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March 12, 2004

Wedding bells ring in Oregon and New Jersey

Portland, Oregon--A Multnomah County judge refused on March 8 to stop the wedding bells that have been ringing in the county since last week.

Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on March 3, while the small New Jersey shore town of Asbury Park did so on March 5.

Only one wedding took place in New Jersey before the state attorney general ordered an end to the same-sex nuptials.

In Portland, Presiding Judge Dale Koch said that the Defense of Marriage Coalition had failed to show irreparable harm and the likelihood of future success in their suit against the county.

Koch�s decision mirrored that of judges in San Francisco who refused to stem the flow of marriage licenses being given to same-sex couples there.

Portland residents Mary Li, 40, and Rebecca Kennedy, 42, were the first couple married in a ceremony performed by retired Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts. By press time more than 1,600 couples had followed their lead.

The gay equal rights group Basic Rights Oregon had approached four of the five Multnomah County commissioners in January on the issue. When County Attorney Agnes Sowle issued a legal opinion that refusing to grant a license violated the state constitution, commission chair Diane Linn ordered an administration change to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

The Oregon Constitution, written in 1857, states: �No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.�

The Oregon Supreme Court used that clause to affirm the granting of health insurance and other benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees in a 1998 ruling.

Opponents have charged that the changes should have been made at an open public meeting and the four commissioners are violating the law. Supporters argued that no law was changed and therefore no meeting was required. The tactic has drawn criticism from many corners.

The right wing Defense of Marriage Coalition filed a lawsuit on March 5 seeking an injunction to block the issuance of licenses.

Koch will hear arguments on a preliminary injunction on March 12.

The Christian Coalition has begun organizing a recall petition for at least two of the commissioners and it is seeking to put the issue of marriage on the statewide ballot in November.

Commissioner Lonnie Roberts, who was excluded from the discussions, is proposing an amendment to the county charter to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. He hopes to get it on the May 18 ballot.

A poll of 400 voters, commissioned by the daily Portland Oregonian and conducted on March 4, showed patterns of opposition to gay marriage that are slightly more moderate than national numbers. There are similar divisions along the lines of age, gender, and party affiliation.

Overall, 54% do not think that same-sex marriage should be legal, but 61% support either marriage or civil unions. Some 53% of voters younger than 35 supported the idea of gay marriage, while only 25% of those older than 55 did so.

The Oregonian said in a March 7 editorial, �On television and from a distance, these unions may look political. Up close, however, they seemed deeply personal and heartfelt . . . It�s appropriate for Oregonians to reflect and consider the unabashed joy among the couples who�ve sought to marry.�

�These are not strangers in San Francisco anymore. These are friends, coworkers and neighbors.�

Greetings from Asbury Park

In Asbury Park, New Jersey, Ric Vest and Louis Navarette were wed on March 8 after the required 72-hour waiting period.

Deputy mayor James Bruno presided over the ceremony and city council member John Loffredo acted as a witness.

New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey ordered Asbury Park officials to stop marrying same-sex couples the next day, and stated that the licenses issued to Vest and Navarette is invalid. He also threatened criminal prosecutions carrying possible penalties of prison time and $10,000 fines if more marriages are performed.

The town clerk believes that state law does not specifically preclude issuing the licenses while the U.S. and New Jersey constitutions guarantee equal protection under the law.

Both the New Jersey Attorney General and the gay and lesbian Lambda Legal disagree with that interpretation of the state law.

Two years ago Lambda sued New Jersey for full marriage rights. The case is on appeal.

 

 


List grows for Article 12 repeal

Campaign identifies thousands of supportive voters during primary election

Cincinnati--The campaign to repeal the city charter�s anti-gay Article 12 garnered 2,200 more supporters during the primary elections.

Citizens to Restore Fairness placed more volunteers at polling places on March 2 than any candidate running for office, declared campaign manager Justin D. Turner after the polls closed.

