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July 2, 2004

A day in the sun

Bright, mild weather brings out record numbers for Pride Day

Columbus--The 24th annual Pride Holiday festival was bigger than last year�s, which had broken previous attendance records.

The parade line up began at 11 am on Dennison Avenue on the west side of Goodale Park. As the floats and marchers gathered, Flaggots Ohio, a gay flag corps, practiced their parade routines, adding a lot of color to the pre-march festivities. Also practicing their parade routines were the Capital Pride Band, a marching band now in its second year.

Stonewall Columbus board president Rob Berger pointed to the sunny skies and mild temperatures.

�If God hated gay people so much, why would he give us such a beautiful day to march on?� he said.

Berger, whose group puts on Pride each year, was the host and emcee for the pre-parade festivities and speakers.

Bill Hedrick, who is running for judge of the Franklin County Common Please Court, spoke at the pre-march rally.

�The upcoming presidential election is the most important one of our lifetimes,� Hedrick said. He urged people to get out and vote to defeat President Bush, a sentiment echoed widely during the march and other festivities.

Karla Rothan and Linda Schuller, the 2004 Pride parade grand marshals, also spoke at Goodale Park. Rothan said that it was great to see so many people out to show their pride and she thanked everyone for their support and participation.

The parade set off at 1 p.m. and it took almost two hours for the 4,312 people, numerous floats and dozens of classic cars from the Lambda Car Club to make their way to Bicentennial Park in downtown Columbus. Thousands of spectators lining the High St. route joined in behind the parade as it passed them. At the festival site the crowd swelled to 80,000 people, according to a police estimate.

This year�s parade included activist groups like Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Stonewall Columbus, the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall Democrats alongside local bars and clubs, including Wall Street, Pyramid, and AWOL. Clubs and contingents from other Ohio cities also marched. As in past years, there was a lot of support from religious and groups and churches as they marched in the parade with banners and clergy in robes.

The parade marched south through the Short North district in Columbus, past the convention center and the Ohio Statehouse.

A small group of fundamentalist naysayers gathered across High St. from the Statehouse. Street preacher Charles Spingola burned a rainbow flag, but he said he had a permit this time. In past years Spingola has been arrested in flag-burning incidents. He and his barrel of flaming wood were surrounded by police officers, keeping the crowd away.

The parade included many out individuals and allies who are running for political office including Richard Cordray, Eric Fingerhut, Bill Hedrick, Tom Tootle, and Mary Jo Kilroy, among others.

This year the number of booths at Bicentennial Park was up and the festival area extended from the park north on Civic Center drive to Broad St. The entertainment went on till well after 8 p.m.

Main stage entertainment included performances by the Columbus Gay Men�s Chorus, the Flaggots, the Capital City Pride band, and other local entertainers. The Kinsey Sicks, a �dragapella beautyshop quartet� from New York City, were also on hand to entertain the crowd with their witty and well-harmonized songs.

Autumn Odierna, a 17-year-old student at Fort Hayes High School, gave a recitation of her poetry to the cheering crowd.

She said she was there to support her lesbian mother and asked �George W. Bush, Governor Taft and other elected officials� to stop anti-gay hate and discrimination immediately.

�The youth today are strong and intelligent,� she said, �and we shall overcome.�

Fitness guru and motivational speaker Susan Powter was also one of the celebrity guests for the festival. Using her trademark gusto and colorful language, Powter urged the crowd to get rid of the �assholes in the White House.�

�That ain�t my White House! That ain�t my constitution!� she said, rhetorically asking the crowd several times, �Do they make decisions for you?� to which the crowd replied in unison, �Fuck no!�

�The state of the nation is worse than it has ever been,� Powter argued, adding that she had come out of retirement because of the way things were going in this country.

�The most revolutionary thing any woman, any gay man can do,� she said, �is internal wellness. Because when you have a healthy body they can�t take that from you. When you have a healthy mind they can�t take that away from you. And if they can�t take your body and your mind, then they can�t take you.�

The entertainment at Bicentennial Park was emceed by local performer Lustter de la Virgion. Two works donated by local artist Michael Owens were raffled off at the festival to raise more funds for Stonewall Columbus.

