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July 9, 2004

Education group flunks Ohio on safe schools

by Eric Resnick

In a national survey, Ohio received an F for its failure to provide safe schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming students.

The survey, released June 30 by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, examined school policies and state laws protecting LGBT individuals from harassment and discrimination. It ranked Ohio 39th of 50 states with a score of 19 points.

The scores ranged from a high of 95 for New Jersey to a low of 2 for Arizona. With 19 points, Ohio ranks in the lowest third of the 42 states receiving the F grade.

Half of the available 100 points were awarded for having state safe-schools laws and state non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Ohio has neither.

The rest of the points were awarded for general education matters, including student to teacher ratio and graduation rate, and sexuality education requirements.

States with laws that prohibit any positive portrayal of homosexuality in schools lost ten points from their totals. These include an Oklahoma law requiring that AIDS prevention education must specifically teach that homosexual activity is primarily responsible for AIDS transmission.

Ohio has no such law, but only the states with them ranked lower.

Three of Ohio�s 19 points were awarded for student to teacher ratio; four for teacher salary; four more for per-pupil expenditure; three for the graduation rate; and five for a statewide requirement to teach HIV/STD prevention.

Ohio has no safe schools law protecting students from harassment, no state non-discrimination law that protects on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and relegates most matters of sexuality education to local control, where LGBT issues are not addressed.

The survey specifically examined the policies of the two largest school systems in the state for nationwide comparison.

In Ohio, those districts are the Cleveland Municipal School District and the Columbus City School District. Neither have safe school policies of any kind.

Noted but not scored is student activity. Ohio has 45 gay straight student alliances, and 79 schools had participants in the Day of Silence, an April demonstration for LGBT equality. Ohio has two GLSEN chapters, in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati City School District, the state�s third largest, has a safe schools policy that includes sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

When he was first asked about the report, Ohio Department of Education spokesperson J.C. Benton had not heard of GLSEN. After he had read the report, Benton said, �Ohio takes pride in local control of its 613 school districts.�

Benton said that policies protecting students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would not be promoted by the state board of education because �we are in the business of educating 1.8 million students and we believe none should be singled out.�

�We confidently believe that all children are protected,� said Benton.

Benton said that the role of the state board of education is to make recommendations to the local school systems and the state legislature.

GLSEN director of public policy Neil Bomberg said, �Ohio falls short at every level of the survey� and that by shifting the blame to the local districts, the state board of education is �attempting to avoid the reality of what�s going on in the state.�

Benton said that the state board of education is currently discussing anti-harassment policies and will vote on recommendations in November. However, a search of monthly meeting minutes in 2004 produced no evidence of such discussions.

Harassment bills in legislature

Benton said the legislature is also considering two bills that he believes will protect students.

The Senate is considering S.B. 219, introduced March 30 by Democrat Marc Dann of Youngstown. It has been assigned to the Education Committee but has not yet been acted upon.

Dann�s bill would require school systems to implement anti-harassment policies and require the state Board of Education to develop a model anti-harassment policy.

Once it is introduced by Republican Jimmy Stewart of Athens, the House will consider a similar, but less thorough bill.

Neither bill would require the anti-harassment policies to include sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dann said it is �inconsequential� that his bill does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity because it does not mention any other type of harassment, either.

�[Sexual orientation and gender identity] are implicitly included,� said Dann. �The bill was written to give school districts as much flexibility as possible. It�s more likely to pass in its current form than any other form we could have put it in.�

�We can�t possibly think of every type of harassment,� said Dann. �People whose eyes are green aren�t specifically included either.�

Bomberg said anti-harassment laws that do not specify the classes of students for protection are �significantly weaker� than those that do.

�Classless laws don�t give administrators the authority or legal basis to enforce anti-harassment policies with regard to LGBT students,� said Bomberg, adding that LGBT-inclusive laws �help school administrators deflect local criticism over protecting LGBT students.�

�If the laws are too vague,� said Bomberg, �administrators will respond to local community opinion� which is no different than what is happening now.

