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January 9, 2004

Bathhouse chain gave $250,000 for HRC’s building

Cleveland branch owner added another $50,000

Washington, D.C.--When the Human Rights Campaign dedicated their new headquarters on October 11, 2003, the owners of the Club bathhouse chain knew their money had gone to a good home.

The board of directors of the chain, which has locations in both Cleveland and Columbus as well as seven other cities outside of Ohio, had pledged $250,000 to HRC’s building fund a month earlier.

In addition, Raymond Wolf, one of the owners, had donated an additional $50,000 out of his own pocket.

“I’m proud of [the donations], and proud of him,” said David Peifer, another owner of Club Cleveland.

The quarter-million dollar donation was agreed upon at a semi-annual meeting of the board in September, and announced publicly on January 5. Peifer said that the management had been too busy in the last few months to publicize the donation before now.

The donations, however, are not something new to the chain.

“Pretty much everything that’s in the community, we give money to every year,” Peifer said, noting that AIDS service organizations and LGBT community centers are the top priority in any city that has a Club.

In addition to the donations for the new building, for which the HRC raised $25 million, Club Cleveland sponsors the HRC Cleveland annual banquet. Peifer was not sure whether Club Columbus sponsored the HRC dinner there.

Wolf is also a major regular donor to HRC, and has been on the Federal Club Council for the last ten years.

“Frank November, David Posteraro and Tim Downing talked to me about it,” he said of the chain’s donation, referring to three HRC leaders. Wolf made the presentation at the shareholder meeting, and the vote for the donation was unanimous.

Wolf also threw a fundraiser at his Gates Mills home, leading at least one other donor to pledge $50,000, in addition to a number of smaller pledges.

“From the beginning, when Jack Campbell owned the Clubs, he was involved in the Mattachine Society and High Gear,” Wolf said. “It’s an obligation as far as I’m concerned.”

High Gear was a monthly newspaper published by the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center’s forerunner from 1975 to 1986. Mattachine was the nation’s first long-standing gay organization, from 1950 to the 1970s.

The economic downturn, which has hit non-profit organizations especially hard, has resulted in fewer financial difficulties for the Clubs.

“We have been flat for the last three years,” Wolf noted, “but we still keep our donations up.”

He also said that Club Cleveland, which opened its new Detroit Ave. facility last March, had shown an increase in business, unlike its sister locations.

 


Man and woman still can’t marry

Appeals court upholds decision to
deny marriage to a TG man

Warren, Ohio--An appeals court has upheld the denial of a marriage license to a heterosexual couple because the groom-to-be is transsexual.

Writing for a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Ohio District Court of Appeals, Judge Diane V. Grendell agreed with Trumbull County Probate Judge Thomas A. Swift that to grant the marriage license to Jacob B. Nash and Erin A. Barr of Warren would violate Ohio’s “clear public policy” against same-sex marriages.

Grendell cited overturned opinions, dissenting opinions, an advisory opinion and the yet-to-be-passed Ohio “defense of marriage act” to justify the decision. None of these carry any force of law in an appeals court.

The couple will either ask to have the case heard “en banc” by the entire six-judge court, or appeal directly to the Ohio Supreme Court, their attorney Randi A. Barnabee of Northfield Center said.

The 2-1 decision was rendered December 31. Administrative judge Donald R. Ford concurred with Grendell with a separate opinion. Judge Judith A. Christley objected with a dissenting opinion. Oral argument was held in the matter on October 22.

Nash and Barr made two attempts to get the license in 2002 and were twice denied by Swift.

Nash was born female. The state of Massachusetts corrected his birth certificate to show he is male upon completion of reassignment surgery.

Swift only knew Nash is transsexual because he granted Nash’s name change from Pamela to Jacob in 1999.

Ohio is one of only three states that deny post-operative transsexuals the right to correct their birth certificates.

Grendell is a former Republican member of the Ohio House known for being socially conservative. She is married to current Rep. Tim Grendell, a staunch DOMA supporter who took his wife’s seat when term limits prevented her from seeking re-election.

Nash and Barr argued that the probate court was wrong to hold their application to a higher standard than others seeking to marry.

