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April 23, 2004

Cincinnati Pride takes on a political tone

Cincinnati--The city�s 2004 Pride celebration, held June 12-13, was overtly political, with parade floats and festival activities designed to motivate participants to repeal Article 12 of the city�s charter and end the presidential tenure of George W. Bush.

Asking the pre-parade rally crowd to raise their right hands and repeat after him, activist John A. Kelly elicited a pledge from the assembled to �vote against the evil president, vote to repeal Article 12, and talk to ten voters about doing the same.�

�Vote [Bush] out,� said Kelly. �Send his tired white ass back to his ranch in Texas.�

�And do it with all the enthusiasm of talking about your friends behind their backs,� Kelly continued.

Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center board president Harold Keutzer spoke of his dream of Cincinnati being free of Article 12 and being �free of George W. Bush in the White House.�

Former Stonewall Cincinnati board member and Unity House World Peace Center co-founder Dianna Brewer called the anti-gay Article 12 a �modern day Jim Crow law� keeping gays and lesbians in the back of the bus.

�If Article 12 is not repealed it will not be because of the good people of Cincinnati,� said Brewer. �It will be because the leadership of the LGBT community did not come together.�

No speaker mentioned the proposed Ohio constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, and civil unions that will likely join the repeal of Article 12 and the presidential race on the November 2 ballot.

Nearly every parade float had an anti-Bush or repeal Article 12 message or both.

Young marchers chanted slogans demanding that presidential challenger John Kerry support marriage equality. Thousands of supporters lining the parade route and driving by shouted their own slogans of support back, honked horns, or flashed signs of their own as the parade made its way north on Ludlow Avenue across the viaduct to the Northside neighborhood, where it passed both the office of the campaign to repeal Article 12 and the Gay and Lesbian Center before breaking up at the festival site at Hoffner Park.

Festival attendance is estimated at 4,000. In addition to concerts by Freekbass, Vicki D�Salle, Antara, and Jake Speed and the Freddies, festivalgoers registered to vote, volunteered for the anti-Article 12 campaign, and heard more political messages while visiting the booths of community advocacy organizations.

Greg Harris, Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 1, said, �I need the GLBT community to get my back,� to beat incumbent Republican Steve Chabot.

Chabot, a supporter of the proposed federal marriage amendment who has a generally anti-gay voting record, chairs the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, which held hearings the measure this spring.

Harris, who favors complete marriage equality, called the hearings, �Chabot�s madness.�

�Marriage is the civil rights issue of our time,� he said.

Harris was joined in the parade by city council member David Crowley.

Crowley, a Democrat, co-sponsored the 2003 measure adding sexual orientation to the city�s hate crime ordinance following the New Year�s Eve murder of Gregory Beuchamp, a gay man.

�As a human rights issue, I see an evolution,� Crowley said in conversation about Article 12. �More elected officials are willing to say it�s not right, and more people are beginning to question it.�

�People become shocked when they hear what we have in our charter,� said Crowley. �People turning 18 now were only eight years old when it was passed, so there are a lot of new people who will have the chance to act.�

The previous day�s festival included performances by the Cincinnati Men�s Chorus, Emily Strand, Frozen Feet, Lucky and the Session, and Katie Reider.



New location gives Decked Out an international feast

Toledo--Decked Out 2004, the ninth annual fundraiser for Gays and Lesbians United, survived a change of venue and at-times inclement weather on June 12, bringing 350 people to the Erie Street Market.

Rain early in the day and strong winds led to fears that the second half of the evening event would be rained out, but the revelry endured throughout the night.

Decked Out was formerly held aboard the Willis B. Boyer museum ship, permanently docked on the Maumee River. The vessel became city property in the past year, leading to a prohibition on serving alcohol aboard.

When GLU and Decked Out co-chair Tammy Warren was notified of the policy, she moved the event to the Erie Street Market, where vendors provided an international feast. With fare ranging from Middle Eastern delicacies to Tex-Mex and seafood, the spread included an ice cream cart and a fountain flowing with a constant stream of warm, melted chocolate, with fruit and other items to be dipped.

After dinner, Community Pride Awards were presented to three individuals who have enriched the lives of LGBT people in Northwest Ohio. The recipients were Dean Riggs, who has been an activist and community leader in Toledo for over 30 years; Marie Sienkowski, co-founder of GLU and ACLU board member, and Brenda Spurlin, the guiding light who serves as the public face of Rainbow Area Youth, Toledo�s LGBT and questioning group for young people.

A number of members of RAY volunteered to help with Decked Out, arranging and setting tables, inflating and tying balloons, and myriad other tasks that needed to be handled before the guests arrived.

