Backers say petitions could fall short
Cincinnati--Faced with the possibility that the petitions they turned in last week may not have enough signatures to get on the November ballot, backers of an Ohio constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage are urging supporters to violate election law to close the gap.
Leaders of the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage sent an e-mail to supporters August 7 telling them to continue circulating petitions until the end of the month. The message was also put on their web site, www.ohiomarriage.com.
While the group can get a ten-day extension to replace any faulty signatures, they are not permitted to begin until Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell determines if they have already collected enough.
That process takes a few weeks, and Blackwell will notify OCPM when it is done. Signatures collected before then violate Ohio election law and are invalid.
OCPM filed 391,928 signatures with Blackwell on August 3 to put an amendment to Ohio�s constitution on the ballot prohibiting same-sex marriages, civil unions and all rights of non-married couples. A total of 322,899 valid signatures of registered voters in 44 of Ohio�s 88 counties are required.
However, OCPM head Phil Burress told the Gay People�s Chronicle July 23 that he expects 20 to 40 percent of the signatures will be rejected.
�That�s normal for a petition campaign,� said Burress.
Immediately after the filing, OCPM said on their web site, �It is possible that supplementary signatures could be required.�
A 20 percent rejection would reduce the filing to 313,542, which is 9,357 short of the required number.
Since OCPM turned in more than 322,899 total signatures, they qualify for the ten-day extension, but it can�t begin until signatures are counted by the county boards of election.
At press time, the counties had not yet received the petitions from the state. Processing by the counties takes two to three weeks.
Ohioans to Protect the Constitution, a group organized to defeat the anti-gay measure, has vowed to challenge the signatures in each county and has retained Columbus election attorney Don McTigue to do it.
McTigue cannot begin the challenges until the county count is complete. The challenges must be concluded in OCPM�s favor by September 23 in order to make the November 2 ballot. Absentee ballots have to be set by September 28.
�Although we have submitted a sufficient number of signatures to place the Marriage Protection Amendment on the November 2 ballot, opponents have promised a vigorous challenge to virtually everything we have done in order to keep this issue away from the voters,� says the OCPM web site.
The site further asserts that Ohio is the only state with a marriage amendment on the ballot with so much organized opposition. Up to 11 other states will vote on such measures; a Missouri one passed overwhelmingly on August 3.
A lawsuit was filed August 6 to block one from reaching the ballot next month in Louisiana.
�If they are successful in finding ways to interrupt our road to the ballot,� says the Ohio , �it could be in invalidating some of the petitions in whole or in part because of minor circulator errors.�
OCPM then asserts that OPC�s legal challenges are the reason why they would need the additional ten days, though challenges cannot occur until the petitions are processed by the counties.
OCPM is expected to get the benefits of any doubt from Blackwell, who gave Senate testimony in favor of a federal marriage ban amendment last month.
According to the Dayton Daily News, Blackwell, who is a surrogate for the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, said the campaign �asked me to help with the state DOMA effort and I agreed.�
Paid petitioners used
OCPM hired paid signature gatherers during the last two weeks of their six-week signature drive.
Burress refused to disclose any information about them at his August 3 press conference.
However, this reporter met three of them at the Stark County District Library the afternoon of July 31.
�Bob� solicited voters there with two others who stopped by briefly from other posts, including a Bush campaign event held at the Canton Civic Center earlier that day.
�Bob,� who declined to give his last name, said he worked for a company called Voter�s Voice from Florida and that he was being paid $2 per signature. State law requires disclosure of this amount.
�Bob� approached people entering and exiting the library for signatures. Some he asked if they were registered voters. Others he didn�t.
�Can I get a quick signature here?� he asked the library patrons. �We�re trying to get this on the ballot in November to keep marriage between a man and a woman.�
In a half hour, ten people signed the petition, four declined.
�Bob�s� petitions were attached to a piece of cardboard and held down with elastic. The only visible section was the signature page. The text of the amendment was positioned on the inside of the folded 11 � 17 inch sheet, so that anyone who wanted to look at it had to remove the elastic and unfold the petition.
