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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 2, 2004

Suit dismissed against hate crime ordinance

Technicality trips up claim that Cincinnati measure is against Article 12

Cincinnati--A lawsuit against the city�s new gay-inclusive hate crime ordinance was dismissed December 22, but on a technicality, not on its merits.

The suit, filed April 9 in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, claimed that the city abused its powers by passing the measure and asked the court to prohibit its enforcement.

The suit said that the ordinance violates the city charter�s Article 12 prohibiting any measure protecting gays, lesbians or bisexuals. It was filed by city council member Sam Malone, State Rep. Thomas Brinkman, Jr., and Cincinnati resident Mark W. Miller.

City Solicitor J. Rita McNeil told city council before it passed the measure last February that it doesn�t violate Article 12. It is directed at criminals, she said, not their gay or lesbian victims. Her predecessor Fay D. Dupuis echoed that in May, 1999.

But the judge did not rule on that. Instead, he said the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the suit because the law didn�t affect them.

The three are the remaining city residents of the group Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which formed to campaign for Article 12�s passage in 1993.

ERNSR is chaired by Phil Burress, who is also the head of the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values. The three plaintiffs are represented by CCV attorney David Langdon.

Langdon, who also drafted the �defense of marriage� bill passed in December by the Ohio House, represents Burress� enterprises.

The suit was a taxpayer action, meaning it was for the benefit of the citizens only, and the plaintiffs could not seek monetary damages.

Judge Norbert A. Nadel dismissed the suit on procedural grounds without any comment on the Article 12 issue. He ruled that Malone, Brinkman and Miller have no standing to bring the action, even as taxpayers.

Nadel noted that, since they have not claimed to have committed a hate crime covered by the measure, it can�t apply to them.

City attorney Richard Ganulin filed the motion to dismiss the case on June 11, arguing that the plaintiffs have no standing, and that to proceed, the court would �only be unlawfully issuing an advisory opinion.�

Nadel agreed, and wrote, �Plaintiffs have not alleged . . . that they are subject to enforcement of the challenged ordinance against themselves nor have they alleged that the challenged ordinance has been enforced against anyone.�

Ganulin said he agrees with the judge�s decision.

Langdon said the case was dismissed on a �narrow procedural issue� and that the plaintiffs are �leaning toward� an appeal in the First Ohio District Court of Appeals.

�That appeal would be limited to the parameters of the taxpayer action,� said Langdon, �and be fairly simple.�

Langdon said in the meantime, someone convicted under the hate crime ordinance would have standing to challenge the law as a defense.

�That seems to be the way Judge Nadel thinks it should be challenged,� said Langdon.

�This is the first battle in what could be a long war with many up and down battles,� said Langdon of the decision.

Langdon said that if his clients prevail on appeal, the case would go back to Nadel to decide the merits of the case, which could take until 2005, or 2007 if the Ohio Supreme Court eventually hears it.

 


CSX adds gays to its anti-bias policy

Railroad was latest on New York City
pension funds� list to make move

Jacksonville, Fla.--CSX Corporation, a rail transportation company with a large amount of track in Ohio, announced in December that it is adding �sexual orientation� to its equal employment policy.

The change came after the company was notified by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson that the city�s pension funds, which own over 565,000 shares of CSX stock, would be filing a shareholder resolution to add gays and lesbians to the policy.

Dan Murphy, a spokesperson for CSX, referred to the change as �the right thing to do.�

The largest of the New York City pension funds, of which Thompson controls five, is the New York City Employees Retirement System, or NYCERS.

NYCERS in 2002 cracked Cracker Barrel, the �down-home� restaurant chain that earned a bad reputation in the 1990s by firing nearly a dozen employees for being gay. Cracker Barrel agreed in 2002 to add sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy.

The pension fund is filing resolutions at an additional ten Fortune 500 companies for 2004, including Akron�s Goodyear, Waste Management and Exxon-Mobil, a perennial target of the pension fund�s equality efforts.

Prior to merging with Exxon in 1999, Mobil barred discrimination against gay and lesbian workers. But the new oil giant followed Exxon�s policy, which did not.

Exxon-Mobil officials contend that their current policy complies with federal law and is sufficient.

Pension and mutual fund supervisors, however, point out that over 160 states and municipalities bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, and Exxon-Mobil operates in many, if not all, of them.

Four cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle, have ordinances requiring contractors to provide equal treatment and benefits for gay and lesbian workers.