�We had the largest volunteer force on the streets today,� he said, noting that CRF�s strategy is one-on-one conversations to identify repeal supporters �so people will learn the truth� about Article 12.

�That�s two in a row,� he said, referring to work during last November�s election.

Last year CRF collected over 13,000 signatures, twice the number needed to put a repeal of Article 12 on next November�s ballot. The measure, passed by voters in 1993, bars the city from enacting any measure protecting gay, lesbian or bisexual citizens.

Now the group has turned to identifying 63,000 voters who oppose the article and getting them out to vote for the repeal.

�Because of the lesser-expected turnout of a primary, we targeted the polling locations that had the largest number of voters,� said field organizer Ted Jackson. �Due to the success of our previous election day actions, we chose to avoid areas we had already saturated, such as Clifton, and went to new neighborhoods, like Mt. Washington.�

The campaign also recruited 260 new volunteers after talking with 4,000 people outside the polls, said Turner. They collected names, addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses, providing an �advantage so we�ll have names and other data for what it takes to win next November.� Volunteers were teamed up to work one of three different shifts, 7 am to 8 pm.

Turner declined to say exactly how many volunteers turned out during this �last best chance to identify supporters in just one day.�

�Volunteers did everything they could to capture information on supportive citizens at polls in almost every neighborhood in the city. Making one-on-one personal contact is what will make a difference in November,� he added.

Recruiting more volunteers for the work ahead is a top priority.

�It�s the only way we can identify the supporters we need to win the election and repeal this anti-gay law,� Turner said. �In the next nine months, canvassers will be going door-to-door to show our power, the legwork to make it happen.�

During volunteer recruitment phone banking, volunteers call other supporters of the repeal effort and ask them to join in an upcoming campaign activity.

The next day of canvassing will be March 13 at 10 am. A special canvass will be hosted by the National Conference for Community and Justice on Sunday, March 21.

After success in the primary, Turner is optimistic about victory in the fall.

�It was a great day for grassroots power in Cincinnati as we march towards November,� concluded Turner.

To learn more or join the effort, go to www.citizenstorestorefairness.org, or call 513-5913247.


1,100 pro-partner voters identified in Lakewood

 

Lakewood, Ohio--Volunteers identified 1,100 voters in favor of domestic partnership during a few hours of election day in this western Cleveland suburb on March 2.

Heights Families for Equality and members of the newly created Lakewood Caucus of the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats conducted the voter identification drive to see where voters stand on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, according to HFE spokesperson David Caldwell.

HFE ran last year�s campaign to create a domestic partner registry in the eastern suburb of Cleveland Heights.

�By percentage, the number of people wanting action is higher than that in Cleveland Heights,� said Caldwell, adding that the total number of voters the group spoke with was relatively small.

Caldwell said there were 50 three-hour shifts 6:30- 9:30am, and 4:30-7:30pm, covering only a small portion of the city�s polling locations.

Voter identification is the method used successfully in Cleveland Heights and also being used to repeal the anti-gay Article 12 in Cincinnati. It is speaking to individual voters, identifying their level of support, then making sure supporters vote on election day. Polling places during earlier elections are a good place to speak with voters.

Caldwell said volunteers identified 327 �ones,� the highest level of support on their 1-to-5 scale. These are people willing to give their time and money toward a cause.

�This is about three times the rate we had in Cleveland Heights,� said Caldwell, �and I think it is because battles [for domestic partner benefits] have been fought and lost in Lakewood.�

An ordinance to grant benefits to the domestic partners of city employees was defeated by Lakewood city council in early 2000 on a 5-2 vote.

The measure was introduced by now-State Rep. Mike Skindell and former Ward 4 council member Nancy Roth. It became divisive and has been a political barrier to further pro-gay legislation in the city, although a hate crime ordinance was passed later that year.

�It�s also because of [President George W.] Bush,� said Caldwell. �The liberal straight voters kept saying over and over that they can�t believe what an issue this has become.�

�We�re thrilled with the energy for action that we found,� said Caldwell, �People want to do something.�

Caldwell said one of HFE�s long term goals is to teach volunteers in other communities how to use voter identification to do what was done in Cleveland Heights.