 

 


Columbus adds employee-paid domestic partner heath
benefits

Columbus--Domestic partners of city employees are eligible for health coverage, thanks to a new plan that took effect on July 2.

The benefits are part of new supplemental insurance, and are paid for completely by the employee. They are available to same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried partners of city employees.

The insurance, provided by a new carrier, is in addition to the regular insurance benefits offered by the city, which cover opposite-sex married couples.

The move by Mayor Michael Coleman to grant the benefits did not require the approval of city council, as the city is not paying for the coverage at all.

Coleman�s extension of benefits is the latest move in a back-and-forth effort that has been going on for seven years, since James Hartman filed a complaint with the city�s Community Relations Commission in 1997.

Hartman charged that the city�s refusal to extend insurance benefits to his same-sex partner violated a 1994 anti-discrimination ordinance in the city.

In 1998, city council passed city-paid benefits for employees� same-sex partners, similar to those given married spouses.

Religious right activists threatened a petition drive to force a referendum on the benefits. Weeks later, council unanimously repealed them to avoid this.

In 2002, a committee appointed by Mayor Coleman held hearings on �household benefits,� open to various members of city employees� homes, including same-sex partners.

Most of the people who testified at the hearing on June 25, 2002, were opposed to the benefits, arguing that any coverage given to domestic partners would constitute city endorsement of cohabitation. The Columbus Baptist Pastors� Conference sent in a resolution arguing that benefits should only be expanded to those in the household related by blood, marriage or legal guardian status to the city employee.

The household benefits died.

It is not known yet whether this latest effort at extending benefits to domestic partners of city employees will be challenged. Gov. Robert Taft in February signed a �defense of marriage� law which bans the state or any of its �subdivisions� from granting marital status or the �legal incidents thereof� to unmarried couples.

According to Coleman�s press secretary Mike Brown, these supplemental benefits are immune from the strictures of DOMA.

�From our point of view, the city has not extended any benefits to its employees,� he said. �This does not fulfill our goal of giving health insurance to our employees and their domestic partners.�

Brown said that it was simply a matter of the city�s supplemental insurance provider allowing policy holders to purchase coverage for their domestic partners, something done independently of the city itself.

He did note, however, that these benefits did not meet the requirements of the Community Relations Commission, which ruled in favor of Hartman.

�The city�s goal is to give real household benefits to our employees and their dependents who need it,� Brown stressed.

Only one Ohio city gives the same benefits to employees� domestic partners that it gives to married spouses: Cleveland Heights, which began doing so in 2002. Sixty-four other Ohio employers have similar policies, including three state universities that announced them last month.��

 


Taft sends mixed signals on marriage ban amendment

Columbus--Gov. Bob Taft is sending mixed signals about his support for the proposed amendment to the Ohio constitution permanently banning same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships and civil unions.

The amendment�s backers are now collecting signatures to put it on the November ballot. Since it is a voter initiative, it doesn�t need the governor�s approval, as did the anti-gay �defense of marriage act� Taft signed into law February 6.

However, Taft remains ambiguous about the constitutional measure in a way similar to his position on the DOMA law in the months before he signed it.

�I think the [DOMA] law is sufficient. I believe we�ve addressed the issue and don�t need a constitutional amendment,� Taft told the Columbus Dispatch June 25.

A week later, Taft�s spokesperson Orest Holubec told the Gay People�s Chronicle that the governor did not oppose the measure.

�The governor has no opposition to amending the constitution, though he thinks it�s unnecessary,� Holubec said July 1.

Holubec added that the governor could not form an opinion over something that is �hypothetical,� saying he didn�t know what the language of the measure would contain.

