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February 6, 2004

Miami students protest DOMA at sponsors office

Cincinnati--Thirty Miami University students drove 35 miles January 30 to picket the downtown law office of State Rep. William J. Seitz to protest his sponsorship of H.B. 272, the so-called �defense of marriage� act.

The Ohio House passed the bill 7323 December 10 and sent it to the Senate, which okayed it 18-15 on January 21 after making two minor changes. The bill was set for a House concurrence vote on the changes this week, which will send it to Gov. Bob Taft for his signature.

The measure would deny gay or lesbian couples any legal recognition. The final House vote was postponed last week until after the Republican governor�s �State of the State� address.

The protest began at 3 pm in front of the 425 Walnut St. law offices of Taft, Stettinius and Hollister, where Seitz is a partner. The firm is partly named for former U.S. senator Robert Taft, the governor�s grandfather.

�We demand domestic partnerships all across Ohio,� said Miami Spectrum�s Barrett Floore, co-chair of the group�s activism and outreach effort. �This is an assault on our life and happiness.�

�What do we want?� Floore asked. �Equality in marriage,� shouted the crowd, shivering in the 6degree cold.

Colorful signs reminded passersby of the rally�s purpose and reflected the crowd�s festive spirit: �Love is Everyone�s Right,� �Gov. Taft, we demand full dignity under the law,� �DOMA doesn�t defend marriage. It kills freedom,� and �Love transcends your law.�

Two police officers and one of the city�s �downtown ambassadors� allowed the protesters to stand still for the speeches, which is usually not allowed on city sidewalks.

Stonewall Cincinnati condemned H.B. 272�s passage as �an attempt to limit the freedoms Ohioans and Americans should have a right to enjoy under the constitutions of both the U.S. and Ohio,� said board chair John Schlagetter.

�The so-called Defense of Marriage Act is not in the compelling interest of what should be limited government in a representative democracy.�

�Ohio already distinguishes itself as being one of the least business-friendly states in the country, and with one of the highest tax burdens,� added Schlagetter, a candidate for City Council last November. �The Ohio Senate just gave people one more reason not to become Ohioans.�

Spectrum meets Thursdays at 8:30 pm in 16 Upham Hall on the Miami campus in Oxford, and is online at www.orgs.muohio.edu/spectrum.

 

 


We meant marriage, Mass. top court says

�Separate but equal� is seldom equal,
says ruling on civil unions

Boston--The Supreme Judicial Court ruled out the possibility of civil unions in Massachusetts in an advisory opinion released February 4 when it was read before the state Senate.

The court issued the opinion in response to a request from the Senate about whether Vermont-style civil unions, which convey the state benefits of marriage but not the word itself, would meet constitutional muster following the court�s November 18 ruling that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.

The Senate asked for more guidance from the court on a civil union bill that had been introduced.

�Because the proposed law by its express terms forbids same-sex couples entry into civil marriage, it continues to relegate same-sex couples to a different status,� the court said. �The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.�

The much-anticipated opinion sets the stage for the February 11 constitutional convention, where the legislature will consider an amendment to the state constitution that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Senate President Robert Travaglini had said the vote would be delayed until the advisory opinion was released.

If an amendment is passed next week, it cannot take effect until 2006, after a second passage and approval by voters. Meanwhile, same-sex couples most likely can begin marrying on May 17.

The Supreme Judicial Court�s November ruling gave the legislature until then to change state laws to introduce same-sex marriage.

But almost immediately, some lawmakers debated whether Vermont-style civil unions would satisfy the court�s decision, although same-sex marriage advocates argued that the ruling was fairly specific.

In her concurring opinion, Justice Martha B. Sosman states, �Where the state purpose of the proposed bill is to eliminate all substantive differences between those two types of couples, what conceivable purpose is served by retaining a different title for their respective licensing schemes?�

�What�s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; so Romeo would, were he not Romeo call�d, retain that dear perfection which he owed without that title,� Justice Robert J. Cordy said in his opinion, quoting William Shakespeare.

Justice Sosman and Cordy, along with Justice Francis X. Spina, believed that the term �civil union� would not necessarily detract from the ability of the bill to meet constitutional muster, but believed that it would have to be scrutinized more closely than it had been.

 

 


State of the City: Article 12 must go

Cincinnati mayor makes repeal a focus of his annual address

Cincinnati--�There is something else hanging over our heads in Cincinnati,� said Mayor Charlie Luken in his February 2 State of the City address. �It�s called Article 12.�

While Luken has in the past approved of efforts to repeal the charter amendment that bars the city from extending civil rights protections to gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, the speech marked the first time he made a formal declaration of his desire to see the measure repealed.

