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March 19, 2004

Oregon vows continue

Second county to issue licenses after officials say state marriage ban is probably unconstitutional

Portland, Ore.--Multnomah County, the first Oregon county to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, will be joined on March 24 by Benton County, home of Oregon State University.

Benton commissioners passed a resolution allowing the licenses 2-1 on March 16 after the Oregon attorney general said that, while state law prohibits same-sex marriage, the state supreme court would probably rule that law unconstitutional.

According to commissioner Linda Modrell, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers� nonbinding opinion spurred the county to action. Corvallis, the site of Oregon State University, is widely known as a very progressive town.

�If the attorney general believes it is likely to be deemed unconstitutional, and if the other opinions out there believe the law is likely to be unconstitutional, it is just as unconstitutional today as it will be next week, next month and next year,� Modrell said.

Myers on March 12 issued an opinion on the matter at the behest of Gov. Ted Kulongoski. The governor asked Myers and his team to investigate the legality of the marriages and current marital law in the state.

�The Oregon Supreme Court likely would conclude that withholding from same-sex couples the legal rights, benefits and obligations that under current law are automatically granted to married couples of the opposite sex� is a violation of the state constitution, Myers said.

On March 9, Legislative Counsel Greg Chaimov issued a nine-page opinion that also said that the current marriage law would fail a test of constitutionality before the courts. Chaimov is the legislature�s top attorney, and his opinion came at the request of Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown, a liberal legislator from Portland.

Chaimov and Myers� opinions mirrored that of Multnomah County�s own attorney.

Multnomah itself briefly halted all marriage licenses on the morning of March 15, opening the license bureau at noon while county commissioners decided if they would continue issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

�On Friday, I asked the county attorney to analyze the attorney general�s opinion to answer one major question: Can the county rely on the attorney general�s opinion that the marriage statute prohibits issuing licenses to same sex couples to defend us from being sued successfully if we deny a request?� said Diane M. Linn, chair of the Multnomah County commissioners, in a statement. �The conclusion is that the attorney general�s opinion offers no assurance whatsoever that Multnomah County will not be sued successfully by any same sex couple who is denied a license while it waits for the issue to get to the Supreme Court.�

�In fact, if anything, the risk is greater than previously,� she said, referring to the legal opinions that the state�s same-sex marriage ban is probably unconstitutional.

The county has issued over 2,200 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since opening the floodgates on March 3.

An organization called the Defense of Marriage Coalition is challenging Mutlnomah�s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but it is not certain how long it will take for the matter to get through the courts.

Multnomah County Judge Dale Koch on March 8 refused to issue an injunction stopping the marriages, saying that the Defense of Marriage Coalition failed to show irreparable harm or a likelihood of success in their lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon is representing some of the couples in the case, and is hoping that same-sex couples in other Oregon counties are refused marriage licenses so they can challenge the marriage ban directly.

 

 


Top court halts San Francisco marriages

Interim order is a �pause� until lawsuits are decided

San Francisco--Within 24 hours of a California Supreme Court order halting San Francisco�s same-sex marriage licenses, suits were filed by both the city and on behalf of six same-sex couples whose wedding plans were cancelled by the court.

When the high court�s order came to San Francisco City Hall on March 11, the city had issued licenses to 4,161 same-sex couples in 29 days.

The suits, both in San Francisco Superior Court, claim that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples is discrimination by sex and sexual orientation. They also contend that by denying marriage to gay and lesbian couples, the state of California is in violation of its constitutional protections of equality, liberty, and privacy.

They ask the court to order state officials to comply with the state constitution by resuming the licenses.

The California Supreme Court directed San Francisco to stop marrying same-sex couples until two earlier suits challenging the licenses are resolved.

�Essentially, this is an interim stay of same-sex marriages, directing the city not to perform such marriages while the cases are pending before the court,� the top court said in a press release.

The high court had earlier refused to issue an injunction against the city requested by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who is a plaintiff in one of the two pending suits. The other plaintiff is the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund of Arizona, which is also seeking court orders to end the domestic partner registry created by voters in Cleveland Heights.

In forming its unanimous opinion to halt the marriages, the high court opposed two lower courts that earlier found no reason for the city to stop issuing the licenses.

The California Supreme Court also made it clear that arguments in the Lockyer and Alliance suits are to be restricted to the narrow legal question of whether or not San Francisco officials are �acting outside the scope of their authority� in refusing to enforce the state�s statutory ban on same-sex marriages.

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ordered city officials to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples February 12 on his belief that prohibiting them violates the state�s constitution.

The high court said its action �does not include the substantive constitutional challenge to the California marriage statutes themselves,� directing litigants to file those cases separately in Superior Court.

Six same-sex couples, including five left stranded at San Francisco City Hall by the high court�s decision quickly filed such suits, as did the city of San Francisco.

San Francisco�s suit providing the constitutional challenge was filed by city attorney Dennis Herrera.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the ACLU, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights represent the couples.