Among those guests were nearly a dozen politicians, including Toledo Mayor Jack Ford, openly gay City Council president Louis Escobar, council members Wade Kapszukiewicz and Peter Gerkin, Common Pleas Court candidates Jim Vail and Denise Navarre Cubbon, county commissioner Tina Wozniak and Ohio Rep. Peter Ujvagi.

Ford spoke to the crowd for ten minutes, expressing his support for equality for all people.

The evening ended with hours of dancing.

Warren said that city officials may have found a loophole that would allow alcohol aboard the Boyer, but the logistics of having an event on board work against a return. All the food, beverages, utensils, glasses, plates, napkins and ice cubes must be loaded onto the ship by hand, then unloaded at the end of the night via a gangplank. At Erie Street Market, moving items from the building to the parking lot where the event was held is much simpler.

In addition Erie Street Market is handicapped accessible, has more restrooms, and electricity is more readily available for cooking, sound equipment and other appliances.

�As of right now, I think Erie Street Market is the place to be,� Warren said. �The event was a smashing success, as I hoped it would be.�

While financial figures were not available at press time, part of the money raised will go to GLU�s annual candidates� forum in the fall.

Warren also noted that the location was secondary to the efforts of the others who donated their time to organizing the f�te.

�This event wouldn�t have happened without the efforts of the committee and my co-chair, Ella Dudek,� Warren noted. �We can�t wait to see everyone at Decked Out 2005.�

HRC diners urged to get the White House away from

Columbus--Corporate sponsorship for this year�s Human Rights Campaign Columbus dinner was up forty percent from last year, said Vasilios Birlidis, a member of the event�s steering committee.

The 21st annual dinner drew about 900 people to the Hyatt Regency Hotel on June 12.

HRC executive director Cheryl Jacque said that this event and this year are of particular importance �because we have to get the White House away from George Bush.�

�We need someone who won�t use the Constitution for political gain,� she said before the dinner began, �and George Bush is using the bully pulpit with the Federal Marriage Amendment� to discriminate against GLBT people and their families.

As for the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Jacques said that she was �thrilled.�

�Kerry has the strongest record on GLBT issues of any presidential candidate ever in the history of the United States,� she said.

Reeling off a list of examples, she said, �Kerry in the first six months as a senator introduced a gay equal rights bill in the mid 1980s. He testified as a decorated Vietnam veteran against �don�t ask don�t tell.� He voted against DOMA in an election year.�

When asked if she was comfortable with Kerry�s stance on civil unions and his opposition to gay marriage, Jacques said that, �It is important to have a person who will have an open dialogue with us and I know he will. He understands our family and he has a good and open heart. We will have to educate him about gay marriage.�

�HRC is doing what everyone else in the country is right now,� she said of the recent eulogizing of Ronald Reagan, with little coverage of his record on AIDS. �We are respecting the office of the president, we are sympathizing with a family who has lost a loved one.�

�But, HRC will also be telling the country that Reagan�s record on AIDS was deadly and his silence deafening and that no American should ever forget that.�

�We have unfortunately returned to an administration that repeats the same mistakes and is not giving our youth the unvarnished truth,� Jacques said. As for the GLBT population, she urges them �to vote, vote, vote.�

In addition, �They should write checks, volunteer in this unprecedented election in terms of its importance to the GLBT community.�

During her address to the gathering at the dinner, Jacques reiterated many of those themes. Referring to Bush�s address to the nation a few months ago referring to gay marriage as a �national emergency,� Jacques said, �Shame on you Mr. President. Shame on you.�

Jacques added that gay citizens living in committed, loving relationships was �not a national emergency.�

Referring to a June 1 Sixth Citcuit court ruling that civil rights laws apply to transgender discrimination, Jacques thanked the plaintiff,� Salem firefighter Jimmie Smith, and his attorney Randi A. Barnabee for �their courage and leadership.� Both attended the dinner.

�The road ahead is fraught with peril but we have been here before as a nation,� she said. �And we have overcome before as a country. I believe with every bone in my body that America will fulfill her promise for equality. She always does in time. And now is our time.�

Julie Johnson, from Dallas, Texas, who is co-chairing HRC�s committee to defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment, also urged the crowd to �stretch� their pockets to help protect GLBT rights. She said that conservative groups had raised $120 million to help pass the FMA while HRC has raised roughly $25 million to help defeat it.

Lynn Bowman, a member of the HRC dinner�s steering committee said, �We have to defeat the FMA at all costs because it is not a gay rights issue but a human rights issue.�

Randy Harrison, who plays Justin on Showtime�s gay series Queer as Folk, was the special guest of the evening. He had come to address the gathering about the importance of family and community.

In an interview before the dinner, Harrison said that he was �here to support HRC� and liked returning to Ohio since he had done his theater schooling in Cincinnati.

