Center keeps doors locked, neighborhood incidents increase
Cleveland--The �big gay year� has had an unpleasant side effect of increased harassment, leading the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center to bolster its security after a spate of minor incidents. Other centers are on alert as harassment becomes more common.
Visitors to the Cleveland center now must be let in by a receptionist. Other doors that were once open are now kept locked after a series of harassing incidents between February 27 and March 15. The increase follows national and state trends believed to be caused by a steady stream of gay visibility in the mainstream media.
Center spokesperson Tim Marshall said that before last June�s Supreme Court Lawrence v. Texas decision declaring sodomy laws unconstitutional, there would be �a couple of incidents a month.� These were only during the summer months when middle and high school students were out.
Since the ruling, �it is still a couple a month, but there was no stopping when summer was over,� said Marshall.
The Lawrence ruling began a period of heightened gay and lesbian visibility, including several TV shows and controversy over same-sex marriage.
Marshall said adolescents as young as 12 years old would come into the building and ask people inside if they are fags, cause disruption or ask for condoms before being asked to leave.
But lately, the youth have been bolder, coming up to people and tapping them for attention. One stole a volunteer�s day planner.
According to Marshall, on March 8, kids opened the door and threw in an open bag of trash. It was that incident that caused the center to lock its doors.
�They came back,� said Marshall, �tried to open the door, found that they couldn�t and ran away.�
The activity at the facility mirrors anti-gay harassment in general around the city and state.
Marshall said reports of anti-gay harassment and violence made to the center show fewer acts around places like gay bars with random victims, and more incidents in neighborhoods around homes.
Marshall said the number of incidents for 2004 is already three more than the 13 in 2003.
�There�s more occurring in neighborhoods, as opposed to bars and other gay hangouts,� said Marshall.
Marshall attributes that to increased visibility, and the fact that TV viewers have LGBT people �in their faces� more than ever before.
Buckeye Regional Anti-Violence Organization director Gloria McCauley said her group, which tracks such incidents in Ohio, has seen a �groundswell� of activity around the marriage issue, �which is not surprising.�
McCauley agreed that the increases are occurring mostly in neighborhoods, and include vandalism, broken windows, damaged cars and graffiti, as well as an increase in harassing calls to LGBT organizations.
McCauley said her agency used to take eight reports a month, but since the Lawrence decision, that has increased to eight a week, though the severity is about the same.
None of Ohio�s LGBT centers reported vandalism or damage to their buildings.
Of the eight centers in Ohio, only Cleveland and Columbus have paid staff.
Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson said they had experienced no increase in vandalism in the past year.
The Dayton and Akron LGBT centers have not reported any harassing activity since last summer, but neither tracks it nor encourages members to report anti-gay incidents to BRAVO.
Centers in Cincinnati, Mentor, Youngstown, and Toledo did not respond to requests for information.
The Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center takes harassment and violence reports for northern Ohio, and Stonewall Columbus takes reports for central and southern Ohio. McCauley said individuals can also contact BRAVO directly, and reports can be made with or without a police report.
Stonewall�s Anderson said they are planning for extra security around Columbus Pride events this year.
She called Ohio �ground zero� for religious conservatism and political activism.
�The presidential election will also bring religious conservatives out,� Anderson said, adding that organized anti-gay groups have already begun to move into Ohio.
Anderson said Stonewall Columbus is also trying to be aware of moles and infiltrators, both from the anti-gay groups and the government.
�It�s like how the government infiltrated the anti-war movement [during the Vietnam war],� said Anderson, �and now they can do it legally under the Patriot Act.�
Dayton--A gay teenager and the mother of another gay teen were shot in a homophobic attack on March 15.
Chaunsay Tinsley, Jr., 21, was arrested March 30 for the attack.
Stephon L. Brown, 19, and Deairrone Martin, 18, encountered Tinsley shortly before midnight at the Marathon gas station at North Main St. and Delaware Ave. They had gone there for beverages after getting pizza at a nearby restaurant.
Inside the station�s convenience store, the young men told police, Tinsley began harassing them about their sexual orientation.
�God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,� Tinsley said, according to the police report. �I ought to kick your gay asses.�
Brown says that when he and Martin were being harassed, �I was thinking about harassing him back. I wasn�t scared of him at all.�
As Brown and Martin left the store after buying their drinks, Catherine D. Martin, Deairrone�s mother, arrived in a friend�s car and offered them a ride home. She asked Brown to go back into the store and buy her some juice, which he did.
Tinsley followed Brown out of the store. As the elder Martin began driving out of the gas station lot, according to the police report, he opened fire on the car. Catherine Martin was hit in the shoulder and Stephon Brown in the wrist.
�I was just amazed,� Brown said. �It was just shocking.�
Martin drove away down Main Street, and flagged down a police cruiser. The police called paramedics, and she and Brown were taken to the Miami Valley Hospital. Both patients were released soon after, and are recovering fully.
Police retrieved spent casings from the gas station lot, and employees gave police a surveillance tape showing the suspect in the store.