The suits are similar in their claims of discrimination, though observers believe the city�s suit may not go forward due to the difficulty the city will have proving it has standing to bring it.

The couples, however, will not have that problem, as their marriages were halted.

�We�re seeking marriage beyond San Francisco city hall,� said Lambda senior staff attorney Jennifer C. Pizer, �so gay couples across the state can be treated equally under the law.�

The suits could cause the Superior Court to order the resumption of same-sex marriage licenses within 30 days if the court agrees that it is discrimination not to grant them.

The couples bringing the suit all live in San Francisco.

California state senator Sheila Kuehl, who is openly lesbian, said the state legislature is likely to allow the courts to settle the same-sex marriage issue.

�There�s no pressure to do something and no pressure not to do something,� said Kuehl, adding that a bill to amend the state�s marriage statute from a man and a woman to two people, as it was prior to 1977, �may or may not get through the assembly.�

Kuehl said Proposition 22, a measure passed by voters in 2000 that refuses recognition of same-sex marriage, is not part of the state�s marriage statute.

�An argument can be made that Proposition 22 only applies to out-of-state marriages,� said Kuehl.

�California has strong equal protection as part of its constitution,� said Keuhl, �so there is a likelihood that the current law [banning same-sex marriages] will be found unconstitutional.�

Taking a shot at Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he would support changing the statute if the people voted for it, Kuehl said, �That shows his misunderstanding of the constitution. Equal protection does not require a vote.�

Kuehl said the marriages in California have forced people to learn the differences between marriage and civil unions or domestic partnerships.

�People understand the joy around marriages,� said Kuehl, �and know that it is a time of celebration and gifts. You don�t get those feelings around civil unions or domestic partnerships.�


Davids House Compassion to close

AIDS service organization hopes to find another Toledo agency to serve its clients

Toledo--David�s House Compassion, the city�s main independent AIDS service organization, will close on April 11.

�Unfortunately, a number of circumstances in the past several years have led to the decision to cease operations,� said board president W. David Arnold. �Currently, our primary goal is to see that services continue to be provided to our clients.�

Difficulties in fundraising over the last few years are being cited as the major reason for the closure.

�Raising funds to balance our budget has become more difficult,� Arnold explained.

�In the 1990s, when AIDS was in the forefront of the national and local consciousness, raising sufficient funds was much easier,� he said, echoing statements from other non-profits who have seen donations dwindle over the last few years. �With medical advances and new, more powerful drugs, persons with AIDS and HIV are living longer and more productive lives.�

�While these medical advances have significantly improved the lives of many of our clients, our load for case management services has increased every year, and many of our clients present with multiple symptoms, including other medical issues, mental health concerns, and homelessness,� he continued. �Accordingly, the demand for DHC�s services has increased, while the public�s perception is that the need for services to the HIV and AIDS population has decreased.�

David�s House serves around 500 people with HIV and AIDS, as well as providing support to 900 family members of people with HIV. It operates case management, direct financial support, transportation, educational and psychological support programs as well as a food pantry and a speakers bureau. In addition to Toledo and Lucas County, it serves Wood, Ottawa, Sandusky, Defiance, Williams, Fulton and Henry counties in northwest Ohio.

Eight staff members have been released already, and five more will remain through the end of the month. After that, one administrator and one case manager will remain to provide emergency services until the organization can find other groups to take up their work and grants.

�Our goal is to find a partner as soon as possible to absorb the DHC grants and to continue to provide services to the client population,� Arnold said. �We want to complete this transition to another entity by the end of April.�

The group is first looking at local organizations to take over their work, before opening their search to larger groups in the state.

�The board�s desire is to keep these services local,� Arnold said.

David�s House Compassion was started in 1989 when David Gercak and other members of No One�s Victory Alone decided that, in addition to NOVA�s AIDS services, a residential facility for people with HIV and AIDS was necessary.

A former church rectory was purchased and remodeled. It was named for Gercak, who died from complications of AIDS before the facility was completed.

In 1992, NOVA and David�s House merged to strengthen services for people with HIV and AIDS in the Toledo area.


Lakewood council votes to delay filling vacant seat

Lakewood, Ohio--The appointment of a new city council member turned into a debate over equality for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens of this Cleveland suburb.

Council members voted at their March 15 meeting to extend the process for filling a vacant seat after two members refused to support a move to do it that evening.

�They walked in here believing that it would be a foregone conclusion that Patrick Corrigan would be the next member of council, but that has not happened,� said council member at large Denis Dunn, who opposed the process and the speed at which some of his colleagues were moving to appoint the new member.

Former Jesuit and attorney Patrick Corrigan, who is opposed to domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples and generally conservative on social issues, raised objections from the GLBT community. His appointment could create a majority on council opposed to GLBT equality.

Patrick Corrigan was one of six applicants to fill the Ward 1 seat vacated by Brian Corrigan (no relation), who became the city�s law director.

