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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
February 13, 2004

A sad day for Ohio

Taft signs �defense of marriage� act,
claiming it is not intolerant

Columbus--Claiming that the measure is �not a law of intolerance,� Ohio Governor Bob Taft signed the anti-gay �defense of marriage act� on February 6.

�It�s a sad day for Ohio,� lamented Ohioans for Growth and Equality president Tim Downing, who had lobbied against the measure.

The new law, which takes effect May 6, re-states Ohio�s existing strong public policy against same-sex marriages. It also makes recognition of �statutory benefits of legal marriage� against the strong public policy of the state for unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The amended Senate version was passed by the House February 3.

The �statutory benefits� language, denying all state benefits to such couples and closing the door to any future ones, makes this law the most far-reaching of similar measures passed by 37 other states.

The language could be used in court attempts to place unmarried or divorced couples outside the reach of domestic violence laws and some child custody orders.

Taft took the unusual step of issuing a written statement with his signature. His spokesperson Orest Holubec said the governor wrote the statement himself before the House concurred with the Senate�s version.

�Because the effects of this act have been misunderstood and inaccurately portrayed in the media, it is important for me to state my reasons and to explain what the act does and does not do,� wrote Taft.

He cited the recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision requiring that state to license same-sex marriages as a reason to sign the bill.

�Four judges in another state should not, and cannot, hold the power to redefine marriage in Ohio,� said Taft.

�One source of confusion about the effect of H.B. 272 may arise from its denial to other relationships those �specific statutory benefits� that accrue to married couples under Ohio law,� acknowledged Taft.

�Statutory benefits� still unclear

The governor�s next words conflict with House floor statements made by the bill�s sponsor, Republican Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, as to what the otherwise undefined �specific statutory benefits� may or may not include.

Taft said, �Even as H.B. 272 reaffirms Ohio�s marriage laws, it does nothing to diminish benefits or rights currently enjoyed by non-married domestic partners in our state.�

Seitz, on February 3, repeated his assertion that �We want to make it clear that wherever we find the word �spouse� in the code, we�re talking about one man and one woman married to each other.�

The word �spouse� appears in the Ohio Revised Code more than 700 times. It is part of many laws, including those dealing with domestic violence, guardianships, custody orders granted by other states, name changes, and private contracts entered into by non-married couples.

Taft�s statement attempts to interpret �specific statutory benefits� by paraphrasing a footnote in Seitz� sponsor testimony to the House Juvenile and Family Law Committee October 8. The footnote suggests that it means only four rights of married couples concerning inheritance and testimony against a spouse.

Neither sponsor testimony nor gubernatorial press releases are admissible as evidence in court. Once that was pointed out to him, Seitz, an attorney, never again made reference to the footnote.

Holubec was asked to explain why the governor believes his interpretation would sway courts more than Seitz�s statement about the word �spouse.� He refused.

Statement has a familiar ring

�First and foremost, this is not a law of intolerance,� wrote Taft, �I do not endorse, nor does this law provide for, discrimination against any Ohio citizen.�

Taft continued, �It is important that our message be one of tolerance, free of prejudice. This new law meets that test and sets an appropriate balance.�

Asked why the people most affected by the law feel so discriminated against, Holubec said, �That�s an argument to take up with them.�

�The statement speaks for itself,� said Holubec, �It says what it says.�

Taft�s office issued a similar response in 1999 to criticism he got for replacing a 1983 executive order protecting gay and lesbian state workers from discrimination with a new one that didn�t include them.

Taft claimed that gays and lesbians would have more protection than before.

Cleveland employment attorney Tim Downing, who now heads Ohioans for Growth and Equality, said at the time that Taft�s new order was �not worth the paper it�s written on.�

Asked if this disparity means the governor is insensitive to GLBT people, Holubec said this week, �I�m not going to answer that.�

�How are we improving jobs?�

�My New Year�s resolution is to spend every day doing all I can to create jobs for Ohioans,� said Taft in his January 28 State of the State speech. �With every decision we make, with every bill we pass, every budget we approve, we must ask ourselves: How are we improving Ohio�s climate for jobs?�

DOMA is opposed by major corporations including NCR of Dayton for its possible interference in their ability to recruit employees and offer benefits.

At an Ohioans for Growth and Equality press conference before the February 3 House vote, Mary Mason of Missing Lynx Systems, Inc., a high tech California firm looking to move to Cleveland, said if DOMA becomes law, they will not move to Ohio because the principals of the company will not live in a state that is not open and affirming.

Also speaking at the conference was Rod Frantz, president of the consulting company formed by Rise of the Creative Class author Richard Florida.

Frantz�s company is currently consulting with Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, teaching that tolerance of people outside the norm is critical to attract bright people to cities.