This is the fourth time that NYCERS has filed a resolution with Exxon-Mobil. The pension fund owns about $446 million worth of the company�s stock.

At J.C. Penney, one of the companies targeted in 2003 by NYCERS, the resolution to add sexual orientation received 93% of the vote at the shareholder meeting after the company announced its support for the measure.

�We expect the companies in which we invest city pension funds to hire and promoted employees based on their qualifications and performance,� finance commissioner Martha E. Stark told Newsday. �It�s good policy and good business.�


State worker union votes to
oppose anti-marriage bill

Columbus--The largest state employee labor union voted December 13 to work against the so-called �defense of marriage act� in the Ohio Senate.

The� bill, which passed the Ohio House of Representatives December 10, blocks state recognition of same- sex marriages and denies all unmarried couples, same-sex and opposite-sex, the �benefits of legal marriage.�

Sally Meckling, spokesperson for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said, �We are opposed to any bill that inhibits our ability to collectively bargain for our members, and we think this bill does that.�

�This is a labor issue,� said Meckling, adding that decision to oppose the bill was passed by motion at their most recent board meeting, three days after the House vote.

Meckling said that the board meets every other month, and met in October, but she did not know why the issue wasn�t taken up in October. The bill was introduced in the House September 9.

A companion bill introduced in the Senate April 1 has not been assigned a committee.

The bill�s House sponsor, Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, maintained until the day it passed that the measure would not deny benefits. But during floor debate that day, he said it would affect public employee benefits.

Seitz told the Gay People�s Chronicle September 26 that in order for a benefit other than marriage itself to be denied, it would have to be denied by a specific state law.

�Since it�s not,� Seitz said, �those benefits don�t qualify.�

Before the bill came to the House floor, Seitz also denied that it� would affect local governments� ability to offer employees domestic partner benefits.

Once debate began, Seitz said that the bill does affect public employee benefits, especially those of state workers. He said it also affects state pension benefits, which are bargained for by state employee unions.

�The bill limits our ability to bargain,� said Meckling. �I don�t understand why [Seitz] thought this bill didn�t include state benefits.�

Meckling said the union�s statement in opposition to the bill will be widely circulated and local chapters will actively lobby for defeat of the bill in the Senate.


2003: A year of extremes 2004:
A year of opportunity

Measuring the fortunes and impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of the year just passed is complex, and includes many events.

If the LGBT community were a commodity, its price at the end of the year would probably be a little higher at the end than at the beginning, though the market swings along the way have been extreme and often humbling.

By far the most significant event was the U.S. Supreme Court�s June ruling against sodomy laws in the Lawrence v. Texas case. While many of the remaining 13 state laws against oral and anal sex applied to heterosexuals as well, they were an albatross around the neck of the lesbian and gay equal rights movement. Even though few people were prosecuted for breaking these laws, as long as LGBT people were presumed criminals, their effect on people�s lives was profound.

Had the high court allowed the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision upholding them to remain the law of the land, it would have been the end of any real progress for LGBT equality.

The backlash to Lawrence

In this year of extremes, every positive development was met with an equal and opposite one, and the Lawrence decision was no exception.

In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia opined that if homosexual behavior could not be considered criminal, then there was nothing remaining to prevent same-sex marriage.

Even though many were encouraged by Scalia�s words, that statement has been at the basis of nearly everything that set the community�s collective stock price tumbling since.

Scalia�s statement was all the anti-gay movement needed to trade at a higher price, and the pro-gay movement�s relative lack of preparedness for the backlash has made for some rough going.

Same-sex marriage had been an issue in play for a while, percolating below the surface, but after Lawrence it became the single most polarizing issue of the �culture war,� surpassing even abortion. The 2004 presidential election could turn on gay marriage.

During 2003, Belgium became the second nation to grant full civil marriage to same-sex couples, after the Netherlands in 2000. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia followed.

Suddenly, the community finds itself under attack again, with a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman, regardless of what individual states might want to do. Pundits and talking heads are on the news discussing lesbian and gay lives, some with little knowledge, and many times with the sensitivity of a discussion of pork bellies.

Polling on same-sex marriages and on how much value Americans place on LGBT equality were all over the board in 2003. But most informative is what Democratic presidential candidates are telling us.

Campaigns are run by consultants who are skilled and want to win. It is no comfort that none of the nine candidates proclaimed by the mainstream media to be �electable� or even competitive favor full civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The three who favor same-sex marriage are considered �fringe� candidates, and are now being asked why they are still in the race. Their stand for same-sex marriage is always listed as a reason for their disfavor.