The festival also offered HIV tests in addition to more aggressive education about syphilis, a growing epidemic in gay communities across America, including Columbus.



Three Ohio universities offer domestic partner benefits

Oxford, Ohio--Miami University president James Garland announced at the June 25 trustees� meeting that the school will offer domestic partnership benefits to its employees, under an exception to the �defense of marriage� act passed by the state legislature earlier this year.

Garland�s statement was immediately echoed by another from exiting Ohio University president Robert Glidden, who followed suit later the same day.

Cleveland State University then announced it would offer the benefits, under union contracts requiring it to if any other Ohio public university did so.

The Ohio and Miami boards of trustees unanimously approved the expansion, although it was not required to enact them.

The policies will include health insurance and other family benefits, like bereavement leave and free tuition.

�The Ohio University Faculty Senate and Student Senate have both passed resolutions urging the implementation of these benefits, and Miami University is joining us,� Glidden�s statement on the benefits says. �We will be the first two public universities in Ohio to offer such a package.�

�We believe it is time--past time, in fact--and we know it is the right thing to do,� it continues.

�This is primarily a business decision,� Garland told the Cincinnati Enquirer. �When we�re recruiting, we don�t ask [a potential hire�s] sexual orientation. But we do know that for many gay individuals, this is a very important issue.�

Garland wrote to Gov. Bob Taft in February, just before Taft�s signed the �defense of marriage� act: �Based on our experience, I am concerned that many prospective faculty members will pass over job positions in Ohio, because of this legislation.�

The law bars the state and its agencies from granting marital status or legal benefits to same-sex couples. An exception was made for state universities.

�He shared that he was happy he could make this happen before he left and regretted not being able to do it sooner,� said Mickey Hart, head of LGBT student services at Ohio University, who spoke to Glidden at a farewell reception. �I thanked him for following through on his commitment to us and commented that it was a great way to conclude his years at O.U.�

The Miami and O.U. benefits took effect July 1. The schools join 62 other Ohio employers with them, including eight private colleges and universities.

Trio hired to lead campaign against Ohio amendment

Columbus--The campaign to defeat an Ohio constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships took a step forward June 23 when the group organizing it hired campaign leaders.

A coalition of anti-gay groups calling itself the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage is circulating petitions to put the amendment on the November ballot. They have until August 4 to turn in 322,899 signatures.

Ohioans for Growth and Equality, a statewide gay and lesbian lobbying group which opposes the amendment, hired a firm and an individual to head the campaign against it. Seven applicants had responded to a nationwide search.

Heading the campaign will be Alan Melamed of Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb. He is an associate with the Strategy Network firm, which was formed in 2001.

The campaign�s political director will be Strategy Network president Ian James of Columbus. The role of the third Strategy Network associate, Hugh Rich, is not clear.

Neither Melamed nor OGE spokespeople would comment for the record, saying they would wait until a press conference could be scheduled later.

Directing the field operation of the campaign will be Mari Engelhardt of Lorain.

James and Engelhardt are openly gay.

Engelhardt was most recently employed by Dennis Kucinich�s presidential campaign as its national get out the vote director and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community director. She has also directed campaigns for Ohio Citizen Action and the Lorain City Schools.

Melamed, an attorney, managed the 1998 gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Lee Fisher and has served on the Shaker Heights city council.

James is a former community and governmental relations executive for Merv Griffin�s Players International.

As a firm, the Strategy Network is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, which is the global trade association of the shopping center industry. Their clients include retailers Meijer and Home Depot and developers including First Interstate Development and Forest City Land Group.

Strategy Network represented the automotive and aerospace supplier TRW in its controversial sale of 100 acres of wooded property in the eastern Cleveland suburb of Lyndhurst in 2002.

That campaign, which included voter identification, convinced voters to approve zoning changes allowing the property to be sold to build an upscale shopping center called Legacy Village.