When told the language has been filed with the state of Ohio and an offer was made to send it to him, Holubec replied, �The governor reserves the right to vote for it if it hits the ballot, but right now, it�s not on the ballot.�

Petitions circulated in churches

The amendment will be on the ballot if its sponsors, the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage and its parent organization Citizens for Community Values, are able to collect 322,899 signatures in 44 of Ohio�s 88 counties by August 4.

To do that, petitioners are relying on volunteers to gather signatures in churches.

According to OCPM�s July 3 e-mail bulletin, �Many churches have contacted us to let us know that they plan to take the month of July to have concentrated efforts to circulate petitions and register voters.�

The group is also running an advertisement on the Salem Radio News radio stations across Ohio. SRN stations broadcast Christian programs and conservative political talk radio geared toward evangelicals.

The 30 second spot says marriage in Ohio is headed for a �collision� since same-sex marriages became the law in Massachusetts May 17, and urges people interested in making sure Ohio never recognizes same-sex marriages to contact CCV.

The e-mail bulletin also contains a downloadable letter from Gary S. McCaleb, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Arizona.� It is designed to convince pastors that the political activity of gathering signatures and campaigning against same-sex marriage will not jeopardize a church�s tax-exempt status.

ADF is also backing litigation against the city of Cleveland Heights over its domestic partner registry.

�Pro-homosexual groups are threatening churches across the nation with the loss of tax-exempt status,� writes McCaleb, �and/or they allege that various state political campaign laws were violated, when churches simply preach about marriage or allow petitions on their property. It is a simple scare tactic, designed to silence Christians.�

�I write to assure you that the Alliance Defense Fund will spare no effort to ensure that Christians will not be silenced in the battle for marriage,� McCaleb adds.

The e-mail also points out how a marriage amendment on Ohio�s ballot could affect the presidential elections. It links to an article by neo-conservative Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes suggesting that marriage amendments are the difference between George W. Bush winning or losing in Ohio and other battleground states.

�Prime turf for the issue is Ohio, a state Bush won in 2000 and cannot afford to lose this year,� wrote Barnes. �Ohio�s economy is troubled, and Midwestern states have never been overly enthusiastic about foriegn wars--bad news for the president�s chances. But marriage is a powerful issue in the state.�

�These [cultural] issues--especially gay marriage--may cause discomfort when raised among elites inside the Washington-New York-Los Angeles axis,� wrote Barnes. �Country club Republicans may wince when the social issues are broached. Everyone else in America, however, talks easily and without embarrassment about gay marriage and abortion and public indecency. And they often decide how to vote on the basis of these issues -- ones where a large majority of Americans agree wholeheartedly with Bush and not with John Kerry.�

OCPM and CCV spokesperson Barry Sheets did not respond for comment by press time.

Ohioans for Growth and Equality, the political action committee formed to defeat the DOMA legislation, has begun a campaign to defeat the amendment.

The group has hired a campaign manager, a political director, and a field director, and is seeking a campaign finance director.

If OCPM is unsuccessful gathering enough signatures by the presidential election deadline, the measure will likely be on the ballot in May 2005.

 


Whos who behind the Ohio marriage ban amendment

The group circulating petitions to put an Ohio constitutional amendment on the ballot banning same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships calls itself the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage. It is operated out of the Citizens for Community Values office in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville, and is not currently incorporated in the state of Ohio. The principals are Phil Burress of Cincinnati, Lori A. Viars of Lebanon, and Rev. K.Z. Smith of Cincinnati.

Burress is the president of CCV and its organizer. He was also the organizer of the 1993 Issue 3 campaign that produced the anti-gay Article 12 of Cincinnati�s city charter. That campaign was run by a group called Equal Rights Not Special Rights, which is also still active. Burress was board chair of the American Family Association of Ohio until it was absorbed by CCV in 2003. He is also connected to the national anti-gay group Focus on the Family.

Lori A. Viars, 43, is the central committee co-chair of the Republican Party of Warren County, near Cincinnati, and the leader of its conservative caucus. She is also a member of the Citizens for Tax Repeal Committee, a group organized by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell to petition for a repeal of one percent of Ohio�s sales tax. Viars is �the president of the Warren County Right to Life organization.