�In my view, it singles out one category of citizens for unfair and discriminatory treatment, and it should be repealed in 2004,� the mayor continued.

The measure passed with 62% of the vote in 1993, after an anti-gay campaign against a 1992 gay and lesbian equal rights ordinance. A federal district judge ruled it unconstitutional, but his decision was overturned by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Colorado measure but refused to weigh in on Article 12. City council repealed the equality ordinance in 1995.

Following passage of the measure, activists organized a boycott of the city, the only location in the nation with such a measure in its charter.

�Article 12 has cost the city millions of dollars, of that there can be no denial,� the speech continued. �The repeal of Article 12 is about more than money, though. It stands as a symbol that Cincinnati is willing to tolerate discrimination for one class of our citizens.�

Luken went on to refer to the 1993 campaign for Article 12 as �an expensive and slick campaign that, I think, misled voters about what was at issue. What is at issue now, as then, is discrimination, pure and simple.�

Article 12 was used as an argument in a challenge to the city�s gay-inclusive hate crime ordinance, passed in February 2003 following the New Year�s Eve murder of a young gay man, Gregory Beauchamp.

A Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas judge dismissed the suit against the city on December 22, 2003, ruling that, since none of the plaintiffs were being charged under the hate crime measure, they did not have standing to challenge it.

�I ask you and every Cincinnatian to join me today and sign yourself up for the campaign that is coming in November, to repeal Article 12,� Luken continued.

Cincinnati activists were thrilled with Luken�s speech, which they believe is the culmination of a decade of lobbying and organizing against the measure.

�We are very pleased with the mayor�s endorsement of the repeal effort,� said Justin D. Turner, the campaign manager for Citizens to Restore Fairness, the group that organized the petition drive to put the issue back before the voters.

CRF has collected enough signatures to put a repeal question of the ballot, but is waiting until the submission period opens for November�s election to turn them in. They are now canvassing the city to identify supportive voters.

�By calling for the repeal of Article 12, Mayor Luken joins a broad coalition of business, religious and community leaders who feel Cincinnati will be a much more inclusive place when we treat all our citizens fairly,� Turner continued. �So far, over 10,000 people have committed to voting yes to repeal Article 12. Our coalition is working hard to reach out to every Cincinnati voter.�

�We continue to go door-to-door having open and honest conversations with voters about the need to repeal Article 12.�

Updates on the repeal effort and information on upcoming CRF events are available on the group�s web site, www.citizenstorestorefairness.org.

The co-chairs of Stonewall Cincinnati, the city�s primary LGBT human rights organization, released a statement lauding the mayor for his support of the repeal effort.

�The important work of CRF will be aided by this stance, and puts those considering candidacy for mayor next year on notice that their position on equal rights for all citizens . . . will be a litmus test for electability,� said co-chair John Schlagetter.

�Mayor Luken�s unqualified support is a watershed event, significant for its courage in the face of silence on the issue from too many elected officials, and even open hostility from others,� co-chair Terry Payne concurred.

 


House agrees to DOMA, sends it to Taft

Columbus--The Ohio House agreed with the Senate�s changes to the anti-gay �defense of marriage act� by a 72-22 vote February 3, thereby avoiding a conference on the bill.

The bill is now headed for the desk of Governor Bob Taft, who has promised to sign it into law within ten days.

The Senate passed the House bill with two minor amendments that are largely symbolic on January 21. That vote was 18 15. The House had sent the bill to the Senate December 10 after its 73-23 vote for it.

House Democrats again attempted to stop the bill by recommending that the Senate amendments be rejected This would send the measure to conference where, they believed, they might be able to remove a controversial section denying the otherwise undefined �statutory benefits of legal marriage� to all unmarried couples, same-sex and opposite-sex, and their families.

The bill�s sponsor, Republican Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, urged members to send the bill directly to Taft.

�I support the Senate�s two and only two amendments,� Seitz said. �One was technical, in that it harmonizes the bill with a bill passed 13 years ago. The other makes explicit what I made explicit on the floor that there is nothing to prevent public sector employees from collectively bargaining for benefits.�

Democratic Rep. Mike Skindell of Lakewood said, �The amendments don�t make the section clear. I don�t understand it any better.�

�The language is convoluted and unclear,� said Skindell, �This is what concerns the corporations of this state.�

Skindell said the idea that giving same-sex couples benefits threatens the stability of marriages is �patently absurd.�

�Marriage survived Henry VIII and it even survived Lorena Bobbitt,� he said.