�Utilizing residents� preconceived notions that �without the rezoning, TRW may have to leave Lyndhurst�,� the firm says on their web site, �we were able to persuade voters to support the rezoning out of self-interest for the community.�

Shortly after the zoning change, TRW left Lyndhurst anyway. Legacy Village opened last year.

Additional changes at OGE include the selection of Chad Foust of Columbus as the organization�s new president on June 25. He succeeds interim president and founder Tim Downing of Cleveland.

Foust is a former aide to state senator and U.S. Senate candidate Eric Fingerhut. He also ran for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2002.

OGE has also retained Columbus attorney Donald McTigue for the campaign. McTigue, a prominent election attorney, represented Thomas Rankin and Ray Zander in their April suit against the marriage ban�s petitioners and Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro over the fairness and accuracy of the petition summary language. |


City Club hosts spirited discussion on marriage

Cleveland--Four attorneys squared off at a Cleveland City Club public debate over same-sex marriage in Ohio June 23.

Arguing in favor marriage equality for same-sex couples were Cleveland Marshall College of Law professor and ACLU board member Susan Becker, and Ohioans for Growth and Equality founder Timothy Downing.

Opposing marriage equality was Ohio �defense of marriage act� sponsor Rep. William Seitz of Cincinnati, and Cleveland Federalist Society president David Tryon, who volunteered for the program a day earlier after other lawmakers and anti-gay attorney David Langdon declined the invitation.

The 60-minute formal program was moderated by attorney J. Phillip Calabrese and organized for the City Club by attorney Jason Bristol. Each member of the panel gave opening and closing statements, rebutted opposing statements, then took questions from the audience of 120.

Becker began by talking about two lesbian couples she had represented. In the first, a birth caused one partner to go into a coma, while the hospital tried to determine whether or not to let the other partner take the baby home.

�In the eyes of Ohio, [the partners] were strangers,� said Becker.

In the second, a couple was unable to get Social Security benefits when one partner got sick.

�In the eyes of the federal government, they were strangers,� Becker said.

Becker added that couples cannot reach the level of protection granted by marriage through private agreements such as wills and property and custody agreements.

�They are limited in scope and can be set aside,� said Becker. �You cannot contract to make the government recognize them as a couple.�

Downing argued that if marriage is considered to be about sexual behavior, and sexual behavior is considered a choice, then heterosexual behavior is also a choice, and no distinction should be made in law between heterosexual and homosexual couples.

�No matter what bills get passed, we�re here and we�re not going away,� said Downing.

Seitz said anyone who came expecting him to talk about the evils of homosexuality would be disappointed. He focused on his �defense of marriage act,� passed by the Ohio legislature in February.

Seitz said the law refusing state recognition of same-sex marriage was necessary because �we�re not willing to risk judicial reinterpretation of well settled [marriage] law.�

Seitz said he opposes the proposed amendments to both the federal and Ohio constitutions defining marriage as one man and one woman. He called the Ohio proposal �poorly written� and said the federal one is inadequate because it allows civil unions. He added that it is unnecessary because no federal court has recognized same-sex marriage.

Tryon argued that courts should not have the right to interpret constitutional law with regard to marriage.

�Are judges smarter than the rest of us?� Tryon asked, adding that unlike legislatures, courts operate without public discourse, without transparency and in a way that makes it difficult to change their minds.

�For the same reason we reject military takeovers, we should reject judicial takeovers,� said Tryon.

�Did Loving v. Virginia constitute a judicial takeover?� challenged Downing during rebuttal. �If so, then why do we have a court system?�

Loving is the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down laws against interracial marriage.

Tryon countered that the best definition of marriage was a union of a man and woman.

�Anyone, heterosexual or homosexual, can get married,� said Tryon, �so it�s not a civil rights issue.�

�I think it�s clear,� said Seitz, �that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, federal or state.�

Seitz noted that DOMA does not take away any Ohio-conferred marital benefits �there were none anyway prior to the enactment of the bill.�

The panel answered nine audience questions, six directed specifically to Seitz.