Harrison said that he is going to do some work for the Kerry campaign now that he is on hiatus from shooting the show. He said he wasn�t thrilled that Kerry had not come out in support of gay marriage, but said that he understood �he was doing it in order to be competitive and win the election.

We are at a civil rights moment, Wolfson says of marriage

Cleveland--�The institution of marriage has always been the battleground for other, larger issues,� attorney and Freedom to Marry director Evan Wolfson told the Cleveland City Club June 11, �and those battles are alive today.�

Wolfson�s appearance before 115 at the City Club, a renowned forum of speech, debate, and diverse ideas, marked the second appearance there of an openly gay speaker addressing GLBT issues and taking audience questions. The first was Lambda Legal Defense director Kevin Cathcart last August.

Wolfson is a former senior attorney at Lambda, where he directed the first same-sex marriage litigation in Hawaii and the represented James Dale against the Boy Scouts before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wolfson has been part of the legal teams representing same-sex couples in all states where suits have occurred, including the landmark Massachusetts case that resulted in last November�s ruling for same-sex marriage.

He began by discussing other groups who have struggled for the right to marry and how marriage laws have changed to become more inclusive and more fair.

Wolfson described the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision Turner v. Safley, which cemented marriage as a fundamental right. The top court assigned four attributes to marriage: a contract between two people recognized by the state, possibly having a spiritual dimension, the prospect of physical consummation and as the gateway through which people access protections and benefits.

Wolfson said that because it is a fundamental right, �the decision to marry and whom to marry cannot be arbitrarily denied by government. Not even for convicted felons,� the subject of Turner.

He noted that because marriage is so fundamental to being human and being recognized as human, denying it is often a weapon used to oppress groups by legal subordination.

Wolfson said that the legal �definition of marriage� used to be that women lost their identity to their husbands.

�He owned her,� said Wolfson, �They were of one flesh and that flesh was his. That�s where we got Mr. and Mrs. His-Name.�

Those laws created the marital rape exemption, which gave a husband the right to rape his wife by claiming he was just taking what was rightfully his.

�That was wrong,� said Wolfson, �so we changed it.�

As a young lawyer, Wolfson worked on the litigation that ended the marital rape exemption.

Other restrictions on marriage have been removed in the lifetime of many in the room, Wolfson said. These include laws forbidding mixed-race marriages, laws prohibiting divorce and laws barring contraception.

�That was wrong,� he repeated for each one, �so we changed it.�

�These are really larger questions in the battle over separation of church and state,� said Wolfson.

He noted that his presentation was a day after the first anniversary of Canada�s recognition of same-sex marriages.

�Canada is a country where the sky is not falling, there are no locusts and no floods,� he pointed out. �They�re doing quite well.�

�We are at a civil rights moment where fair minded Americans can, in Lincoln�s words, think anew,� said Wolfson, comparing it to similar �moments� in the nation�s history on slavery and women�s suffrage.

�Gay people want to marry for the same reasons as non-gay people, and those reasons register in love as they should register in law.�

Wolfson concluded, �Marriage inclusion stands for the proposition that people have the right to be different and equal.�

The evening before the City Club appearance, Wolfson participated in a town hall discussion on same-sex marriage hosted by Cleveland Pride, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and Ohioans for Growth and Equality.

That event, before an audience of 73, was held at Trinity Cathedral, the home of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio.

Wolfson was joined on that panel by Cleveland attorney Tim Downing, and Cleveland Heights couple Deb Smith and Keli Zehnder.

The City Club will continue its conversation on same-sex marriage with a debate June 23 between Downing, Case law professor Susan Becker, Defense of Marriage Act sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, and another opponent to be announced.

Reservations for that event and a webcast of Wolfson�s appearance are available at the City Club�s site,

Senate passes hate crime bill

Washington, D.C.--The U.S. Senate passed an amendment to a defense appropriation bill to increase the penalty for hate crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation and gender.

The amendment, called the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, was primarily sponsored by Senators Gordon Smith, an Oregon Republican, and Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat. The amendment passed June 15 with bipartisan support 65-33.

The language amends a 1969 law providing for the prosecution under federal law of violence motivated by race, religion, national origin or color to also include sexual orientation, gender and disability.

A stand-alone GLBT inclusive hate crime bill failed to pass Congress in 1997. Since then, Smith and Kennedy have attached the measure as an amendment to various department appropriations in 1999, 2001, and 2003.

Each time, the amendments passed, but were removed by Republicans in conference or blocked from taking effect through procedural moves.

The current amendment must survive another vote on the final defense package, then be reconciled in conference with the House version that does not include the language, and the signature of President George W. Bush.