�We want to expand and get things going in other communities,� said Caldwell. �Work needs to be done in a lot of places.�

Lakewood was chosen, according to Caldwell, for its unsuccessful previous attempt to pass domestic partner benefits, and because it resembles Cleveland Heights in size.

Lakewood has 14 percent more total population, and has four percent more registered voters, but with lower voter turnout than Cleveland Heights.

�This makes the number of voters you need to reach about the same,� said Cladwell. The Cleveland Heights registry passed 7,600 to 6,290 after HFE identified 7,500 supporters.

David Howard, who heads the 130-member CSD Lakewood Caucus, said 4,500 votes is enough to elect someone to council-at-large in Lakewood.

According to the 2000 census, Cleveland Heights topped the list of Ohio cities larger than 10,000 in number of same-sex partner households at 0.94 percent. Lakewood came in second at 0.92 percent.

Howard was one of four Lakewood caucus members who worked the polls. The rest were HFE members, some of whom are Lakewood residents.

�I was surprised too, at the level of support,� said Howard. �It was enlightening to me. Even the detractors were very nice about it and spent time to tell us where they were coming from.�

Howard said that HFE decided independently to conduct the action in Lakewood, and presented the plan to the caucus about a week before it happened. He added that the caucus �had other priorities� before then, including the establishment of a community relations commission and an ordinance to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

�Now we want to do more voter identification at the November election,� said Howard.

Howard said the �short, front-end nature of the project� prevented more caucus members from participation, and that he expects the two groups to continue to �play together well in order to get to the goal.�

�The next steps, �said Caldwell, �are to identify the people in [the caucus] who can become leaders and transfer the skills and get them started.�

�We want to grow an Ohio team,� said Caldwell. �We expanded the circle of GLBT politics a lot in Lakewood in one day.�

 


Appointment to Lakewood council may tip balance

Lakewood, Ohio--The appointment of a new member of city council could create a majority opposed to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.

GLBT leaders believe social conservatives are attempting to rapidly install an anti-gay member to replace Ward 1 council member Brian T. Corrigan, who is resigning to become the city�s law director.

By charter, city council can take up to 60 days to fill a vacancy. If council doesn�t fill the vacancy in 60 days, the mayor appoints the replacement.

Corrigan was appointed law director by Mayor Thomas George on March 1. He takes office March 15.

According to Cleveland Stonewall Democrats Lakewood Caucus chair David Howard, Council President Robert Seelie waited until the last ten minutes of the March 1 meeting to announce the vacancy, calling for applications and r�sum�s by Friday, March 5.

�Most everyone was gone by then,� said Howard. �The only press left was the Sun Post that only comes out on Thursday. That left only one day for people to get letters in.�

�Council has 60 days to do this,� said council member at large Denis Dunn, �but Seelie has created a 96-hour window to do the whole thing.�

Dunn said the city didn�t publicly call for applicants, either.

�There was no press, no notice on the city�s web site,� said Dunn.

The Cleveland suburb has been split on issues of GLBT equality and has experienced bitter opposition to measures ranging from domestic partner benefits for city employees, defeated in 2000, to flying a rainbow flag at city hall during the week of Cleveland Pride, passed last year.

Brian Corrigan voted for the city�s gay-inclusive hate crime ordinance, which passed in 2000, but has said he does not want to pay for immoral behavior. However, he also voted to fly the rainbow flag.

The Cleveland Stonewall Democrats mobilized its Lakewood membership to demand that council replace Corrigan with someone �sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community� and someone who �respects the rich cultural, ethnic, and community diversity of Lakewood and who will enact legislation that embraces that diversity.�

�Representation is not going to happen when the process is truncated,� said Dunn, contending that the process for replacing Corrigan is not being conducted in the open.

�It appears that the [replacement] has been pre-ordained and that they are trying to ram it through,� said Dunn.