Asked how same-sex marriage differs from interracial marriage, Seitz responded, �Race is immutable, and homosexual persons have not been enslaved. Homosexuality as a behavior is not immutable.�

Asked about Ohio�s position on same-sex marriages performed in Canada, Seitz responded, �[DOMA] eliminated any possibility of that happening. We took care of that through the bill as well.�

Asked about how he thinks existing families involving same-sex couples should be protected by law, Seitz replied, �I am willing to address each on a case by case, benefit by benefit basis. It�s a cost issue.�

During his conclusion, Downing said he and Becker were talking about real people and the affect of the law on real families, while Seitz and Tryon were talking about law.

�The marriage definition has changed,� said Downing, �not by statute, but by courts� even in the case of Loving v. Virginia, when 70% of Americans opposed it.

Seitz said there is nothing wrong with the state favoring heterosexual couples over homosexual couples.

�It�s not illegal to discriminate against beef cattle when we decide to subsidize dairy cattle,� said Seitz. �It doesn�t mean the beef cattle are worth any less.�

Akron General nurses settle strike without benefits

Akron--Nurses at Akron�s largest health care provider settled their eleven day strike without domestic partner benefits but with paid bereavement leave for same-sex partners by an �overwhelming majority� June 28.

Nurses represented by the Ohio Nurses Association walked out of Akron General Medical Center June 17 when contract talks broke down over salary, pension, and benefit packages including domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples and their dependants.

The domestic partner proposal was supported almost unanimously by the union.

The hospital is seeking national recognition as a Magnet facility and an Employer of Choice, both of which look favorably on domestic partner benefits.

Akron General�s human resources vice president Maureen Van Duser, who is leading the attempt to get both, declined comment.

According to the nurses, hospital negotiator Gary Spring, an attorney with the firm Roetzel and Andress, said the hospital is �politically opposed and philosophically opposed� to the domestic partner benefits.

Spring told this reporter, �I�m not talking to you� before hanging up when called to comment on this.

Akron General does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its non-discrimination policy.

Prior to striking, nurses reached a tenative agreement with the hospital on the section of the domestic partner benefits proposal giving same-sex partners five days of bereavement leave, making it the same as what is given to married spouses.

Previously, bereavement leave for non-spouses was limited to one to three days, depending on the nature of the relationship.

Without additional comment, union co-chair Sandy Robinson said the domestic partner issues did not come back up during final negotiation.

�We basically stuck to wages, health care, and pension issues that were the main reasons for going out,� said Robinson.

The terms of the final agreement were not public at press time.

Robinson said feedback from the membership calls for the domestic partner benefits to be pursued again when the contract expires in three years.

Akron General�s nearest competitor, Summa Health Systems is not unionized and does not offer domestic partner benefits either, reasoning that �less than a quarter of national [hospital] market offers domestic partner benefits.�

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 64 Ohio employers offer domestic partner benefits, but only one hospital: University Hospitals of Cleveland, which began offering partner benefits at its main facility in 2002.

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Students recognized at GLSEN awards dinner

Cleveland--�I think it would shock people to find out how little support there is out there in schools for gay kids,� said outgoing Cleveland Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network chair Aaron Patterson to a record 90 people attending the group�s annual award dinner June 24.

�We hit walls with administrators,� Patterson continued, �and we have to challenge parents to learn and accept who their child really is.�

GLSEN assists 20 gay-straight alliances in northeast Ohio schools. One of them at Cleveland�s James Ford Rhodes High School, called HALO, Helping Alternative Lifestyles of Others, was recognized as the activist organization of the year by the group.

HALO has battled school administrators for the right to display posters and meet on school grounds.

�Every battle that we win makes us more powerful than we already were,� said HALO spokesperson Jared Fox, a junior, as he accepted the award.

James Ford Rhodes media specialist Myra Stone was awarded the Educator Activist award for her role as the group�s advisor.

Student Activist awards went to Hallie Plagens, a senior at Bay Village High School, and St. Ignatius High School junior Michael Manoccio.