Rev. K.Z. Smith pastors the Corinthian Baptist Church in Cincinnati and preaches that �the gay rights movement is not the same level as the civil rights movement.� Smith was also an organizer of the Issue 3 campaign and served as a spokesperson for Equal Rights Not Special Rights. With Burress, Smith backed the anti-gay ultra-conservative city council member Phil Heimlich in his 1997 bid for mayor.

 


Robbery suspect arrested for impersonating a doctor

Cincinnati--A man accused of impersonating a police officer to threaten and rob gay men in Columbus was arrested on June 30 for impersonating a physician.

John Antwan Holliman, 20, convinced a Cincinnati EMS crew that he was a doctor, and rode along with them on a run to the Hamilton County Justice Center to treat an inmate, police say.

Holliman was originally going to be arraigned on July 1, but that hearing was pushed back a day to allow the county prosecutor to file felony charges of practicing medicine without a license.

�I�m thrilled that they actually did a felony charge in Hamilton County,� said Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization in Columbus, which warned the LGBT community about Holliman�s most recent activities, as well as incidents in 2003.

In Columbus, Holliman has posed as both a police officer and a physician, according to reports. In May, he allegedly ordered a hospital helicopter dispatched.

Posing as a police officer near gay bars in the Short North, Holliman allegedly ordered men into his car. When asked for identification by the people he attempted to abduct, he refused to show any and threatened the use of a firearm, according to reports filed with BRAVO.

He has also claimed to be a medical student at Ohio State University named Antoine, a homonym for his middle name.

�All along, my gut feeling was that this guy is unpredictable,� McCauley said. �The fact that he�s off the streets is a relief to us and our clients.�

�The longer he got away with it, the more dangerous he could become,� she continued. �The best phone call I got to make this year was to call one of our clients and let him know this guy was off the streets.�

In addition to the felony charges in Hamilton County and charges for dispatching the helicopter in Columbus, investigators are looking at the police impersonation incidents in Columbus and other activity in Dayton.

Anyone who was accosted by Holliman should contact BRAVO at 614-2689622.

 


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Ban amendments headed to ballot in three more states

Lansing, Mich.--Petitioners turned in signatures to amend the Michigan state constitution to ban same-sex marriage on July 5, joining Oregon and Arkansas as the latest states with petitions submitted.

Organizers of the Michigan petition drive came up with 475,000 signatures. At least 317,757 of those must be valid for the matter to be put on the November 2 ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment would define marriage as between one man and one woman. Michigan law presently allows only opposite-sex marriage.

In Oregon, 244,587 signatures for a similar amendment were turned in on June 30, a record high for the state. They must be confirmed by elections officials by August 1. Only 100,840 signatures were needed to put the issue on the November ballot.

In Arkansas, 200,693 signatures were collected for a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage; 80,693 were needed.

In two other states, however, attempts to put constitutional amendments to the voters appear destined to fail.

In North Carolina, home state of Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, Republicans in the state senate are two votes short of getting a constitutional amendment out of committee and onto the Senate floor. Thirty signatures are needed to force the bill out of committee, but the Republicans only have 23 members in the Senate, plus five Democrats who are willing to cross party lines to vote for it.

Finally, in Delaware, the death in committee of a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage is a small comfort to gay advocates, since an equal rights bill supported by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner also died in committee in the state senate.

Amendments to ban same-sex marriage are already on the ballot in seven other states. Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Louisiana will vote on the measures November 2; Missouri will vote on August 3.

Petitions are being circulated in Ohio and Montana as well. Ohio marriage opponents must gather 322,899 signatures by August 4 to put their amendment on the November ballot.

 

 

 


 

Its delightful, its delicious

Cole Porter bio features his work sung
by a wide array of performers

Cole Porter�s public life, his secret life, and the lasting music he created out of these parallel lives are re-created in the lavish biopic De-Lovely.