Dunn offered last year�s flag resolution. Council president Seelie was the sole vote against it. He also opposed domestic partner benefits in 2000.

Dunn said that the appointment could tip the ideological balance away from enacting domestic partner benefits and strengthening the city�s community relations board, both of which have been identified as priorities by the Stonewall Democrats Lakewood Caucus.

Dunn knew of only four applicants, Lynne Farris, Brandon Davis, Ellen Todia, and Patrick Corrigan.

Two others have applied: David Clifford and James Gepperth.

�I checked Friday afternoon and there were only four,� said Dunn. �The others must have come in after the deadline.�

Seelie did not return calls for comment.

Dunn said the four he knew about were all asked to apply by Lakewood officials.

�Others who might have been interested have no opportunity to cry foul when they didn�t know the game was being played.�

Dunn said city council should take the appointment as an opportunity to diversify.

�Council is currently six white males and one white female, six of whom have Irish names,� said Dunn, adding that he would also support an openly gay appointment.

�If we want to promote progress,� said Dunn, �council should want to fill the vacancy with people who are forward thinking on the issues, and LGBT issues have become a litmus test in this community.�

Dunn said that by contrast, council spent more time to appoint at-large members Michael Dever last year and Edward FitzGerald in the 1990s.

�It took longer than this,� said Dunn, �and there were multiple interviews.�

Seelie has scheduled one hour to interview all six applicants on March 11 before the decision is made.

Applicant Farris is troubled by that, too.

�That�s less time than I�m talking to you,� Farris told a reporter after noting that the six would get ten minutes each.

Dunn, who is the most vocal critic of the process, also expressed concern that the interviews were scheduled at a time when Seelie knew he couldn�t attend.

Howard said he believes Patrick Corrigan is Seelie�s favorite, and has concerns about the applicant�s attitude toward the GLBT community.

A former Jesuit and attorney, Patrick Corrigan said on his r�sum� that he �dealt with the ill, the elderly, the sick and the evil.� He is also president of Lawyers for Life of Cleveland, an anti-choice legal organization.

�If I had been on council in 2000, I would have voted against the domestic partner ordinance,� said Patrick Corrigan. �I am against taxpayers supporting something that is against the strong public policy of the state.�

Patrick Corrigan said domestic partner benefits are merely �incremental steps taken by those who want benefits married couples have� and that taxpayers shouldn�t have to pay for lifestyles they morally oppose.

Farris said she �would support a domestic partner ordinance absolutely.�

Davis said he is generally supportive of domestic partner benefits, but might not support an ordinance because �it should be a federal matter so it can be recognized everywhere. I don�t see it as a role of city government.�

Todia said, �I would be open to the idea, but would want to look at the economic impact of it.�

Gepperth and Clifford could not be reached.

Dunn said he will attempt to keep any rushed nominee from getting the four votes needed to be confirmed, then make a motion to extend the process.

�The way it is now leaves the objective voter to believe that it is inside baseball and that it is a done deal,� said Dunn. �If that happens, whoever takes that seat will always have a shadow cast upon him.�

The appointee will complete Brian Corrigan�s term and stand for re-election in 2005.


Ohios Congress delegation shies from ban amendment

Columbus--Sen. George Voinovich expressed opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment on March 1, saying the issue should be in the hands of the states.

�I have every reason to believe we�ll have an enormous amount of debate and so forth over this issue if it�s brought to the floor of the Congress this year, at a time frankly when we have some rather significant financial and economic and international problems that are confronting us,� he said.

Ohio�s other senator, Mike DeWine, �is examining the issue,� according to spokeswoman Amanda Flaig.

She told the Gay People�s Chronicle that DeWine believes marriage should be restricted to one man and one woman, but that it�s �very important to preserve the rights of individuals. Senator DeWine opposes discrimination against homosexuals.�

Less than a month after signing Ohio�s �defense of marriage� act into law, Gov. Bob Taft weighed in on the Federal Marriage Amendment.