Plagens developed a week of activities and programs at the school encouraging tolerance and diversity.

Manoccio formed a group called United Men of Just Acts, which has as a mission the reduction of homophobia. Manoccio was also one of two Ignatius students that observed the Day of Silence.

The Robbie Kirkland Memorial Scholarship was presented by Kirkland�s mother Leslie Sadasivan. The $1,000 scholarship memorializes the 14-year-old St. Ignatius student who committed suicide in 1997 rather than endure harassment from fellow students for being gay.

Sadasivan presented the scholarship to Alyssa Jaggers, graduating from Strongsville High School.

The Robbie Kirkland Memorial Creative Writing Contest winner was Jacqueline Passano, a senior at Avon Lake High School.




News Briefs

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.

Millions turn out for Pride parades around the world

Chicago--Three people were arrested during a� parade June 27 in one of the few reported incidents at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride events around the country and across the globe.

The men, Jeremy Hammond, 19, Robert Bernstein, 17, and Neal Rysdahl, 51, were held on charges of aggravated battery to a police officer after police tried to break up an argument between the three members of the Chicagoland Anarchist Network and anti-gay protesters.

Police said Hammond threw a bottle of red liquid at them, and the trio then hit or pushed the police officers. The group�s attorney said that they were attacked by the anti-gay protesters.

Despite the incident, 400,000 people gathered for the parade, mirroring large events in other cities.

Dozens of cities had their Pride parades and festivals on the same weekend, commemorating the anniversary of the June 28, 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, considered the beginning of the gay civil rights movement.

Toronto�s weekend of festivities drew over a million people, while New York City�s parade on June 27 had 600,000, 250,000 of which marched in the parade itself.

Figures were not available for the San Francisco march, which traditionally brings in over half a million spectators.

Berlin and Paris, two European capitals with gay mayors, both held their parades on June 26, and each had around half a million spectators.

The Israeli city of Tel Aviv�s march brought out 70,000 people, while Calcutta, India�s first Pride parade saw 300 people face ridicule and scorn by marching through the streets in a country where homosexual activity is illegal.

Marriage intact after Canada election

Ottawa--Despite being in a dead heat with the Conservatives heading into the June 28 national elections, Liberals retained control of the Canadian parliament.

The Conservatives are the union of the far-right Canadian Alliance and the more moderate Progressive Conservatives.

The Liberals took 135 seats of Parliament, the Conservatives 99. The Liberals failed to win the 155 seats needed to retain outright control of Parliament, and must try to form a coalition with the far-left New Democratic Party or the left-leaning Bloc Quebecois.

Same-sex marriage, now legal in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Qu�bec, was a focal point of the election campaign. Conservatives favor using the �notwithstanding clause� of the Canadian constitution to halt a move to make it legal nationwide. The clause allows the government to reject court-mandated legislation.

The Liberals, BQ and NDP all oppose invoking the clause. Both the Bloc and NDP favor same-sex marriage. Liberals are split, with the majority favoring the extension of full marital rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples.

�Canadian voters chose a majority of Parliamentarians that believe in diversity,� said Gilles Marchildon, executive director of �gale, Canada�s largest LGBT rights organization. �This demonstrates that the obvious winner of the election is Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The country's citizens are well-served.�

HRC to spend $10 million

Washington, D.C.--The Human Rights Campaign will spend $10 million to support LGBT-friendly politicians and get voters to the polls in November.

Some of the funds will also be used to oppose anti-gay efforts to use same-sex marriage as a draw for conservative voters.

According to executive director Cheryl Jacques, the group�s political action committee plans to endorse over 200 candidates. This includes John Kerry, who got their presidential nod on June 16.

The PAC will spend $1.3 million on its endorsed candidates, while the main body of HRC, who cannot endorse candidates due to its non-profit status, will educate voters on the Federal Marriage Amendment and other issues of interest to LGBT voters.

