bathroom with Brown, who confirmed the presence of male genitalia.
She said that Araujo was attempting to leave after the confrontation when she was stopped by cries of, �Where do you think you�re going?�
�Nicole was somebody who was helping pour gasoline on a smoldering fire,� said Michael Thorman, Magidson's attorney. Thorman also said in opening statements that Araujo�s death was a crime of passion, not murder.
Thorman claimed that the shock of discovering that his client�s erstwhile sexual partner was male triggered an uncontrollable rage, a maneuver that observers are calling the first use of a �transgender panic� defense.
Emmanuel Merel, Jose Merel�s younger brother, also testified in the case on April 22. He said that he and Brown tried to get Araujo out of the house, but Magidson and Nabors barred their way at the door.
According to testimony at the trial and preliminary hearings, Jose Merel and Magidson both had sex with Araujo in the past. Brown testified in court that Jose Merel, when Araujo�s biological gender became known, began crying and said, �I�m not gay.�
Tale of a young man who bet he could bed his
Mormon neighbor has a surprise:
A pretty, popular boy makes a bet with some of his friends: He can have the unattainable.
It�s the basic plot of about seven thousand teen sex comedies. Sometimes the bet is to turn the �ugly because she wears glasses and her hair in a bun� wallflower into the prom queen. Sometimes the bet is to actually have sex with a specific person, or to lose the loathsome virginity by the end of the school year.
Inevitably, the boy making the bet falls in love, and generally he and the object of his desire wind up �doing it� as graphically as possible given the rating of movie, which could be anywhere from PG to R.
Latter Days, on first glance, seems like the queer equivalent of this movie.
Los Angeles gym bunny/waiter/slut Christian (Wes Ramsey) lives with his co-worker Julie (Rebekah Jordan), the �sassy black woman� who is also an aspiring singer.
Into an apartment in their complex move four hunky, muscular young Mormon missionaries.
At work, talking with their co-workers Traci (Amber Benson, who played Willow�s girlfriend on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Andrew (Khary Payton, playing the sassy black gay man), the idea for the bet comes up.
For fifty dollars and two weeks of bussing the winner�s tables, Andrew and Traci bet that Christian can�t �do� one of the Mormons and bring back his strange, shiny boxers as proof.
Christian, pretty, vain and sexually active, believes he will win. So does his sassy roommate. He sets off to ensnare Aaron (Steve Sandvoss), the most vulnerable of the fashion-challenged quartet.
Operation Bang a Mormon is under way. All the elements for an absolutely abominable film are established. It�s all set to be a cheesy sex romp, but then writer-director C. Jay Cox, the man behind Reese Witherspoon�s Sweet Home Alabama, messes it all up.
He creates an intelligent, humorous and emotional film that enjoys eroticism without being simply pseudo-pornographic.
The hurdles he throws in the way of the young lovers are intriguing. First, Christian makes the faux pas of telling Aaron that �it doesn�t have to mean anything,� leading the young missionary to (correctly) conclude that Christian is a callow, shallow, vapid tramp.
To prove him wrong, Christian volunteers at a food bank for people with AIDS. There he meets client Keith (Erik Palladino) who swiftly becomes his Obi-Wan Kenobi, leading him to become a far better person that he was before.
Meanwhile, Christian�s boss Lila (Jacqueline Bisset) runs into Aaron outside a hospital. She�s crying, having just shut off life support for the man who could have been her husband, and her emotional defenses have crumbled like the walls of Jericho.
Aaron counsels her, showing the depth of his concern for people and fleshing out what could have been a stereotype of repression.
As situations pull Aaron and Christian together and apart (and together and apart), violence, anger and death lurk around the corner, and it seems like things will get darker before the dawn.
This film is a gem, coming completely out of left field. One didn�t have high expectations from publicity and occasional stories about the movie, since press releases and the gay media tend to lionize anything that has naked flesh and boys kissing boys or girls kissing girls.
However, Cox did something truly interesting: He took his premise, he made it work, and he used a top-notch cast as his tools.
Bisset is wonderful. The screen fills with her presence as though the sun had emerged from the darkest clouds. She brings a wit to the role, and a warmth, that are unmatched.
Ramsey, who cut his teeth in soap operas, is lovable and completely unlikable. He�s a slut, and he revels in it. Sandvoss� performance was truly heart-wrenching. There are moments in the film when any person watching it would wrap their arms around him and hug him tight to their bosom. He brings a depth of emotion that is sadly lacking in most young actors.
It would be difficult to point to any member of the cast and say, �That person should not be here.� The interactions, the emotions, all ring true.
If this is the future of the teen sex film, then bring it on. It�s probably not, but perhaps if there were more queer films like this coming out, the whole genre might undergo a renaissance.
Latter Days opens at the Cedar-Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights on April 30. It will also open soon in Columbus and Cincinnati, although dates have yet to be finalized. For more information, see www.latterdaysmovie.com.
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