Asked how the bill improves Ohio�s climate for jobs, Holubec replied, �It brings us in line with the other 37 states with DOMA laws.�

Second-class citizens

�If Governor Taft truly believes this bill is good for Ohio, let him look into the eyes of those he has excluded,� said Downing. �Let him tell the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of millions of Ohioans--our brothers and sisters--that he hasn�t made them second class citizens.�

�This is the most regressive bill of its kind in the nation,� said Downing. �No statement seeking to justify his action can counter the facts. There is a reason why this bill has been the subject of national attention and derision.�

Downing said the fight is not over for OGE or the GLBT community.

�As the public learns more about this bill,� said Downing, �the public will be outraged.�

�There will be lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law,� Downing added, �and there will be demands made on the legislature to push through pro-active legislation with lightning speed, as they did this legislation, to prove that they are not really anti-gay.�

Bills introduced last year by State Rep. Dale Miller and State Sen. Dan Brady would outlaw job discrimination by sexual orientation. Neither Miller�s H.B. 147 nor Brady�s S.B 77 have moved.

Downing added that the newly-formed OGE political action committee will raise money to target lawmakers who supported the bill for defeat, both Democrat and Republican.

�It�s what the other side did ten years ago,� said Downing, �and now they are reaping the reward. It�s going to cost money, but we will start acting like adults and do it, so we can target people like Seitz for defeat.�

Columbus attorney Mary Jo Hudson, who is also a spokesperson for OGE, said the worst thing is that the law will cause people to suffer directly and indirectly until it can be challenged.

�It will have at the least a chilling effect in the public sector,� said Hudson. �We will need to be vigilant and wrestle it down in the courts.�

Referendum on DOMA

Democratic Rep. Mike Skindell of Lakewood agreed that the bill will hurt Ohio economically, but is not optimistic that Dale�s or Brady�s bills will move.

�It won�t happen with the current [Republican] party in control,� said Skindell, suggesting that the law could also be challenged by voter referendum.

�Put the benefits section on the ballot,� suggested Skindell.

�It�s just bad all the way around,� said Rep. Dale Miller of Cleveland, who is the minority whip, and led the opposition to the bill in the House.

�Even in the 21st century,� said Miller, �some people are being treated as second class citizens.�

 


Campaign kicks off to repeal Article 12

With issue�s place on ballot assured,
effort now turns to November�s election

Cincinnati--Over 45 civic supporters gathered at Christ Church Cathedral on February 9 to officially launch the Citizens to Restore Fairness campaign to repeal Article 12 of the city charter.

Backed by the group�s small paid staff, around 700 volunteers have collected over 13,000 signatures, twice the 6,771 needed to get the repeal initiative on November�s ballot. The petition drive was completed three months ahead of schedule.

The 11-year-old measure prohibits the city from passing any measure protecting gays, lesbians or bisexuals. It makes Cincinnati the only city in the nation to specifically deny one group of people protection against discrimination.

Repealing it would rebuild, in the words of former U.S. Attorney Sharon Zealey, �tolerance, education, and compassion� for gay men and lesbians living and working in the city.

Zealey, a leading civil rights attorney now in private practice, joined five other speakers at a news conference to kick off the drive for voters to overturn the charter amendment.

CRF has raised about $250,000, three-quarters from local sources such as Procter and Gamble, whose world headquarters are in the city. Other large supporters include the Human Rights Campaign and Wilder Foundation.

�We�re confident we have the resources to win,� said CRF chair Gary Wright.

In an annual campaign finance report filed in late January, CRF reported contributions of $199,620 in cash, goods, and services in 2003.

The pro-Article 12 Equal Rights, Not Special Rights Committee, run by suburbanite Phil Burress, did not file an annual statement.

In 1993, Burress� group outspent its opponents to get Article 12 passed by voters as Issue 3. It reported $505,526, compared with $198,362 by pro-gay Equality Cincinnati.

CRF�s success now is �a sign of just how much has changed since 1993,� Wright said. �The mainstream of Cincinnati supports tolerance and fairness for everyone, including gays and lesbians, and it�s a movement that will grow. Barring the doors of City Hall to only one group of people is wrong. There is no way to avoid the truth.�

Wright oversees the Global Trends Group at Procter and Gamble and is co-founder of GABLE, the company�s support group for GLB employees

�Legal discrimination against gays and lesbians here will end November 2,� pledged Zealey. �Many people have signed and agreed that this law must go. This campaign marks the beginning of the end to discrimination against GLBT persons. Article 12 is an appalling part of our charter that diminishes our city and us.�

Before Issue 3 passed, Cincinnati was named �America's Most Livable City,� noted CRF board member Robert Harris.

The word about Article 12 is out across the nation, said business owner Jack Rouse. He has a straight friend in Los Angeles who has heard about the measure.