Cheryl Jacques, president of the Human Rights Campaign, is more confident of this measure�s survival than past attempts. She notedthe larger margin of victory and the support of key Republicans who have opposed the measure in the past.

This year, 18 Republicans, including Ohio�s Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, joined Democrats in support of the measure.

But according to Jacques, more significant is the support of the powerful Republican Armed Services Committee chair John Warner of Virginia, who has opposed the language in the past, and the influential, conservative Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who has also opposed it in the past.

�The defense appropriation is Warner�s bill,� said Jacques. �In the past he has made it clear he didn�t want anything extraneous on his bill. This time, he supported it and voted for it. That means a lot when the bill goes to conference.�

Also influential as the bill moves is Rep. Deborah Pryce. The Columbus Republican chairs the House conference and supports the measure. Pryce has co-sponsored similar language in the House.

Jacques said that the opposition was �surprisingly low key, in that there were no vitriolic speeches against it as there have been in the past.�

Jacques said the defense authorization was a �moving train� and Smith and Kennedy made the decision quickly to attach the amendment to it.

�But the bigger surprise,� said Jacques, �was that there were no second degree amendments� or attempts to amend the amendment. Past secondary amendments have attempted to strip �sexual orientation� from the language.

The language specifying protection on the basis of �real or perceived gender� also survived. According to Sen. Kennedy and a Clinton administration legal opinion, the language covers transsexuals, transgenders and transvestites.



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Summer reading begins with this Pride Month trio

The down-filled comforter of Pride Month has descended across Ohio, bringing with it a myriad of events across the state.

With bear camps, volleyball and bowling tournaments, cruises, parties, festivals, parades, drag softball games, concerts and dance parties, who has the time to read?

Of course, not all books are necessarily about reading. In the case of many books, a picture tells a thousand words. Others are packaged in easy-to-digest morsels, so that progress can be made whenever one has a free minute.

The first of a trio of Pride Month volumes, Mirror of Love by Alan Moore and Jos� Villarrubia (Top Shelf Productions, $24.95), is a fascinating work.

A reprint of an epic poem by top comic book writer Moore, responsible for From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it was originally presented in an anthology to fight Britain�s Section 28.

The measure, passed in 1986 and repealed last year, barred school districts in Britain from teaching anything that �promoted homosexuality,� meaning anything that wasn�t anti-gay.

In the original anthology, created by some of England�s top comics writers and artists, Moore�s poem was illustrated by artists. For this version, it is supplemented with the photographs of Jos� Villarrubia, tracing the history of same-sex love from the Classic era through the modern day. Lush, exquisite photos fill the pages as Moore�s writing takes the reader through over 2,000 years of, in Oscar Wilde�s words, �the love that dare not speak its name.�

Love spoke up at city hall for a month this past winter, when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered county officials to allow same-sex couples to marry.

While the legality of his actions is currently before the courts, We Do: A Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Marriage, edited by Amy Rennert (Chronicle Books, $19.95), is a pictorial record of those heady days of February and March.

Newsom himself provided the foreword for the book, which contains pictures from over 30 photographers.

�Growing up in an Irish-Catholic household in San Francisco, I was taught that a loving commitment between two people was the foundation of a strong marriage,� Newsom writes. �I was also taught that discrimination was wrong.�

To get the book into print in time for Pride Month meant that the fully legal Massachusetts marriages that started in May were not included. But the book will forever be a perfect snapshot of a moment when a maverick mayor stood up and said that he would not allow his constituency to be second-class citizens any longer.

Beyond any political ramifications of Newsome�s risky stratagem, one thing is clear in every single photo: At the heart of the issue, and in the hearts of all the people involved, is love.

At the risk of sounding cynical, the flip side of love is the blues, and that is where the third new release comes in.

Jason Bergund and Beverly West�s Gay Cinematherapy (Universe, $15.95) is a fast-paced, quick-witted look at the movies that provide succor to gay men and lesbians when the school of hard knocks has given them an F; when, like Atlas, the weight of the world is on their shoulders and it just might be time for a little shrug.

The subtitle of the books is The Queer Guy�s Guide to Finding Your Rainbow One Movie at a Time, but much of the advice is certainly as applicable for women as for men.

There�s a little something for everyone in here, and interspersed with the synopses of the films are notable quotations, recipes for fun, and nuggets of advice for the lovelorn, needy, homebound or hidebound.

Of the three tomes, this is certainly the most fun. The recipes, including the �home facial bar� party tip, would be a blast to try out.

So, in between dancing, marching, pitching, bowling and any of the thousands of other Pride Month activities, take some �me� time and head to the local LGBT bookstore, pick up a good book, and realize just what there is to be proud of.



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