The film is directed by Academy Award-winner Irwin Winkler, with a script by Jay Cocks. De-Lovely stars Oscar-winner Kevin Kline (who has played gay before in the film In and Out), Ashley Judd, and Jonathan Pryce.

The filmmakers turned to Oscar-winning costume designer Janty Yates (Gladiator) and Oscar-nominated production designer Eve Stewart (Topsy-Turvy) to create the lush look of the characters and their era.

Cole Porter was born on June 9, 1891, in Peru, Indiana and was named for his mother, Kate Cole, and his father, Sam Porter. He began piano lessons at age 6 and composed his first music at age 10 called �Song of the Birds.� Porter attended high school at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts and then went on to study at Yale and Harvard.

It was at Yale where his career as a musician began to burgeon as he wrote six full-scale productions and over 300 songs for various fraternities and student organizations there. He left Harvard to move to New York, quickly becoming a part of the Manhattan social scene with his quick wit and engaging personality.

Porter�s first Broadway show, See America First, was a disastrous flop, and upset by this he moved to Paris in 1917 in the midst of World War I. In 1918, Porter met American divorcee Linda Lee Thomas, already a society figure and a wealthy woman in her own right.

They became very close friends and married on December 19, 1919. With her support and guidance, Cole�s career finally took off. He had his first big hit in 1928 with �Let�s Do It, Let�s Fall in Love� for the musical Paris. A number of subsequent hits soon confirmed him as one of America�s most important composers, alongside such greats as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern.

Porter�s relationship with Linda was a good yet stormy one, especially when she realized that he was also interested in men and was rather open about it.

Porter suffered a horseback riding accident in 1937, fracturing both legs and causing him excruciating pain for the rest of his life. He had his final and biggest success with the 1948 Broadway production of Kiss Me, Kate, which won the first ever Tony Award for Best Musical.

Linda passed away on May 20, 1954 of emphysema. Porter was devastated.

After his right leg was amputated in 1958, Porter never wrote another song. He died on October 15, 1964.

In the press notes to the film, director Winkler writes, �We�ve used the broad outline and certain details of Porter�s life--especially his long, strong marriage to Linda Lee--to weave an impressionistic musical biography. The historical facts of Porter�s life are put together like notes in a melody, to try and give a truer, deeper picture of the man, his work, and, most importantly, his heart.�

Porter led an extremely theatrical life, especially in his mannerisms, his style of living, and his flamboyant way of dressing. He lived like royalty, partied and drank extravagantly.

�And Cole�s life was so contradictory,� Winkler continues. �Here�s a man who was married for 38 years, but a man who was also gay in a time when it was considered extremely taboo. Cole and Linda�s relationship was very unique, to say the least, and I knew exploring their relationship would be fascinating.�

The film is very stylized and spans 40 years, traveling from Paris to Venice and from New York to Hollywood. It also includes over 30 of Porter�s songs, performed by an impressive array of musical celebrities. They include Robbie Williams (�It�s De-lovely�), Elvis Costello (�Let�s Misbehave�), Alanis Morissette (�Let�s Do It, Let�s Fall in Love�), Sheryl Crow (�Begin the Beguine�), Mick Hucknall (�I Love You�), Diana Krall (�Just One of Those Things�), Vivian Green (�Love for Sale�), Lara Fabian (�So in Love�), Mario Frangoulis (�So in Love�), and Natalie Cole (�Ev�ry Time We Say Goodbye�).

De-Lovely is getting a lot of early Oscar buzz. It�s box-office success however, will depend on how many fans come out to see the film and how many younger people are intrigued enough by the talented cast to get their first introduction to Porter.

The film opens July 16 at the Cedar-Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights. Opening dates in Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton have not yet been revealed, although it is slated to open �soon� at one of the Drexel theaters in Columbus.

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