�Bob� did not offer any additional explanation of the amendment or talk about the measure�s controversial section prohibiting the state from recognizing relationships that intend to �approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.�
Asked about the omission, he said, �I think what everyone is concerned about is marriage between a man and a woman.�
Amy Beichler of Cleveland reported a similar experience with a signature gatherer in front of Dave�s Supermarket in Cleveland�s Slavic Village.
Trish Greer of Elyria found the same thing when she encountered a signature collector in front of Marc�s drugstore in Elyria July 22.
�[Petitioners] really weren�t saying too much, and people weren�t asking about it before signing,� said Greer.
McTigue said there is probably nothing illegal about what the signature gatherers did.
�[Signers] are always free to take the elastic off and read it,� said McTigue, adding that what the gatherers did may have contributed to a pattern, but proving deception [based on what they did] is a �monumental evidenciary challenge.�
�The problem [for petitioners],� said McTigue, �is with the statement the circulator signs that says, �the electors signing this petition did so with knowledge of the contents of the same�.�
�How can they state that?� said McTigue. �There will be many who won�t even remember signing. What did the [signers] know or understand?�
Cleveland--The eighth annual Black Unity Celebration exceeded all expectations with a dozen events from August 5 to 8.
Events like the opening reception, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sweat Party and the family picnic returned while new events, including the White Fantasia party and the Majestic Voyage Lake Erie cruise brought hundreds of people out.
�It was a good weekend,� said BlackOut Unlimited executive director Jon Everett.
For last year�s event, Black Unity Celebration was spun off from BlackOut into its own organizing committee.
However, since then both co-chairs of the committee have moved out of state. Robert K. Burns now lives in Philadelphia and Antoinette Barnes in Atlanta.
This year, BlackOut reached out to a number of organizations to bring the weekend to fruition, as well as to create a wider array of events for the celebration.
The range of groups was impressive, with only a dedication to the African American LGBT community serving as a common thread. Organizations like People of All Colors Together, Platinum Productions, Black Pride, the Black Unity Celebration Committee, the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Friendship Committee came together in an unprecedented display of the spirit of the weekend, unity.
The cornerstone of the weekend was, perhaps, the Saturday morning panel discussion, �The State of Black Gay America,� for which BlackOut brought in community leaders from Detroit, New York, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles.
The speakers covered topics ranging from homophobia in the traditional black churches to the need for greater understanding of transgender issues in the larger same-gender-loving African American community.
Ramon Gardenhire, the deputy director of the Democratic National Committee�s Office of LGBT Outreach, stressed the need to vote in an administration that would bring in marginalized populations, while Hattie Alexander-Robinson, the associate minister of New Covenant Ministries in Detroit, deconstructed and displayed the fallacies of the arguments of those she termed �the religious wrong� and the �wrong wing.�
Another major change for the 2004 Black Unity Celebration was the location of the Black, Proud and Gay Family Festival, the picnic on August 8. For the last few years, the event was held at Edgewater Park, on the west side of the city. This year, it was moved to Kirtland Park, located in the heart of the city.
According to Everett, one of the ideas for the picnic was to enlarge the scope of the event, bringing in more entertainment than simply having a DJ playing music.
Had the event still been held at Edgewater, organizers would have had to obtain a special events permit to use a portion of the state park, which is more expensive than renting out all of the city-owned Kirtland Park. Organizers would have had to provide their own stage at Edgewater, while Kirtland already has a permanent one.
Also, Edgewater can only guarantee the use of the pavilions, so passersby can intrude on the festivities, even if they are homophobic or racist.
For the day, Kirtland Park was given entirely over the African American LGBT community. The smaller park, combined with the exclusivity, gave the event a more intimate feel than in past years. About 400 people turned out to eat hot dogs and chips, drink soda, listen to singers and poets, watch dancers and drag queens, and have fun with their friends.
The Cleveland Friends Committee�s White Fantasia Party was the belle of the ball, bringing out 300 people to the west side nightclub Moda, while the Sweat Party, with music by DJ Robbie Rob, had 200 people dancing at Cleveland Public Theater.