House Speaker Larry Householder gaveled Skindell, telling him to stick to the Senate amendments, not debate the bill itself.

Democrat Tyrone Yates of Cincinnati poked fun at Householder�s gaveling of Skindell by pausing at points in his speech to ask the speaker, �Am I speaking to the amendments?� Yates called for the House to reject the Senate amendments and send the bill to a conference where the benefits language could be taken out.

Yates then named the 11 states that have DOMA legislation, but also offer their employees domestic partner benefits.

�We are in economic competition with them,� said Yates. �Voting yes today is not our finest hour.�

Democrat Rep. Dan Stewart of Columbus said that the bill creates two unequal classes of state employees--those who can collectively bargain for the benefits, and those who cannot.

�Is it right to oppose some forms of discrimination and say others are okay?� said Democratic Whip Rep. Dale Miller of Cleveland, inferring that the bill discriminates against gays and lesbians.

�I say kill the bill,� said Miller.

Seitz spoke again in defense of the bill.

�Private corporations can do what they want,� said Seitz, adding that the letter in opposition to the bill by NCR Corporation of Dayton predated the amendments by Rep. Mike Gilb of Findlay in the House committee.

Even after the changes, however, NCR continues its opposition to the bill.

�States that have passed DOMA legislation have had a higher rate of personal income growth since 1996 than the 13 states that didn�t,� said Seitz.

Openly lesbian attorney and Ohioans for Growth and Equality spokesperson Mary Jo Hudson of Columbus later said, �I don�t know how [Seitz] lives with himself when he makes those kind of statements. None of the other DOMA bills are like this one.�

Among Republicans, only Nancy Hollister of Marietta voted against the amended bill. She also voted against the original bill on December 10.

Some Democrats voted differently on the amended version than the bill.

Claudette Woodard of Cleveland Heights voted against the original bill, but for the amended one.

John Domenick of Smithfield, Annie Key of Cleveland, and Daniel Sferra of Warren voted for the original bill, but against the Senate version.

Democrats Dixie Allen of Dayton, Sylvester Patton of Youngstown, and Shirley Smith of Cleveland all opposed the bill, but were not present to vote on the amendments. Republican Ron Young of Leroy, who voted for the bill, was also not present.

One day prior to the amendment vote, OGE held a press conference in Columbus in opposition to the bill. Hudson facilitated the event.

She was joined by Mary Mason of Missing Lynx Systems, Inc., a California firm looking to move.

Mason�s company was considering a move to Cleveland, but has told the state that 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.

At press time, Taft had not signed the bill, but observers predict he will do it quickly.

�They [the governor�s office] have already stopped saying [the governor] will wait for a legal review before he signs it,� said Hudson.


Man attacked as he is leaving gay dance club

Newport, Ky.--A gay Cincinnati man was beaten up outside a northern Kentucky gay bar January 16.

Christopher Lorman, 39, of Cincinnati and his boyfriend left the gay bar Woolly�s on Monmouth around 9 pm that night and walked across the street to the parking lot.

Newport police detective Jim Boyers, who is handling the investigation, said that three white men in their mid-20s apparently made a �gay comment� to the pair, and Lorman walked over to them. A fight occurred.

Boyers said that Lorman�s companion, 41, whose name is not being released, was behind vehicles and did not see the altercation. A statement by the boyfriend to Boyers indicates that he told Lorman to �just get in the car.�

Lorman had broken bones in his leg and jaw as a result of the attack. There were no witnesses, though four unknown men helped the boyfriend put Lorman in the car to be taken to University of Cincinnati Hospital.

Boyers said there are no suspects in the case, �but there are some leads.�

He said Lorman doesn�t remember enough of what was said to rule the attack a hate crime at this point, but as the investigation moves forward, it could be.

Kentucky has a hate crime law that includes sexual orientation.

Lorman was unable to be contacted.

Boyers said the bar is in a well lighted area �in the heart of the business district� of the city and is usually not an area with high crime.

Police are asking anyone with information on the attack to contact Crime Stoppers at 513-3523040 or 888-3523040. Information leading to a conviction may qualify for a reward.


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Couples to seek marriage licenses to protest ban

 

Toledo--Although they know that their request will be denied, Skeeter Hunt and Christina Guenther will go to the county courthouse next week and ask for a marriage license.

Already legally married in Ontario, across Lake Erie, the couple is taking part in a demonstration for National Freedom to Marry Week.