While one would think this reality check on the collective value of the LGBT community is cause for alarm, those anointed to tell the community what they should and should not be alarmed about have been remarkably silent on this one, some even supportive of candidates opposed to marriage.

The military�s policy banning openly gay servicemembers, known as �don�t ask don�t tell,� turned ten years old in 2003. Even with the nation at war, and increasing opposition to the policy from within the military, there is no sign of its repeal, another marker of the value of LGBT Americans.

In 2003, the community�s value was measured by the cultural institution of organized religion, again with reasons to celebrate and reasons for concern.

The Episcopal church elected Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, to be the bishop of New Hampshire.

Robinson is the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, and the highest openly gay official in any mainline Protestant denomination.

Like nearly all other mainline Protestant denominations, the Episcopalians were already torn over LGBT issues, with the progressives wanting to move the denomination to become more affirming and the conservatives claiming that doing so would end Christendom as it is now known.

Robinson�s election split Anglicans farther than other denominations have split.

Pope John Paul II attacked LGBT families repeatedly in 2003, and the Presbyterian church ousted Cincinnati minister Rev. Peter Van Kuiken for presiding over same-sex unions and calling them �marriages.�

While the community is accustomed to attacks from religious conservatives, these downward pressures on its stock price are another reminder that its gains in 2003 are fragile.

LGBT issues can win at the polls

Some of the most exciting LGBT activity happened in Ohio�s cities in 2003.

Cleveland Heights provided Ohio LGBT people with the year�s longest ray of hope when voters passed the city�s domestic partner registry.

The victory in the inner-ring Cleveland suburb is bigger than just the establishment of the registry. It is proof that LGBT issues can win at the polls if the public is engaged and told the truth.

The Cleveland Heights victory also validated the organizational structure and the strategy needed to dispose of another albatross, Cincinnati�s Charter Article 12.

That measure, passed by voters ten years ago as Issue 3, bars the city from enacting any ordinance protecting lesbians, gays or bisexuals from discrimination.

Citizens to Restore Fairness began organizing and canvassing neighborhoods in 2003 in preparation for a repeal vote in November 2004. The outcome looks promising.

Cincinnati was also boosted by passage of a hate crime ordinance protecting LGBT citizens. This vote signaled a sea change in Cincinnati politics and public opinion.

Equal Rights Not Special Rights, the anti-gay group behind Article 12, sued the city, claiming that the hate crime law violated it. That suit was dismissed on a technicality, allowing the law to stand for now.

Additional pressure for Cincinnati to become more LGBT-affirming came from across the Ohio River when Covington, Ky., unanimously passed a civil rights ordinance protecting LGBT people from all the discriminatory practices legal in Cincinnati.

Big cities stand still on benefits

Other cities, however, posed challenges for the LGBT community.

Cleveland has done nothing to pass domestic partner benefits for its employees, even though supporters believe there are enough city council votes to pass it.

Columbus� �household benefits� proposal, of which LGBT employees and their families would be the biggest beneficiaries, died in city council.

Controversy over the opening of a gay bathhouse in Columbus irritated dormant tensions between conservative African-American leaders and the LGBT community.

The tensions and political wrestling that followed was another reality check on the value of LGBT people in Ohio�s capital, ending with the leaders of Stonewall Columbus at odds with city officials.

Openly gay Toledo city council member Louis Escobar was elected council president in 2003, while two openly gay city council candidates in Lakewood, Jeremy Elliott and John Farina, were defeated at the polls.

No openly gay Ohioan holds an office higher than city council.

Lakewood�s longtime mayor, Madeline Cain, was also defeated, pointing to her decision to fly a gay pride rainbow flag in front of city hall in June as a reason.

The flag controversy, which drew national attention, split the city and brought to the surface considerable anti- gay sentiment.

Massachusetts propels Ohio DOMA

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in November changed that state�s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The court asserted that same-sex couples must be treated equally. Then it reminded them how unequal they are by allowing a 180 day grace period that could result in a separation-of-powers struggle, delay, civil unions, or a constitutional amendment making the decision moot.

Still, Massachusetts was the bogeyman driving the Ohio House passage of a �defense of marriage act,� which is the most threatening legislation in the state since the Ohio sodomy law was repealed in 1972.

The measure is known as a �super DOMA� because it also makes benefits typically associated with marriage �against the strong public policy of the state� for unmarried couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex.