�Now, the amendment is something I need to review,� Taft told Gongwer, a legislative news service in Ohio and Michigan. �If it does no more than reaffirm and reinforce our ability to defend our laws, then in all probability I will support it.�

State Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati said that he believed the Federal Marriage Amendment, officially endorsed by President Bush on February 24, was not necessary unless courts rule that there is a federal right for same-sex couples to marry.

"You don't need to amend something that doesn't contain the provision you want to correct," Seitz said.

Seitz was the main sponsor of the DOMA legislation passed in Ohio that denies recognition of same-sex marriages and bars the �legal incidents of marriage� from gay and lesbian couples. The measure is being used to challenge the Cleveland Heights domestic partner registry.

The Federal Marriage Amendment states, �Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."

To become part of the Constitution, the amendment must pass both houses of Congress with a two-thirds majority, and then be passed by the legislatures of 38 states. Voinovich and DeWine, along with the Ohio contingent to the House of Representatives, would be among the first to vote on the measure.

Among the Ohio members of the House, reaction to the FMA is decidedly mixed.

The state�s six House Democrats all oppose the amendment.

Two Republican House members are co-sponsors. Rep. Michael R. Turner, the former mayor of Dayton, and Rep John A. Boehner, whose district encompasses Darke, Miami, Preble and part of Butler counties west of the city, have both signed on to the amendment.

Rep. Steve Chabot of Cincinnati, who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, will be holding five hearings on the amendment starting on March 30. His committee may change the measure to protect states' right to make marriage policy and limit the court's jurisdiction on the issue.

Chabot and Rep. Paul Gillmor said they are concerned about the implications of using the Constitution to define marriage.

Rep. Deborah Pryce of Columbus, the fourth-highest ranking Republican in the House, believes that �amending the Constitution should be our last resort,� her spokesperson told the Columbus Dispatch.

Reps. Steven LaTourette and Pat Tiberi both believe marriage is a state matter, although Tiberi has not ruled out voting in favor of the amendment. Rep. Rob Portman is also examining the amendment and has yet to weigh in on the issue.

Rep. Michael G. Oxley, who supported the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, said that he would support the amendment if the federal DOMA is found to be not strong enough.

While Reps. David L. Hobson and Ralph Regula have yet to express their opinions on the amendment, Rep. Bob Ney has said that he will support it.


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Suits filed for marriage in New York and Seattle

Seattle--Lambda Legal Defense and the Northwest Women�s Law Center filed a lawsuit in Seattle on March 8 seeking full marriage rights under the Washington state constitution, three days after Lambda filed a similar suit in New York.

The Washington suit was filed after six gay and lesbian couples requested and were denied marriage licenses at the King County Administrative Building.

�They and their families are coming down to King County today to say, �I want the same thing as everyone else and there is no good reason not to give it to me�,� women�s law center executive director Lisa Stone said at a news conference.

She was joined by King County executive director Ron Sims who added, �We should never tell people who love each other, who have entered into a relationship soberly, people who will function for the rest of their lives as one, who will raise children--we should never deny those individuals the right to be married.� He said he would make his feelings known during the trial.

New York

In Manhattan, Lambda filed suit on behalf of Daniel Hernandez and Nevin Cohen, who have been a couple for five years.

�New York�s courts have a track record of making sure lesbian and gay people are included in the state constitution�s requirement that everyone be treated equally under the law,� said lead attorney Susan Sommer.

San Francisco

A degree of normalcy returned to San Francisco, albeit with same-sex marriage licenses continuing to be issued during normal business hours. In their brief filed on March 5 with the California Supreme Court, city attorneys asked that the marriages be allowed to continue while the case goes to trial.

The court is not likely to issue a decision until its regular meeting on March 17. Most legal observers believe that they will refrain from intervening and allow the case to be heard in a trial court, where both parties are due back on March 29.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer has rebuffed pleas by social conservatives that he lock up San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for violating the law.