An employee told police he thought he knew the suspect, but when police showed the victims a photo of the person the employee named, they did not recognize him.
The elder Martin and Brown went to the police station on March 23, where they were shown the surveillance tape. They recognized their assailant, and told police officers that they thought his first name was �Shauntee� or �Chauncy.� An officer searched the names in a database, returning a photo of the suspect, which Brown and Martin then identified.
One week later, on March 30, police spotted someone matching Tinsley�s description. As police spoke to Tinsley and a friend, Tinsley started to run away, making it about a block away before being caught by officers.
After being handcuffed, the officers emptied his pockets, finding three small bags of marijuana and two of what appeared to be crack cocaine, according to police reports.
Back at the station, Tinsley told officers he ran because he thought there was a warrant out for his arrest. He also admitted to shooting at the car containing the Martins and Brown, claiming that he saw Brown pull a gun in the back seat and say, �I�ve got something for you.�
Tinsley also told police that he had tossed his gun during his one-block chase.
He is being held on two charges of felonious assault with a deadly weapon and one charge of possession of cocaine, between one and five grams.
The Marathon station where the attack occurred is less than a block away from Q Gifts, a block and a half from the Up on Main nightclub, and about 11 blocks from Celebrity nightclub. However, Brown and the younger Martin weren�t going to or from any of those gay businesses when the attack took place.
Neither Dayton nor Ohio�s hate crime laws include anti-gay crimes. However, police have noted the incident as an anti-gay hate crime for reporting and record-keeping purposes.
Despite the events of March 15, Brown says that he will still not back down from people who insult him because of his sexual orientation.
�I would just say, don�t be scared, because if you act scared, they really take you over,� he said. �Most guys won�t pull a gun.�
Columbus--A statewide scientific poll shows that Ohio voters overwhelmingly oppose same-sex marriages, more so than the rest of the nation. The poll also showed greater support in Ohio for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The poll, which was designed, conducted and financed by the Columbus Dispatch, measured Ohioans� attitudes on same-sex marriage, a federal constitutional amendment banning them and civil unions. Questions were also asked about the presidential election, respondents� income, religion, age, and party affiliation.
The poll was conducted by mail with 3,344 registered voters chosen at random from March 23 to 31. Those who had not voted since 1999 were not included. Results appeared in the daily newspaper�s April 5 issue.
According to Dispatch Public Affairs Editor Darrel Rowland, the questions mirrored those asked by Gallup, the national polling firm. Voters were also asked about union membership and how they voted in the 2000 presidential race and the 2002 gubernatorial race.
�This is an issue being talked about a lot,� said Rowland of same-sex marriage, �and we think it is a key issue in this election, in which Ohio is a battleground state.�
Seventy-eight percent of respondents said marriages between homosexuals (the word used in the question) should not be recognized by the law as valid.
Nationwide, in other polls, up to 66% have agreed with this position.
Sixty percent of Ohio respondents said they favor a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Nationwide, about 51% do.
Fifty-seven percent of Ohioans polled oppose a law that would allow homosexual couples to form civil unions with some of the legal rights of married couples.
The poll has a plus or minus two percent error rate, and was designed to sample each of Ohio�s major media markets; northeast (20 counties), central (20 counties), southwest (eight counties), northwest (12 counties), west (14 counties) and southeast (14 counties).
The southeast section of the state objected most strongly to same-sex couples, with 14 percent approval on marriage and 26 percent approval on civil unions.
The northeast and central regions tied for the highest response to civil unions with 46 percent approval. The central region also topped in support of marriage at 26 percent.
Political affiliation was a major factor on both questions, with 93% of George W. Bush supporters opposing marriage and 70 percent against civil unions.
Supporters of John Kerry reject same-sex marriage by 63 percent, but favor civil unions by 55 percent.
Undecideds split evenly on the question of civil unions, and oppose marriage nearly 3-1.
Education was the single most reliable predictor of support for same-sex couples. Accross the board, the more education of the respondent, the less likely to oppose marriage or civil unions.
Sixty-nine percent of college graduates oppose marriage, compared to 91 percent of those who did not attend high school.
Age was the second most reliable predictor, with support for both marriage and civil unions among voters between the ages of 18-34 and opposition to both highest among voters over 75.
White and black voters responded equally to the question of marriage, 78 percent opposed, but white respondents were less opposed civil unions.
Among self-identified Democrats, 67 percent oppose marriage, while 51 percent approve of civil unions. Ninety percent of Republicans opposed marriage, and only 32% favor civil unions.
Union membership was not a significant factor on either question.
Jewish respondents were the most supportive of marriage and civil unions, 60 percent and 86 percent, respectively.
Protestant respondents were the most opposed to marriage and civil unions, 83 percent and 63 percent, respectively.
The response rate was 29 percent, considered very high for a mail poll.
DOMA sponsor Barr testifies against U.S. ban amendment
Washington, D.C.--Former Rep. Bob Barr, one of the major forces behind the federal �Defense of Marriage Act� eight years ago, testified at the House of Representatives� first hearing on the Federal Marriage Amendment on March 30.