Head of a design and production company that bears his name, Rouse said he has �a 100 percent commitment to fairness and equality.�

�The real cost is the loss of young, talented people who want to raise children in a community of tolerance,� said Rouse. �Creative young people will move to Louisville, Covington and Lexington, or Indianapolis.� With Article 12, �we won�t stay in the game anymore. It is antiquated, bizarre, and insidious.�

He has high hopes for CRF�s voter education drive. �I�d like to repeal this with an overwhelming number of votes, to tell the world we are still in the pursuit of freedom here. The character of our community matters.�

Asked about the importance of registering voters, Wright said CRF would �focus on those who we feel will turn out to vote, but we will not neglect new voters.� Ohio law allows 17-year-olds to register if they will turn 18 by November 2.

�This struggle,� said veteran civil rights activist Rev. Damon Lynch Jr., � is �not about P.C., but C.C. Not politically correct, but constitutionally correct. We are equal in the eyes of God.�

Rev. Paula Jackson, who has counseled young people when they were harassed for being gay, said, �It�s time to redefine the boundaries of civility�

CRF has an honorary board of advisors with 41 civic leaders and a 14-member board of directors that includes Zealey and former Procter & Gamble executive Lynwood Battle.

Cincinnati councilmember David Crowley, who has a gay son in New York and a lesbian daughter in Washington, D.C., advises the committee.

�Article 12 clearly turned out to be detrimental to development in Cincinnati,� Crowley told Governing magazine. �We have racial problems and other economic problems, too, but then we have this added burden we�re carrying around, that [this] is the only city in the country prohibited from taking any action to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.�

The press conference was closed by Rabbi Robert Barr, founder of Congregation Beth Adam, who urged supporters to �right the wrong of discrimination against gays and lesbians.�

�It is time to end this injustice, this repugnant doctrine� Barr said. �Justice and righteousness, as the Bible says, is like a mighty river.�

Citizens to Restore Fairness can be contacted at 513-6757892 or www.CitizensToRestoreFairness.org.

 

 


Interim director Riley will be permanent head of CATF

Columbus--The board of the Columbus AIDS Task Force on February 5 chose interim executive director Aaron Riley to fill the position permanently.

Riley stepped into the interim role last year following Sue Crumpton�s departure in March. He had been serving as the director of client services before Crumpton left.

�He definitely showed himself to be the person who could carry the torch and lead the organization to where the board of directors think it should go,� said board president Jason Calhoun.

Calhoun noted that Riley, an openly gay African American, was �demonstrably superior� to the other applicants for the position. There were over 50 candidates for executive director, although Riley was the only applicant from within the organization.

Riley joined the staff as director of client services in 2000. He had previously been involved in AIDS work in Memphis, Tennessee, while working for the United Way of the Mid-South. Friends of his had suggested he get back into working in the HIV field, which he remembered as being very emotional and intense. When the position at the Task Force opened, he took the opportunity.

When Crumpton left, she told the board that she believed Riley was �executive director material.�

Riley was humble in talking about the change from interim to permanent executive director.

�I feel like the change is a subtle one,� he noted. He now feels able to make more �long-term, systemic changes.�

Before he had been given the nod by the board, he asked himself of those changes, �Is that really my place as the interim executive director?�

The next step for the organization is the completion of a plan for the next one to three years.

�We started a strategic planning process,� Riley noted, positing that the decision to plan out three years was deemed more feasible than a five-year forecast.

One of the things Riley wants to focus on is public relations and marketing, bringing the organization and the disease to the fore in Columbus.

�There seems to be some apathy and complacency in the community regarding HIV and AIDS,� he said. He noted that, with the rise in transmission among gay men, the group will have to find �new and creative� ways to get their message across, while redoubling earlier efforts that proved successful.

Riley is also trying to position the organization to do more community-based testing. He feels that the stigma attached to HIV makes it more difficult for people to go into a clinical setting to be tested for the disease, which also makes it harder to halt the spread of the virus.


Open Hand lays off staffer, asks for financial help

Columbus--One of the city�s AIDS service organizations announced a staff cutback due to financial difficulties on February 6, issuing a call for help before more cuts are necessary.

Project Open Hand Columbus was forced to lay off volunteer and food coordinator Sarah Goetz, who supervised the cooking and delivery of meals and worked with most of the volunteer staff of the organization. The agency provides meals to homebound people with HIV, a food pantry, nutritional services and a snack program.

The cut was made necessary by a financial shortfall and the loss of a $20,000 city grant.

The responsibilities of Goetz�sposition have been delegated to the two remaining paid staff members and to members of the board.

David Todd, the board chair, stressed that no services have been cut, but if more financial resources are not found by early April, some cuts may be necessary.

�The person we laid off has been a longtime employee and volunteer,� Todd said. �It was probably one of the most difficult decisions any of us have had to make on the board.�

He blamed the current economic climate for the organization�s difficulties, noting that donations are down for most non-profit organizations, while potential donors are being solicited for funds by many groups.