The latest �big name� to be married in San Francisco was David J. Knight, who married Joseph A. Lazzaro Jr., his partner of ten years. Knight is the son of State Sen. Pete Knight, a staunch opponent of gay equal rights who pushed a successful 2000 ballot initiative defining marriage as an opposite-sex institution.

Efforts to send antigay marriage amendments to state constitutions have failed in Maryland, Maine, Indiana, Wyoming and Michigan. An amendment will be on the ballot in November in Utah.

 

 

 


 

Age-disparity dating is a risk for youth, GLSEN told

Cincinnati--Gay and lesbian youth are at more risk for �age-disparity� dating relationships between adults and teens than are their heterosexual peers, a GLSEN meeting was told.

Planned Parenthood nurse Melissa Meyer, LPN, spoke with 17 members of the Cincinnati Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network on March 4.

She opened with discussion of how GLBT youth might be susceptible to being influenced by someone older. Issues mentioned by some of the people in the room included drinking alcohol thanks to �sugar daddies and sugar mommies,� few peers being out of the closet, and not having much money.

�When you�re a teenager, there are not a lot of people out [of the closet], so how do you even know where to turn?� asked Doug Meredith, GLSEN�s publicist and a Northern Kentucky University senior in Common Ground, NKU�s gay-straight alliance.

Some area bars with live music allow people of all ages or people 18 and over inside, but, �There aren�t a lot of safe places for kids to socialize,� lamented Andy Ruffner, a mental health counselor and human resources consultant.

Meyer�s presentation included a group discussion applying her ideas to GLSEN�s work in supporting and empowering GLBTQ youth. Even when no sexual activity is present in a relationship, one wise course for adults is to always have another adult present with the youth because, �You never know.�

Meyer asked if anyone there ever had a crush on, or sexual intimacy with, a person four years older or younger.

�It happens really often,� she said.

Some sex-related crimes are misdemeanors if the older participant is less than four years older. Perpetrators beyond that range can face punishment of one to five years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine, she said.

GLSEN co-chair Kathy Laufman said the topic at hand �is one that makes some people quiver. At GLSEN, we�re affirmative. We don�t want our members to cross [out of] appropriate boundaries.�

The issue is important because GLSEN is a non-profit group serving young people. Members work to make K-12 schools safer and more affirming places for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

GLSEN holds a monthly program on the first Thursday of each month at the Union Institute near Corryville and Walnut Hills. The April meeting will focus on bullying with a video production and discussion. The group hosts an annual youth summit in November and a prom (April 24 this year) with close contact with teenagers.

Unlawful use of alcohol and mental abuse such as guilt and self-abuse were mentioned as possible factors in an age-disparity affair. Even adults, if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cannot legally consent to have sex, said Meyer.

Meyer posed scenarios to bring up issues. A 14-year-old camper stays in touch with a camp counselor and the older youth turns 18.

�That should raise a red flag,� said one woman in the audience.

�I�d want to know how to scotch that dicey situation,� said a man.

�There was a power imbalance at camp,� said Meyer, mentioning statutory rape as a possible criminal charge. Ohio does not have a �Romeo and Juliet� law that allows sexual activity if the relationship began before one turns 18.

Another scenario: A woman under 21 has a college employee as a mentor. On overnight visits, she tells people, her host provides alcohol.

�We must tell the kid: You�ve done nothing wrong, but the adult has,� one participant in the discussion said.

In another situation, a teen tells an adult friend that his parents have threatened to kick him out. The adult offers a referral. The boy rubs the adult�s back, purring, �I�ll be good.�

�Put in place physical distance and say: Please don�t touch me like that,� said Meyer. �Say: Here is what I can do for you today.�

There are high numbers of GLBT runaways and throwaways who don�t get adequate support at home and are at special risk on the streets, said Meyer, an education and training specialist.

One difficulty is not having an age of consent clearly specified in the Ohio Revised Code, although state law does make it clear that children below the age of 13 cannot have consensual sex, even with peers, she said. Sexual conduct involving a person under 18 with one at or over 18 is unlawful.