Barr�s testimony illustrated the divide among Republicans on the issue.
�I don�t think it�s the function of Congress to monkey around with state court jurisdiction, Barr said, noting that he is a conservative and opposes amending the Constitution.
While proponents of the amendment point to Massachusetts and warn of �activist judges� foisting same-sex marriage on states, Barr and other witnesses believe the 1996 federal DOMA legislation will withstand court scrutiny.
Barr also made the point that conservatives are historically supposed to favor states� rights, an idea contravened by the amendment.
�Part of federalism means that states have the right to make bad decisions, even on who can get married in the state,� Barr said, quoted in the Boston Globe.
Three other conservative legislators and legal experts testifying at the first of five planned hearings in the House Judiciary Committee�s Sub-Committee on the Constitution concurred with his assessment.
�States are stepping up to the plate and dealing with this issue,� said John Hanes, Wyoming State Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.
Despite at times bombastic rhetoric from both sides of the issue, one fact remains constant: The two-thirds majority needed to pass the amendment in Congress is not there.
The idea of changing the wording of the amendment to garner more support has been floated.
The phrase, �marriage or the legal incidents thereof,� is being read as barring civil unions, and it has been removed from the Senate version.
A change of wording to expressly allow civil unions might increase support among moderates, but it may also cost support from hard-line gay equal rights foes who oppose any recognition of same-sex relationships.
Granville, Ohio--Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce and former ghost-writer for televangelists Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker, Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, made two appearances in Granville on April 4 and 5, bringing his message of nonviolent protest against anti-gay �spiritual violence� to central Ohio.
On April 4, he gave a lecture at a potluck dinner at First Baptist Church of Granville, kicking off a new Soulforce chapter. The event was organized by Gini Lohmann Bauman, a heterosexual seminary student.
White recounted his long journey to accepting his sexual orientation, from his first crush on another boy at age 13, undergoing electroshock and aversion therapy to try to change his sexual orientation and coming out to his fianc�e on the eve of their decision to marry.
After attempting to kill himself by gouging his wrist with a coat hanger, his wife released him.
�Just go,� she said after giving him a ring with Liberty on one side and an eagle and two eaglets on the other side. �I�ve given you your freedom, but we�re still family.�
�What does our God require of us?� White asked the attendees. �To do justice, and love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Jesus accepted outcasts, the church is making outcasts.�
He noted that under ten percent of churches are �open and affirming,� accusing the others of �orthodoxy gone cultic.�
White and his partner Gary Nixon attend Jerry Falwell�s church in Virginia Beach, across the street from their house.
The following day, he appeared at Denison University in Granville.�
Its not easy being green
Or, for that matter, a gay teen
A mystical bird whose song can cleanse the soul has been stolen, and it�s up to Celine, the empress� daughter, to find it in The Tale of the Emerald Bird, presented by Cleveland Public Theater�s Student Theater Enrichment Program.
Written by local artists Raymond Bobgan, Mike Geither and Holly Holsinger, Emerald Bird has toured northeast Ohio in the last couple of months, taking its cast of Cleveland high school students from Mentor to Lakewood. The play will alight at Cleveland Public�s Upstairs Theater on Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10, for its final performances.
Among the young actors bringing the tale to life is 17-year-old Courtez Hill, playing Tympany the dwarf.
�I am a dwarf who has the best ear in the world, and I�m not happy about it!� Hill said.
While STEP offers low-income youth an opportunity to become intricately involved in theater while holding down a job, Hill has another cross to bear, that of being a gay teenager.
Courtez came out to his parents about three years ago, a traumatic step for most teenagers.
�They took it very well,� he said. �The always supported me.�
STEP, in addition to providing an avenue through which youth can express their artistic ability, is also a paying job. Students get paychecks for the ten-week after-school rehearsals and the nine weeks of performances.
�I have always felt that I didn�t want a regular job,� Hill noted. �I wanted something fun, too, so I applied and got into CPT.�
Unlike a large number of gay teens, Courtez says that his school life at Cleveland�s John Marshall High was relatively harmonious, free from the harassment and violence that mars the educations of so many queer youth. He is now home-schooled.
�School for me was very easy,� he confided. �People are now accepting more and more.�
Despite the peacefulness of his teen years, he does have advice for those facing adversity because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
�Anyone who is having trouble should just believe in yourself and your friends,� he said. �It will be all fine in the end.�
Of course, Courtez put himself forward to interest people in the show, not just to give words of encouragement to his peers.
�I think people should see the Emerald Bird because, over our tour, the feedback has been wonderful,� he said. �The final stop at CPT will be the most professional because of the lighting and sound system.�
�And besides,� he continued, �the story is great!�
The Tale of the Emerald Bird will play on Friday, April 9 at 7 pm, and Saturday, April 10 at 3 and 7 pm.
Tickets are $5 for adults, free for children under 13 when accompanied by an adult. The performances will be in the Upstairs Theater of CPT at 6415 Detroit Ave, and tickets can be reserved by calling 216-6312727. For more information, log onto www.cptonline.org.
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