Bills to change Ohio laws to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation were introduced in the House by Rep. Dale Miller and in the Senate by Sen. Dan Brady, both of Cleveland.

Because the legislators are both Democrats in Republican-dominated chambers, neither bill saw the light of day. Nevertheless, their introduction was historic as the first pro-LGBT bills ever introduced in the Statehouse.

Stakes are high in 2004

For many, the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton was a focal point in LGBT history. It brought the community together with a purpose, sowing the seeds for grassroots gains made in the 1990s.

Now, the stakes of the cultural war are higher than ever, and winning the battles will be more challenging and more expensive than ever before.

The year ahead is another presidential election year with many opportunities.

There will be no shortage of work for the LGBT community. The question is, will the community�s collective stock price rise or fall next year?


 

Oh, lamour

This year saw more Erasure
than you can shake a stick at

With the holidays over, closets bulge with well-meant but absolutely hideous clothing items. Tragic sweaters, ill-fitting pants, shirts that look like Don Ho vomited upon them were scattered far and wide by loving relatives and slightly strange friends.

The malls will be packed with people desperately trying to return these presents, lest they sneak out of the wardrobe in the middle of the night and attempt to strangle the unsuspecting recipient of the gift-wrapped horror.

The question, of course, is what to do with the money from returning all those tacky, tasteless pieces of apparel?

Buy Erasure. Buy lots of Erasure.

Erasure, for those who don�t know, is comprised of Vince Clarke and Andy Bell. Vince Clarke is the hetero �ber-producer who first came to prominence as a member of Depeche Mode, then later achieved further fame with Alison Moyet as Yaz.

After he and Moyet ended their artistic congruence, Clarke started working under the name Erasure with Andy Bell, who sounded as feminine as Moyet did masculine. In fact, the two kind of sound alike, causing many a novice to �80s dance music to confuse the two groups.

All throughout the decade, Erasure�s music could be heard on the radio, in the gay bars and dance clubs of the world. Songs like �Oh L�Amour,�� �Who Needs Love (Like That),�� �Victim of Love,�� �Chains of Love,�� �A Little Respect� and a slew of others were the beat to which many a gay man and lesbian came out.

Now, almost two decades after they first became a force to be reckoned with, they�ve released three albums in 2003, along with a DVD collection of videos and documentaries.

Other People�s Music is, as the name implies, a collection of covers, starting out with Peter Gabriel�s �Solsbury Hill� and including songs as diverse as Buddy Holly�s �True Love Ways� and the Buggles� �Video Killed the Radio Star,� incidentally the first video played on MTV.

Loveboat, consisting of new songs, presents some truly strange things. As pop as ever, there are some odd pairings in the album, like on �Freedom,� which combines an almost folkish acoustic guitar with Erasure�s typical electronic sound. �Crying in the Rain� has an almost hip-hop sound until Bell starts singing. Andy Bell and hip-hop make as much sense together as curing a headache by driving a railroad spike through one�s temple, but the song is strangely engaging.

For fans of Erasure, Loveboat�s greatest failing will be in its comparisons to their classic oeuvre. Those who are not intimately familiar with their discography, few and far between as those people are, should be able to enjoy the album for what it is: interesting, engaging music.

The band�s final album of the year is the one that fans have been screaming for, and novices can use as a primer for the winter semester of Erasure 101. Hits: The Very Best of Erasure was released as both a two-CD set and a pair of DVDs.

On the CD side, disc one contains all their big hits, along with �Solsbury Hill� and some other newer songs. The second disc is the now-obligatory �megamix,� 74 minutes of dance, dance, dance mixed by Mark Towns, a name that does not ring a bell but he might be really famous somewhere, so let�s not be too snide.

The first DVD includes 35 music videos. (Wow, that�s a lot of music videos. It takes MTV three weeks to play that many videos.)

Included are, as expected, all the classics, as well as a bunch of videos from their ABBA-esque EP and some of the newer stuff.

The second DVD contains nine performances and six documentaries used to promote the releases of the albums they covered. There�s a lot of history in this case, and a lot of it is stuff that probably has not been seen before in the U.S., like the debut of the song �Sometimes,� which aired on British television in 1986.

So, while wandering the mall with a wad of ill-gotten loot, stop by the record store and pick these babies up.

Better yet, leave the mall and go to a local, independently owned record store, if there are actually any left, and support the little guy. It would be keeping with the spirit of Erasure�s music, which is all about fighting for the freedom to be an individual.

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