Another new event, this one organized by Black Pride, was a gospel service at Archwood United Church of Christ. Herndon L. Davis, the author of Black, Gay and Christian, gave the sermon to 135 people, three-quarters of whom were there specifically for the BUC event.
The service provided something mentioned by Alexander-Robinson at the Saturday symposium, a gay-affirming space providing a traditional African American church service.
�People stood up and started to cry,� said Everett. �To see that many people show up on Sunday morning for church was wonderful. The singing was great.�
He also noted that the seven people brought in from out of town for the symposium, some of whom then attended other events, were not simply strangers brought in for the day.
�Those people who we brought into town, we are building working alliances with them,� he said. �Jason Cooper [senior field organizer with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force], for instance, is helping us restructure our youth program. Dr. Kofi Adoma [board co-chair of the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit] is assisting us to empower our women�s program.�
Cincinnati--The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is standing by a landmark decision it delivered June 1 that protects transsexuals from employment discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The court, which is just below the U.S. Supreme Court, found that Jimmie Smith, a pre-transition transsexual and firefighter, can sue the city of Salem, Ohio, and seven of its officials for discrimination under the 1964 law. He says they tried to force him out of his job over concerns that his behavior and appearance was becoming more feminine.
The decision goes farther than any other to date in extending protection from discrimination based on sex- stereotyping to transsexuals--as well as gays and lesbians--in that it renders case law blocking the protection irrelevant.
The August 5 amended decision handed down by the court sent a strong signal that it will not agree to hear the case en banc, or by its entire bench of 22 judges.
En banc hearings serve as an intermediary step between the circuit court and the Supreme Court by occasionally overturning or amending rulings of the three-judge panel that initially heard the case.
In this case, the city, which is represented by attorney Aretta Bernard of the Akron law firm Roetzel and Andress, petitioned for an en banc rehearing on June 22.
In her petition, Bernard argued that the panel went too far in extending rights to transsexuals and claimed that the court misapplied the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins that �sex discrimination� in the 1964 law includes bias from sex stereotyping.
Smith�s attorney Randi Barnabee of Macedonia responded in July, defending the court�s earlier decision.
The city of Cincinnati attempted to file a friend of the court brief on behalf of the city of Salem. The case is similar to one they have against Philecia Barnes, a police officer who sued Cincinnati because they demoted her for being transsexual.
Barnes was awarded $322,000 by a federal jury in February, 2003.
Her case is on appeal to the Sixth Circuit. If the Smith case stands, Barnes� position against Cincinnati is strengthened.
The judges ruled July 26 that Cincinnati could not insert itself into Smith�s case.
Barnabee and city of Cincinnati attorney Richard Ganulin said the amended decision appears to be the court�s way of addressing some of the issues raised by the city of Salem, while at the same time standing by the main issues of the original ruling.
Both said that by doing what it did, the court appears to be denying the en banc request.
Bernard declined comment on the matter. She can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the amended opinion, the judges removed a paragraph that, Bernard argued, created a new protected class of transsexuals.
�That�s not a core issue of this case,� said Barnabee. �The right case for that will come along.�
Barnabee said that some of the new language is clearer and better developed with regard to the court�s understanding of gender identity disorder.
Barnabee is also pleased that the amended decision still renders the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision Ulane v. Eastern Airlines irrelevant in the Sixth Circuit.
That case denied transsexuals protection on the basis that �Congress had a narrow view of sex in mind� and �never considered or intended that [the 1964 law] apply to anything other than the traditional concept of sex.�
The amended decision left intact the language that overruled the 1992 Sixth Circuit decision in Dillon v. Frank, which stood in the way of extending the 1964 act�s sex discrimination provision to sexual orientation.
The appeals court sent the case back to the district court of Judge Peter Economus for trial.
Smith and Barnabee filed ananother suit April 14 against the city of Salem and its seven officials based on additional information learned in the process of appealing the first case. That case focuses on the city�s alleged denial of Smith�s due process rights by the city�s civil service commission.
Both cases are scheduled for conference in Economus� chambers August 30.
Bernard has until August 19 to decide what to do with the en banc request.