The week, from February 9 to 15, is organized nationally by a wide array of groups, ranging from Metropolitan Community Churches to the National Freedom to Marry Coalition. Events, many timed to coincide with Valentine�s Day, are being held across the country. Some will be like the one in Toledo, with same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses to protest the inequalities of limiting civil marriage and its legal and financial benefits to opposite-sex couples only.

In Ohio, where the state legislature just passed the country�s most restrictive �defense of marriage� legislation, couples are torn between the more traditional Freedom to Marry Week events and direct legislative lobbying.

�One way to celebrate freedom to marry week is to let go of any fears or reservations and educate your family, friends, coworkers and elected officials about the need for inclusion for same-sex families in the laws of our state and country,� said Karen Andermills of Columbus, one of the founders of Ohio Freedom to Marry. �In light of the bigoted legislation recently passed in Ohio, a powerful action any Ohioan can take is to call, write, e-mail and visit their elected officials and let them know we are tired of waiting for equality.�

�Another way to celebrate is to send the equivalent of an elegant dinner out and a movie to Ohioans for Growth and Equality, the statewide organization fighting for GLBT rights in Ohio, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Freedom to Marry organization, or the GLBT organization of your choice,� she continued. �While this may not seem too romantic, it will give you more time at home alone together. If you have any, have the kids stay with grandma!�

�I can�t believe Ohio passed that stupid law,� said Hunt, a founder of the Toledo Area Pride Center and a Bloomdale city council member. �It should be unconstitutional.�

The bill, awaiting the governor�s signature, is being called the �denial of benefits act� by opponents. thirty-seven similar measure in other states simply state that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. Ohio�s goes further, stating that �specific statutory benefits of marriage� cannot be granted to unmarried couples regardless of gender, which would prevent state agencies from granting health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

�It�s time for the United States of America to catch up with progressive nations such as Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands, which already provide for same-sex unions,� said Rev. Edwin Yates, the pastor of A New Life MCC in Toledo.

For more information on Freedom to Marry Week, see www.freedomtomarry.org.

 

 

 


 

Appeals court rules that state can bar gay adoption

Atlanta, Ga.--The Eleventh District U.S. Court of Appeals has dealt a blow to efforts to strike Florida�s law barring gay men and lesbians from adopting.

A three-judge panel of the court ruled January 28 that the Florida legislature was allowed to bar gay men and lesbians from adopting children, regardless of lawmakers� motivations in passing the law.

�It is hard to conceive an interest more legitimate and more paramount for the state than promoting an optimal social structure for educating, socializing, and preparing its future citizens to become productive participants in civil society,� Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. wrote in his decision. �More importantly for present purposes, the state has a legitimate interest in encouraging this optimal family structure by seeking to place adoptive children in homes that have both a mother and father.�

The three-judge panel of the court dismissed evidence indicating that psychological and children�s welfare organizations found that gays could provide a stable a home environment.

The case was filed on behalf of four gay men who were either foster parents or legal guardians and wanted to adopt the children in their care. However, under a law passed in 1977 during Anita Bryant�s heyday of stirring up anti-gay sentiment in the state, gay men and lesbians are not allowed to adopt children, even though single heterosexuals can.

Attorneys for the men pointed out that Florida law does not immediately bar substance abusers or those with a history of domestic violence from adopting, but the court disregarded the argument.

One quarter of children adopted in the state go to single-parent homes, and the Department of Children and Families has 4,799 children available for adoption throughout the state.

��I don�t think this decision is going to stand the test of time,� Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, told the Miami Herald. �We�ve got a number of different legal options, and our attorneys have not made any final decision about what our next course of action is going to be.�

Two of the options available are to request that the case be heard before the full appeals court, or appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court. A decision was expected to take at least a week.

 

 


 

17-year sentence upheld for sex with another teen

Topeka, Kansas--The state�s second-highest court on ruled on January 30 against a teenager sentenced to 17 years in prison for having sex with another teen.

Matthew Limon, a developmentally disabled youth, was convicted of sodomy after having oral sex with another youth at a group home in 2000.

At the time, Limon was 18 and the other boy was 14 years old.

The court sentenced Limon to 17 years. However, under the state�s �Romeo and Juliet� law, had the 14-year old been a girl, Limon would have been sentenced to at most fifteen months in prison.

The law provides lower penalties for consensual sexual activities when one person is under 20 and the other is four years younger or less. It only applies to opposite-sex trysts, which the American Civil Liberties Union argued presents an unconstitutional violation of equal protection guarantees.