There is some light on the horizon for Project Open Hand, however.

�The [May 2] AIDS Walk has always done well for us,� Todd said, noting that the group�s volunteers have generally brought in a large number of pledges. There is also a new grant committee looking into securing more funds for the organization.

What they would really like to see, Todd said, are people committing to regular monthly donations.

�That gives us ongoing sustaining help,� he noted.

He also pointed out that the group�s own fundraising events occur in late summer and fall. �If we get through to June, we have some things coming up, and we should be in good shape,� he concluded.


New amendment might convert marriages into CUs

 

Boston--On the eve of the state�s February 11 constitutional convention, lawmakers introduced a new amendment that would bar same-sex couples from marrying but create civil unions in the state. The measure would convert existing gay and lesbian marriages into civil unions.

The convention is a meeting of both houses of the state legislature to consider proposed constitutional amendments. Lawmakers were originally going to consider a proposal that would simply bar same-sex marriage.

The amendments are intended to overturn a November 18 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court that existing laws against same-sex marriage violate the state constitution. The court clarified that ruling last week to say that civil unions would not satisfy the constitution, pointing out that �separate but equal is seldom, if ever, equal.�

The court set a deadline of May 17 for city clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

An amendment, if passed, must be passed again by a second convention next year, then sent to the voters in 2006. Even if they approve it, same-sex couples will have been marrying for 2� years.

The original amendment would have simply attempted to nullify those marriages. The new proposal would turn them into civil unions upon ratification of the amendment.

Gay equal rights activists and the religious right both oppose the new amendment. The far-right forces oppose any recognition of same-sex relationships, while the pro-gay forces point out that the SJC made it clear that civil unions would create a second-class status for same-sex couples.

Advocates for same-sex couples admit, however, that support for their cause has been waning since the court�s November decision. The ruling sent a shock wave throughout the country, lending momentum to �defense of marriage� acts and amendments proposed in over a dozen other states, including one signed into law by Ohio governor Bob Taft last week.

A hundred of Massachusetts� 199 legislators must approve a marriage ban amendment to send it to a second vote in the next legislative session. (A 200th seat is vacant.)

The new proposal was set to be the first item on the agenda when the constitutional convention convened at 2 pm, and legislators expected the debate to last for at least a day.�����


 

Gotta dance

Bill T. Jones returns for a retrospective
of early works

Columbus--Bill T. Jones, out black dancer and choreographer, is one of the most important names in contemporary American dance. Over the past 20 years, he has created a prolific body of works, both important in terms of choreography, and also in terms of social, cultural, and political relevance.

Ohio audiences have been privileged to see Jones�s evolution over the last decade, since he has been a regular fixture in the Wexner Center�s dance series year after year. He returns to Columbus February 17 for his fifth appearance at Wexner.

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company made its Columbus debut in 1991 with a performance of Last Supper at Uncle Tom�s Cabin (The Promised Land). The company received the Wexner Center Residency Award in the 1994�95 season to complete the landmark work Still/Here during an intensive month-long creative residency. Since then, they have been back with We Set Out Early . . . Visibility Was Poor in 1998 and the evening-length work You Walk? in 2001.

This year the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will perform The Phantom Project�20th Anniversary Season, an evening that revisits some of the company�s landmark works and features a new piece in celebration of its anniversary.

The pieces for the upcoming Wexner Center program were selected from the earlier years made with his partner in life and art, Arnie Zane. The evening will also feature a brand new work that reveals the direction of Jones�s current explorations and how this springs from an evolutionary process of Jones the man, the dancer, the social observer.

One of the hallmarks of Jones�s works is that he has challenged the dance world and society at large about what it takes to be a dancer. He has often used performers with non-traditional dancer�s bodies and people with varying levels of physical ability. He has in essence, focused on the humanity of the dance world over the usual obsessions with body and type.

This evening will feature Blauvelt Mountain (A Fiction). This is one of the duets that first signaled arrival of Jones and Zane in the dance world. In Another Another History of Collage, Jones reimagines Another History of Collage, the last piece Zane contributed to prior to his death from AIDS. The program concludes with Mercy 10 x 8 on a Circle, the companion piece to Jones�s most recent dance theater epic.

Immediately preceding this commemorative performance, Bill T. Jones will discuss the journey of his 20-year career with the audience. The free �Bill T. Jones in Conversation� will be held at 7 pm in the Wexner Center�s Film/Video Theater, 1871 North High St.

The performance of The Phantom Project�20th Anniversary Season is Tuesday, February 17 at 8 pm in Mershon Auditorium, 1871 North High St, and is presented in association with the King Arts Complex of Columbus.

Tickets can be obtained from the Wexner Center box office,� 614-2923535, and from Ticketmaster, 614-4313600.

 

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