HRC now supports adding TGs to federal rights bill
Washington, D.C.--The Human Rights Campaign decided to support including protection for transgender persons in draft language of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act at the August 7 meeting of their board of directors.
Trans activists have worked for inclusion in ENDA from the time it was first introduced in 1994 but HRC has resisted for reasons of political strategy. Many felt that opposition from Massachusetts Democrats Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Barney Frank had been the key factor.
HRC adopted a resolution stating it �will only support ENDA if it is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity expression.� No action is expected in this Congress but it will affect the bill when it is reintroduced next year.
�Passage of ENDA is a brass ring for our community and we�re making it clear that it must have the strongest teeth possible to protect everyone,� said board cochair Tim Boggs.
�It was ten years and nine days ago, 29 July 1994, that Karen Kerin and I sat in the Senate hearing room as guests of Sen. Jim Jeffords (then R-Vermont) for a committee meeting chaired by Ted Kennedy at which the current, non-TG-inclusive ENDA was first introduced,� Houston trans activist Phyllis Randolph Frye wrote in a widely distributed e-mail.
�On that day, Karen and I were both prevented from testifying for TG inclusion by Kennedy�s staff. After the hearing, Karen and I met with lots of people in the know, asking why TG folks were omitted. The answer was always, always, always HRC. And so the struggle with HRC began.�
�And now, ten years and nine days later, that struggle ends. When HRC says it is LGBT inclusive, it truly is!� Frye wrote.
�This is an historic day for the transgender movement,� said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. �The LGBT community�s most connected organization in Congress has finally embraced transgender rights equality with those of lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights. We are confident that Congress will hear this message.�
She was among those who met with the HRC board to discuss the matter. In a background paper prepared for that meeting, Keisling explained, �A primary strategy now is showing allies in Congress that the LGBT community is absolutely united behind our inclusion.�
The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force adopted such a policy in January 1995 and eventually ten other national community organizations joined them. HRC was the last major hold-out.
Ohio shows cancelled over singers kill gays lyrics
Columbus--Homophobic rapper Beenie Man, a prime target of the British LGBT advocacy group OutRage, will not appear on three stages in Ohio.
PromoWest Pavilion, a Columbus venue where he was scheduled to perform, canceled an October 18 show after receiving calls and e-mails protesting the Jamaican star�s lyrics, which call for killing gay men and lesbians.
Andrea Sweazy of the Agora, the October 16 Cleveland stop on Beenie Man�s tour, issued a statement to those who had contacted her to speak out against the singer.
�On behalf of the Agora, I would like to thank you for expressing your concerns, and tell you that we do not advocate this type of ignorance,� she wrote. �While we do appreciate everyone�s First Amendment rights, we do agree that a line has been crossed by this performer in particular.�
�We would like to apologize to anyone who was offended to learn of this performer�s scheduled appearance at our venue, and reiterate that we do not share his beliefs,� she continued. �In fact, we are appalled by his lyrics ourselves. This show has been canceled.�
In another part of her statement, Sweazy refers to the show being brought in by an outside renter, a fact confirmed by staff at the Boardwalk in Pittsburgh, where Beenie Man was scheduled to play in October. According to the Boardwalk, Beenie Man�s tour was being booked by Mediastar Promotions and Salem cigarettes.
Staff at the Boardwalk also said that Mediastar was replacing Beenie Man on the tour due to the large number of protests and cancellations, like those at the Boardwalk, the Agora and PromoWest Pavilion. The Boardwalk forwarded their complaints to Salem, which also received complaints directly from the public.
The Royal Oak Music Theater in suburban Detroit did not answer calls to inquire if they had canceled the rapper�s show there.
Bogart�s in Cincinnati never needed to cancel. Despite appearing on some web sites as the rapper�s October 22 stop, the promoters had never reserved that date at the club.
Beenie Man�s song �Damn� contains the lyrics, �I�m dreaming of a new Jamaica, Come to execute all the gays,� while �Han Up Deh� has the line, �Hang chi chi gal wit a long piece of rope.�
�Chi chi� is derogatory Jamaican slang for queer.