During earlier hearings, it was established that Swift typically requires couples only to show a drivers license, but Nash was required to produce the corrected birth certificate. The court was already in possession of Nash’s uncorrected birth certificate, which was voided and sealed by Massachusetts for the purpose of the name change.

Nash and Barr also said Swift was wrong not to grant full faith and credit to the corrected birth certificate as the U.S. Constitution requires.

Grendell said the additional documentation required for Nash did not violate the couple’s right to equal protection because the court had reason to believe their case was different.

“[The court] was treating like cases alike and unlike cases accordingly,” wrote Grendell. “The court cannot be expected to turn a blind eye to evidence that comes before it that could possibly foreclose the issuance of a marriage license . . . In other words, this case was not the usual case and the court was required to treat this case accordingly.”

Grendell cited ten times to the 1987 In re Ladrach advisory opinion from Stark County. That opinion, which has been cited in cases nationwide because of the lack of case law pertaining to transsexuals, suggests that sex is irreversibly tied to chromosome composition and that it is the responsibility of the legislature to amend Ohio’s marriage law if it wants transsexuals to able to marry someone of the “same biological sex.”

Noting that Grendell did not distinguish the Ladrach citings as advisory in her opinion, Barnabee said, “Citing to advisory opinions is not permitted in Ohio at the appellate level.”

“This decision may have raised the stature of Ladrach because it is an appellate decision,” said Barnabee, “but it did so without scrutinizing Ladrach.

Grendell also cited a dissenting opinion by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist in a case describing how states should form public policy, and three times to Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton’s dissenting opinion in the 2002 In re Bicknell case involving a lesbian couple’s changing of their last name.

“Since the statutory language [defining marriage] in question was enacted in the 1900s, without change,” wrote Grendell, “it cannot be argued that the term ‘male’ as used at that time, included a female-to-male post-operative transsexual.”

Grendell also cited the 1984 U.S. Court of Appeals decision Ulane v. Eastern Airlines which states that Congress had a narrow definition of sex in mind when it passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, therefore, transsexuals are not covered by Title VII of that law.

That interpretation was overturned in 2002 in U.S. district court in Cleveland in the case of Susan Myers v. United Consumer Financial Services. A U.S. district court in New York also overturned Ulane in September 2003.

Grendell also cited Ohio House Bill 272, the so-called “defense of marriage act” as a reason to deny the marriage. The bill was passed by the House December 10, but has not moved in the Senate or been signed by the governor, and as such, is not an Ohio law.

In her dissenting opinion, Christley wrote, “A person reading the above examples of legislation and judicial decision making would be appalled at the generalizations and outright ignorance used by courts and legislatures to justify obviously unconstitutional laws.”


New board takes office

Following the Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Community Center’s elections during the general membership meeting on December 30, the board of directors is now Harold Keutzer, Bill Abney, Dennis Weiskop, Troy Henson, Tim Hittle, Pixie Pierce, Dawn Forte and Gay Gard.

Keutzer, Henson and Pierce were reelected, while Weiskop, Forte and Gard are new board members.

On January 3, the board voted on positions. Keutzer remains the board president, and Henson retains the position of vice president. Pierce and Hittle continue on as secretary and treasurer, respectively.

Newcomer Gard will chair the Fundraising Committee, and Abney will head the Programs and Volunteers committees. Forte will serve under Pierce on the Facilities committee, and Weiskop will head a new ad-hoc committee.

“With added board members, it makes it easier to get the work done,” board VP Henson said. “Also, with the more equitable representation of women on the board, it will bring more diversity.”

Board president Keutzer echoed the sentiment.

“We are lucky to have such a diverse group for 2004,” he said. “They will be a perfect fit as the center continues to grow.”

On Monday, January 12, the Cincinnati GLBT Center will screen the queer film Under One Roof as part of its “Monday Movie Night” program. The United Parenting Group, formed last July, continues to meet, as does the Cincinnati Youth Group and the men’s and women’s interactive groups.

For more information about all of the center’s programs, log onto www.glbtcentercincinnati.com.