Class of 2004 is Milk High�s first

New York City--Harvey Milk High School, the nation�s first public high school for LGBT teens, held its inaugural graduation on June 25.

Nineteen of 21 seniors graduated.

�These kids are pioneers,� William Salzman, the school�s principal, told the New York Post. �I told the kids that they�re role models. They need to be mentors not only for gays and lesbians, but for all young people.�

The school, named for a gay San Francisco supervisor slain in 1977, started 19 years ago as a satellite program before becoming a fully sanctioned high school last year. Critics opposed the move, arguing that it was a discriminatory use of taxpayer funds.

The school body consists of students who were discriminated against or bullied in the city�s traditional schools, or were simply unable to function in those settings.

Plans are underway to double enrollment for the next school year to 200 students.

Fifth Third Bank adds job bias policy

Cincinnati--Fifth Third Bancorp added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policies, the bank announced June 22.

The change was decided by executives the previous week, and went into effect immediately.

During its March annual meeting, investors defeated a proposal put forward by NorthStar Asset Management to add sexual orientation to the policy.

John Angelo, a community activist in Cincinnati, had threatened to organize a rally involving 100 Fifth Third customers who would close their accounts if the policy was not expanded. Bank officials said that the decision was made to alter the policy before the rally was announced. Angelo has since canceled his plan.

Fifth Third joins three other Ohio banks with similar policies: Key, National City and Ohio Savings, which also includes gender identity. A total of 94 employers in the state have the rules; eight include gender identity.

Almost three-quarters of the Fortune 500 companies offer protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.




Saved by the hell

A look at the lighter side of fundamentalism

Gay people, black people, women, the handicapped have long been the brunt of cinematic jokes. In Saved!--a new film by director Brian Dannelly--it is Christian fundamentalists that are being skewered.

The satire will offend some for its portrayal of its characters as dimwitted, simple-minded ideologues. Then again, every stereotype has a modicum of truth, and the film doesn�t imply that all Christians are fanatical, just those who live within the destructive domains of unexamined, dogmatic faith.

At the American Eagle Christian High School (could there be a better name?) a girl named Mary (Jenna Malone) finds herself faced with an odd choice. Upon discovering that her boyfriend (Chad Faust) might be gay, she wonders if having sex with him can save his soul from eternal damnation.

It�s a dilemma for a straight Christian girl: Save the gay guy from going to hell but risk going there herself for having sex outside of marriage.

Not only does Mary not end up with a non-immaculate conception, she is also unable to convert her man�s gay nature.

Add to this duo of conflicted teens Hillary Faye, the crazy gang leader of the hard core Jesus freaks; Roland, her wheel-chair-bound brother; and Cassandra, the only Jew at the school.

Okay, so the names in the film aren�t very subtle.

Chaos and confusion are further exacerbated when Mary� mother (the lovely Mary Louise Parker) falls in love with the school�s principal (the underrated and underused Martin Donovan). The principal, a pastor himself, seems to think that love and sex are strictly the domain of the devil--even for straight people.

Pop songstress Mandy Moore plays Hillary Faye with uninhibited zeal and fervor. She is amply aided in her desire to convert everyone, especially Cassandra, by the inimitable Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse) and equally amazing newcomer Elizabeth Thai. These three together, as demented evangelical Charlie�s Angels, are great for many laughs.

Macaulay Culkin as the handicapped Roland is breaking away from the saccharine sweetness of his Home Alone days and here he is a riot, mostly making fun of his own affliction. Eva Amurri (daughter of Susan Sarandon) as Cassandra turns in a solid performance as the bad girl with a heart of gold. Together, Culkin and Amurri make a great pair of outsiders who find love in their freakish (to the evangelicals) commonalities.

In the same year that Mel Gibson�s crucifixion biopic raked in more gold than all the blaspheming temples of Christ�s day, a film like Saved! is a welcome antidote to all those who think that Gibson was actually there when Jesus was nailed to the cross.

Saved! is worth watching. It has only one problem--it wimps out at the end and doesn�t fully skewer its targets as they so deservedly need to be.

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