People must know that many people licensed by the government or who are in positions of authority over another are required to report cases of abuse or neglect within 24 hours, Meyer said.

People uncertain about their responsibility can call in anonymously to 513-2415437 (KIDS). Meyer, as a licensed practical nurse, is a �mandated reporter� all the time. Some care-providers are liable in civil court if they do not report the incidents.

�We are such a litigious society,� she said.

In Kentucky, one man present said, all citizens are required to report abuse if they know about it.

�Boundaries of consent can be really troubling,� Meyer said, but �adults must set really clear, appropriate ones.�

GLSEN is at 513-2211670 and http://www.glsencincinnati.org.


 

Silver screen mirror

Film festival�s offerings reflect the community

They have been doing it now for 28 years, and the last 27 might now seem like test runs.

Not that the previous installments of the Cleveland International Film Festival weren�t the largest, grandest cinema events in Ohio, perhaps even the whole of the Midwest. They were, and filmmakers long to be a part of the excitement.

However, one year the Ten Percent Cinema, the showcase for LGBT films at the festival, might seem a little �boy heavy.� Then the next year, it was a girl-a-palooza.

There is usually a little bit of transgender in the festival, although it might seem nearly an afterthought.

This year, however, the tireless staff of the Cleveland Film Society, the organization under whose auspices the film festival is organized, have surpassed themselves, ensuring that every single letter in the familiar pantheon is represented fairly.

It almost defies belief, that a film festival that is mostly heterosexual should go so far to portray the brilliant colors of the rainbow so well. Well, belief be damned, here�s the proof, in order of screening.

First off is Eloy de la Iglasia�s Bulgarian Lovers, a poetic tale of an affluent Spaniard who cruises Madrid�s gay quarter, la Chueca. Daniel is drawn there by the many available refugees from Eastern Europe, especially the handsome Kyril, a recent �migr� from, of course, Bulgaria.

Kyril, despite becoming involved with Daniel, has a fianc�e back home, and his Spanish paramour greases the legal wheels of society to help him return and marry her. However, the marriage doesn�t necessarily mark the end of their relationship, but where will it go from there?

Bulgarian Lovers will screen on Friday and Monday, March 19 and 22.

If the thought of cruising men leaves one cold, the next offering might heat things up a little more.

Sascha Rice�s Mango Kiss . . . there�s no possible way for this writer to sum it up better than the film society did in the catalog for the festival:

��Am I your primary, your secondary, or just another spoke in your wheel,� asks Lou. Narrator of this gaily colored sex comedy, she chronicles her no-longer-platonic relationship with her best friend, performance artists Sassafras, who was long uncertain about her gender preference before coming down fully on the Sapphic side. Now they�re a couple, cohabitating and working downscale jobs in a dominatrix-owned San Francisco supermarket.�

�The community is like a sexual candy store--full of Sweet Tarts, Red Hots and Jawbreakers--and Sassafras says she�s got to taste all 21 flavors; she cruises the S&M underground, hooking up with a musical punk while assuring Lou that she comes first. Rock steady Lou, secretly chagrined, tries to please her lover by playing along � heavy emphasis on �play.� For in their pursuit of sensual happiness, these college grads adopt attitudes and argot of early childhood. But infantilism isn�t enough to sugar-coat Lou�s achy heart when she realizes fidelity is the ultimate lifestyle.�

How could one be more succinct than that?

Mango Kiss will show on Saturday and Monday, March 20 and 22.

Making its Cleveland debut as part of the Saturday, March 20 Shorts Program 2 is Jonathan E. McNeal�s The Rubi Girls, his half-hour-long paean to the Dayton drag troupe who have spent the last decade and a half performing and raising money for the gay and HIV-AIDS communities. This documentary has played at a score of film festivals, winning the hearts of people across the world.