Virgin Records, Beenie Man�s label, issued an apology supposedly from the rapper, whose real name is Anthony Moses Davis.
�It has come to my attention that certain lyrics and recordings I have made in the past may have caused distress and outrage among people who identities and lifestyles are different from my own. While my lyrics are very personal, I do not write them with the intent of purposefully hurting or maligning others, and I offer my sincerest apologies to those who might have been offended, threatened or hurt by my songs. As a human being, I renounce violence towards other human beings in every way, and pledge henceforth to uphold these values as I move forward in my career as an artist.�
OutRage called the apology a sham, believing it to be a publicity ploy by the record label.
A spokesman for Beenie Man�s management company was on Jamaican radio less than a week later saying that it was not intended to be an apology to the gay and lesbian community, but a blanket statement of Beenie Man�s beliefs.
OutRage managed to get a London show in June canceled with their protests, an impressive feat in an area where Jamaican dancehall rappers are immensely popular. Other European shows by the rapper were canceled as well.
The National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival
Columbus--Over the years, Frank Barnhart has worn many hats, often simultaneously. He was responsible for one of Columbus�s great GLBT theatres, the now-defunct Reality Theatre. He has taken shows to off-Broadway and had success with new plays as well as works from the GLBT canon, like Martin Sherman�s Bent and Terrence McNally�s Corpus Christi.
In the past few years, one of Barnhart�s most visible accomplishments is resuscitating the National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival and making Columbus its permanent home.
The event, which traces its roots to the 1970s, was held in Phoenix in 1992 and Los Angeles four year later. In 2002, Barnhart brought it to Columbus.
The festival returns to the capital city in September with over 80 performances of 29 different shows. Barnhart told the Gay People�s Chronicle what�s in store.
Kaizaad Kotwal: What will this festival offer that is different from the last one?
Frank Barnhart: Well, first of all, these are all new shows. There are no repeats from 2002. I also feel we have a greater diversity in subject matter and performers this time around.
KK: What are the various cities and groups being represented?
FB: We have 29 different groups this time. That�s five more than in 2002. Besides the hometown of Columbus, we also have groups from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando and Baltimore, just to name a few.
KK: What shows are coming in with the best early buzz?
FB: Of course, I wish for huge interest in all of the shows. But if I must single anyone out as a possible hit I would have to say the Oops Guys from Orlando with their production of Lounge-Zilla is sure to be a treat. I also think Elizabeth Whitney�s Pop Culture Princess and Columbus� homegrown Puppet-Queers will be audience favorites.
KK: Are gay men going to gravitate to certain things and lesbians to others?
FB: Based on attendance at the last festival, I would guess that men and women will cross over to sample works from both genres. The biggest box office hit in 2002 was a one-woman show about Lorena Hickock. It played to huge male and female audiences. The performer told me that Columbus was the first city she ever played in where she had men in her audience. I thought that said something very positive about the makeup of our community.
KK: What do straight audiences have to gain from seeing shows in this festival?
FB: First of all, these shows deal with universal issues. Anyone can relate if they allow themselves the ability. Supportive straight audiences will enjoy seeing shows that focus on issues very important to their gay friends and family members. If homophobic people were to attend, they might gain some compassion.
KK: What are some of the issues that the plays will be taking on?
FB: Sex, religion and politics. More specifically, gay marriage, gays having children, transsexualism, gay teenagers, coming out, etc. Of course, there are many light comedies as well.
KK: Are there plans already afoot for the next festival?
FB: We�re discussing turning the festival into a yearly event alternating our current series with a national playwrights festival offering original gay and lesbian plays produced by Central Ohio performers. It�s still in the talking phase, but I think it has definite promise.
The National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival runs September 9�18. Most shows are at the Columbus Performing Arts Center, 549 Franklin Ave., and 2Cos Cabaret, 790 N. High St., with a few at MadLab, 105 N. Grant Ave. Tickets are $10 per show or $40 for any five shows. A Gold Pass to see all shows is $150.
For tickets, more information and a complete schedule of performances, dates and venues call 614-2639448 or visit www.columbustheatrefestival.com.