--Anthony Glassman


Lakewood council asks mayor to remove Pride flagpole

Lakewood, Ohio--City council voted 6‑0 on January 5 to ask the mayor to remove a flagpole installed last June to fly a rainbow gay pride flag. The pole was put up in front of City Hall in a compromise with those opposed to flying the flag.

Last June, council approved a resolution to fly the rainbow flag in front of City Hall in honor of the Cleveland Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride festival. After a groundswell of opposition arose, then-Mayor Madeline Cain had the second pole installed to allay concerns about having it on the same pole as the U.S. flag.

City officials at the time called it a “community flagpole.”

Councilmember Dennis Dunn, who sponsored the June resolution, was absent from the January 5 meeting.

The resolution to remove the second pole was introduced by freshman councilmember Ryan Demro, who said during his campaign that he would have voted against allowing the rainbow flag to fly over City Hall. Demro drew criticism during the campaign when he sponsored a proposal at his local Episcopal church to dissociate itself from the national organization over the ascension of an openly gay bishop.

Council’s resolution calls for the secondary pole to be moved to the city’s refuse plant on Berea Rd., or to a location of now-Mayor Thomas George’s choosing. It also bars any flag other than the United States one from flying on it.

George did not return calls for comment, but told the daily Plain Dealer he would comply with the resolution.

In addition to the national flag, the main flagpole at City Hall also flies the black and white prisoner of war/missing in action flag. The resolution passed by city council does not refer directly to the main flagpole  although it does state, “the installation of a flagpole for the for the purpose of allowing community groups to fly flags that represent their particular interest raises significant concerns regarding civil rights and municipal priorities.”

Lakewood is an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland, where Mayor Jane Campbell has flown the rainbow flag above City Hall on Pride Day for the last two years without incident.


Iowa judge changes divorce to termination of civil union

Sioux City, Iowa--The judge who in November granted a divorce to a lesbian couple with a Vermont civil union has modified his decree, specifying that he has terminated a civil union.

District Judge Jeffrey Neary drew an immediate challenge after signing a divorce decree for Kimberly J. Brown and Jennifer Perez on November 14. Neary did not realize the decree was for two women until after he signed it, but stood by his decision, arguing that he was simply providing judicial relief in a matter brought before him.

Conservatives, led by a former legislator and current president of the Iowa Family Policy Center, had filed a request with the state supreme court to overturn the decree, arguing that the state doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions, and Neary therefore had no authority to dissolve one.

Neary’s amended decision admitted that his court did not have authority to grant a divorce from a civil union, but argued that the judge did have the authority over the status of the women, who are residents of Sioux City. The decision declared them free of obligations to each other.

But the conservative groups will not rescind their request to the state’s top court.

“He has accomplished through the back door which he himself determined he couldn’t accomplish through the front door,” Timm Reid, a lawyer for the anti-gay Iowa Liberty and Justice Center, told the Des Moines Register. “We don’t believe that the amended decree makes any legitimate difference.”

Vermont’s civil union law, passed in 2000 after the state’s supreme court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the benefits of marriage, is only valid in that state. While there is no residency requirement to enter into a civil union, at least one of the partners must be a legal resident of Vermont for one year to dissolve one.

Last spring, a judge in Texas dissolved a civil union, but retracted his decision under pressure from the state’s attorney general.

According to New York’s Gay City News, a 2002 civil union divorce granted by a West Virginia judge went apparently unchallenged. The judge in the case, noting that the Vermont law specifically states that it is not marriage, said, “The parties are citizens of West Virginia in need of judicial remedy to dissolve a legal relationship created by the laws of another state.”

Neary cited the U.S. Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause as one of the factors leading him to believe he had the authority to end a civil union. The  clause reads, “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”

The clause enables, for instance, a driver in one state to have his or her license recognized when he or she drives in another state.

Some legal scholars believe that so-called “defense of marriage” laws, which allow states to deny recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states, violate the “full faith and credit” language.

That argument cannot be tested in court until a state actually begins granting same-sex marriages, since civil union laws like Vermont’s would only apply within the state passing them.