A 2002 appeal of the case was rejected by both the Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court. The ACLU and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June asked the Kansas Court of Appeals to hear the case in light of their ruling last June striking state sodomy laws.

That request resulted in last week�s 21 split decision by the court.

�Protective legislation is permissible even though based on a classification which may seem unreasonable. For example, laws based on a sexual classification are normally considered inherently unreasonable. Sexual classifications, however, have been upheld where their purpose was to protect the morals of women,� Judge Henry W. Green wrote in the majority decision.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Joseph Pierron Jr. wrote, �Limon does not contend there should be no punishment for his acts.�

�It is the great difference in punishment, based on the sex of the participants, that is challenged,� Pierron continued. �This is important to remember because the State and the majority often appear to approach this appeal as if the issue was whether same-sex sexual relations between adults and minors should be decriminalized . . . This leads to what appear to be inappropriate arguments being put forward in defense of the disparate sentences.�

�The court�s opinion in this case defies comprehension, and we intend to seek an appeal,� said ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri executive director Dick Kurtenbach.

�The Supreme Court made it very clear that �traditional sexual mores� are no longer a legitimate rationale for discriminating against gay people,� said Tamara Lange, Limon�s ACLU attorney.

The ACLU said that they have yet to decide whether they will appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court or ask for a hearing before the full appeals court.

 

 


 

Theres nothing like a Dame

Australias true queen is on the way

Dame Edna Everage, Australia�s most famous and talented drag export, is coming to three Ohio cities as part of her brand new grand U.S. tour, beguilingly titled �A Night With Dame Edna.� This time around, Dame Edna has a special Tony Award she received for her Broadway show a few years ago, so this fabulous lass can be expected to toot her own horn more than ever before.

In her usual tone of genuine love tinged with subtle sarcasm, in the show�s press materials the Dame says, �It�s not enough to be a star on Broadway. I want to get out there where real Americans live. When you see me in your city in America, you will think I�ve lived there all my life because it�s my business to know you intimately possums. I tailor what my show to my audience. I pay them that lovely compliment. After all, they have paid me the compliment of coming. The least I can do is to give them a personalized evening�s entertainment specially made for them and something that they will never forget.�

Dame Edna is the lurid and technicolor alter-ego of Australian actor Barry Humphries. The Dame is a national phenomenon and icon in her native land. Dame Edna�s many personas include housewife, talk show host, adviser to British royalty, investigative journalist, guru and legend. It�s a wonder this multi-faceted drag queen (in every sense of the word) hasn�t gone schizo.

Dame Edna refers to herself as �possibly Jewish,� and as a widow, with three grown children, she has created a fascinating portrait of a woman from another era who does have it all--family, career, fame, wealth, panache, �lan, style, and best of all, cojones. The Dame loves to name-drop and brag about her wealth, particularly about spending her time visiting world leaders and jet-setting between her homes in Malibu, Mayfair, Melbourne, Montreux and Martha�s Vineyard.

Even in the U.S. this Aussie dame has amassed her own Yankee cult following, especially with her recurring role on Ally McBeal, as well as her several colorful appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She has also tickled many a funnybone on the game show Hollywood Squares with the out Bruce Vilanch and with other gay fave Whoopi Goldberg. Dame Edna�s greatest asset is her versatility, finding every occasion suitable to make people laugh, to take subtle jabs at the rich and famous, and to wittily probe society�s individual and collective foibles.

Humphries created a Melbourne housewife named Mrs. Norm Everage in the 1950s. It is this very normal, average woman of domestic duties who evolved into the fabulously glamorous and famous Dame Edna Everage.

There is nothing average about this Dame, from her dazzling rhinestone encrusted cat-eye spectacles to her bejeweled and sequined gowns, a cross between the glamour of yesteryear and an over-priced prom outfit circa 1980.

The Dame�s show includes songs, dancing, audience interaction and what can only be classified as a group therapy session with a therapist dressed like none seen before. Moreover, like all great satirists and comics, the Dame tailors her shows to the specificities of the town in which she performs.

As Dame Edna personally promises in her press notes, �You won�t just smile at my show possums, you will cry with laughter. Remember I stretch those laugh muscles no other show can reach!�

�A Night with Dame Edna� will be in Columbus at the Palace Theater from February 10 to 15, in Cleveland at Playhouse Square�s Palace Theater from February 17 to 29, and in Cincinnati at the Aronoff Center for the Arts from March 6 to 14. See Charlie�s Calendar for ticket information.

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