The next two films go together, opposite sides of a coin. They�ll both play in sequence on Sunday, March 21 and Tuesday, March 23, although they switch orders each day.

Opposite Sex: Jamie�s Story and Opposite Sex: Rene�s Story present both sides of the two-way road that is transsexuality.

Jamie�s Story tells of a middle-aged husband in Michigan who finally undergoes gender reassignment after years of living as the wrong sex. Jim becomes Jamie, living with the rejection of her parents but the support of her wife, Brenda.

Following Jamie�s Story on Sunday, but preceding it on Tuesday, is Rene�s Story, a documentary about Anaheim, California�s Rene Pene, who began identifying as male at three years old. Despite being biologically female, he married his girlfriend Wona when he was 18.

He was later outed as a �woman,� however, and the film picks up as Rene begins surgeries to right the errors of biologically while his marriage to Wona begins to crumble.

On Thursday and Sunday, March 25 and 28, the festival delivers a one-two punch from the Holy Land with a duo of queer flicks from Israel.

Round one is Send Me an Angel, a 45-minute film following Ronny on his birthday. First his ex-boyfriend dashes any hope of reconciliation when he announces that he is moving to America with his new flame. Then Ronny�s on-line hook-up, a �military man,� turns out to be a waifish hustler. The two meet again at a rave, and wind up exploring each other�s hearts.

Round two presents the technical knock-out in the form of Garden, which follows two men for a year as they live in the Garden, a part of Tel Aviv where the only crops are junkies and hustlers.

A young Palestinian, in the country illegally, and his partner in life and crime, an Arab Israeli, are profiled as the filmmakers follow their roller-coaster lives.

Ireland�s Goldfish Memory is next on the agenda. Liz Gill�s university tale starts off with Isolde, Prof. Tom Lawless� long-suffering wife, witnessing him kissing his next conquest. Her anger and frustration trigger a series of events that illustrate the fluidity of sexual orientation.

�When it comes to love,� Tom, the lothario, says, �people are like goldfish, having only a three-second memory and fated to repeatedly swim the same troublesome currents of pain and delight.�

Goldfish Memory plays on Thursday and Friday, March 25 and 26.

Gay families take center stage with Paternal Instinct on Thursday and Saturday, March 25 and 27.

The documentary follows Mark and Erik as they seek a surrogate mother to bear two children, one with each father�s sperm. A Wiccan from Maine comes to their aid, but her fertile field takes longer to bear fruit than they anticipated.

Agatha Christie and Woody Allen have a picnic on the grave of Moli�re in Merci Docteur Rey, a far-flung farce centering around Dianne Wiest as an opera diva returning to Paris to perform and deal with her son Thomas.

Thomas is just coming to terms with his homosexuality, but when he watches a younger man and an older man have sex, the older man winds up dead, sending Thomas running to his mother�s shrink, Docteur Rey.

The problems really begin when it turns out that Docteur Rey is lying dead under his desk, and a diva-phobic patient is impersonating the good doctor.

Merci Docteur Rey will play on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28.

Finally, the festival closes on March 28 with a film whose provenance makes it arguably the queerest film in the catalogue, Stephen Fry�s Bright Young Things.

An adaptation of bisexual writer Evelyn Waugh�s lampoon of jazz-age London society Vile Bodies, openly gay actor/director/writer/raconteur Fry (who played Oscar Wilde in Wilde)follows the misadventures of Adam Fenwick-Symes.

Adam�s novel, Bright Young Things, has been taken. An expos� of London�s wealthy and their foibles, the novel could make his fortune. But he must take a job at the Daily Excess, a newspaper owned by Lord Monomark. The aristocrat takes Adam and his fianc�e Nina to party after party, winding up at the prime minister�s home, where some gross indecency could spell the downfall for the administration.

A reception in the Oak Room of Tower City will follow the screening.

All the films are being shown at the Tower City Cinemas at Public Square in downtown Cleveland. For more information on any of the films, call 216-6233456, or long onto www.clevelandfilmfestival.com.

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