 

Lebanese in leisurewear?

The L Word gets set to even the score

The old aphorism claiming that lightning does not strike twice in the same place will be put to the test on Sunday, January 18, as Showtime debuts The L Word.

Basically an attempt to do for the lesbian community what Queer as Folk did for the boys, The L Word leaps out of the gate with a one-two punch, to mix the sports metaphors.

First, the pilot is directed by power-player Rose Troche, director of the indie classic Go Fish. Second, the cast of up-and-comers have far more credits, and credibility, than their counterparts on Queer as Folk did going into their pilot.

The plot, much like on the sister series, is relatively simple. Lesbian couple Bette (Jennifer Beals, best known for her star turn in Flashdance) and Tina (Laurel Holloman, Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love) are trying to have a baby. Their plan is put in double jeopardy when their artist friend who is donating sperm turns out to be shooting blanks and it seems they might not be ready for a child anyway.

Next door to the less-than-blissful couple, Tim (Eric Mabius, The Crow III: Salvation) awaits the arrival of his girlfriend Jenny (Mia Kirshner, The Crow: City of Angels), who has just graduated from college, received a highly-prized writing award and is ready for life in the real world. Throwing a kink into their plans for domestic bliss, however, is Jenny’s growing attraction to exotic coffee shop owner Marina (Karina Lombard, Legends of the Fall), whose life seems inextricably linked to Jenny’s.

The dramatis personae are rounded out by Bette and Tina’s friends and family, a far more diverse crowd than was comprised by the nerd, the geek, the flamer and the slut in Queer as Folk.

There’s Dana (Erin Daniels, One Hour Photo), a closeted lesbian tennis player whose beard and doubles partner is even gayer than she is; Shane (Katherine Moennig, The Shipping News), the resident tramp, making her way through Los Angeles one broken-hearted dyke at a time, and bisexual journalist Alice, played by Leisha Hailey of the rock bands The Murmurs and Gush, whose first album will be out next year.

Of course, the jewel in the show’s crown is Bette’s half-sister, the luscious jazz chanteuse Kit Porter (Pam Grier, who played a lesbian cop in John Carpenter’s The Ghosts of Mars, a transsexual in Escape from L.A., and a tough-as-nails woman in just about everything else, including Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown). She swoops in, trailing drama behind her and dispensing wisdom to her sister like a Motown-induced Yoda.

Of course, more important than spouting plot or reciting the curricula vitae of the cast and crew is the simple question: Is it good?

The answer is also simple: Yes.

One might go so far as to say that it’s very good. Queer as Folk was aptly criticized as a thinly-veiled attempt at marketing soft-core gay pornography. But The L Word, while containing more than its fair share of lesbian love scenes, seems less like an excuse for nudity and is simply enhanced by it.

The sex might also stave off some criticisms of the pure, uh, lipstickosity of the cast. Pam Grier is probably the butchest-looking cast member (with the exception of the men), and her character appears in the pilot to be heterosexual.

All the female characters look like they came from Coupling. In the actors’ performances, however, sexual dynamics and gender identities become more diverse, more fully-formed. Shane seems like she would be more at home under a car than in a café, for instance, with the studied swagger of the most practiced butch. Bette is the perfect power-suit-wearing soft butch, while Tina has the gentler edges, both physically and in her personality. Dana is total sports-dyke, fooling nobody but herself with her public displays of heterosexuality, then wondering why she can’t find a woman.

Still, would it kill the hairstylists to have one little mullet? One woman with certifiably short hair? One gal who doesn’t seem to know what “product” is?

The show is cleverly written by Ilene Chaiken, who lives with her partner and their two daughters in Los Angeles. At times, it comes off more as a lesbian Friends than Queer as Folk, a warm look at life in a place with everything is highly superficial, a veneer masquerading as life.

The question arises whether horny heterosexual males will tune in for the sex scenes, while lesbians across the country watch for the plot. If that is what happens, fine, as long as the show gets the ratings it deserves. It might even out-perform its big brother, which would be interesting. The Lesbian Chic of the ’90s could well turn into the ratings powerhouse of the new millennium.

 

 

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