By charter, city council can take up to 60 days to fill a vacancy. If council does not fill the vacancy in 60 days, the mayor appoints the replacement.

Corrigan�s opponents complained that the process set up by council president Robert Seelie, who is also viewed as unfriendly to GLBT concerns, didn�t provide enough time for perspective candidates to be recruited or screened.

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

�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.�

At the March 15 meeting, Seelie said he told the daily Plain Dealer of Brian Corrigan�s law director appointment and the vacancy on council, and that it was published February 24.

But when pressed, Seelie conceded that what the daily published did not call for applicants to fill the post.

Dunn said all the applicants were recruited by other city officials, not citizens or community groups.

Seelie then scheduled interviews for the applicants March 11, a time when he knew Dunn could not attend.

�It didn�t matter what the other candidates said at the interview. Their minds were made up for Patrick Corrigan before it started,� said Ward 2 council member Ryan Demro, who also opposes rushing the process.

By refusing to vote to suspend council rules, Dunn and Demro blocked the remaining four from voting to approve Corrigan. Rule suspension requires five votes.

Without a rule suspension, the soonest the seat could be filled is April 19, allowing Dunn and Demro to argue that that the process should be extended.

�There are consequences to rushing this,� said Dunn in the council meeting. �It�s unfair to [Corrigan]. If you approve him tonight, he will always be under a shadow.�

�I ask you to withdraw your support of Patrick Corrigan and open up the process,� said Dunn. �And if not, I ask Patrick Corrigan to withdraw his name from the vote tonight so the public can be engaged.�

�It is important to engage all of the community,� said Dunn, �and that was not done, and you have to withdraw your support for this candidate, because who would submit an application knowing the process is locked?�

�We lose nothing to prolong the process and be more deliberate,� said Demro.

�People are playing politics,� said at-large member Edward FitzGerald objecting to Dunn�s remarks.

�I�ll extend the process,� said at large member Michael Dever. �I�ll hear more candidates, but it�s not fair to [Corrigan].�

Two of the council applicants are women. Both were more supportive of domestic partner benefits than Corrigan. Demro referred to a campaign letter that newly-elected Ward 4 member Mary Louise Madigan sent to women in her ward asking for their vote to keep council from becoming all male.

Madigan defeated openly gay candidate John Farina for that seat. During her campaign, she attended GLBT events and Stonewall Democrat events attempting to convince voters that she would be as good for the GLBT community as Farina.

�Now she won�t support a woman,� said Demro. �Does she think one is all there needs to be?�

�I won�t participate if there�s a litmus test,� said Seelie of extending the process.

The term �litmus test� was used by Corrigan supporters several times, in attempts to disparage Dunn.

The words were taken from last week�s Gay People�s Chronicle story quoting Dunn, �. . . LGBT issues have become a litmus test in this community.�

Lakewood 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.

�All the candidates passed Denis Dunn�s litmus test,� said Madigan, who later claimed not to have known or asked where candidates stood on GLBT issues.

Madigan moved and Seelie seconded a motion to extend the application deadline to March 22 and for more interviews to be conducted March 29.

Demro countered with a motion to extend the deadline to March 26. Dunn seconded the motion, which was voted down 4-2.

Madigan�s motion then passed by voice vote.

Corrigan addressed council during the public comment portion of the meeting after most of the 75 spectators left.

Corrigan said he has �a differing opinion on moral issues in this community,� adding that he was open to all sides of the issues and would work for all of the community.

�Who better to come to the debate than those with differing opinions,� said Corrigan.

�I wish those who were here at the beginning of the meeting were here to hear this,� said Madigan of Corrigan�s statement.

Following the meeting, Seelie also said he didn�t know what Corrigan�s views on GLBT issues were.

�From what I learned, I think he�s fine,� said Seelie. �He has recommendation from his community.�

�I think he�s been unfairly characterized as extremist,� said FitzGerald of Corrigan.

Asked if he understood why GLBT community leaders were concerned with his possible appointment, Corrigan replied, �Absolutely.�

Corrigan said he didn�t feel slighted by the process being slowed down, and that he learned about the community because of the objections raised.

But Corrigan also said council members knew of his socially conservative views and opposition to domestic partner benefits because he lobbied against them in 2000.


Massachusetts Round Two ends without final passage

Boston--The second round of the Massachusetts constitutional convention ended March 11 closer to a �compromise� agreement to ban same-sex marriage, but without a definite constitutional amendment proposal.

An amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman but also guarantee civil unions to same-sex couples passed on preliminary votes, but did not reach a final vote that day. The convention reconvenes next week.

The amendment is intended to trump last November�s Supreme Judicial Court ruling that denying marriage to same-sex couples violates the Massachusetts constitution. The court set a deadline of May 17 for the state to issue marriage licenses.

If an amendment passes, it must also be approved by a second convention in 2005 or 2006, and then by the voters. It would take effect no earlier than 2006.

A constitutional convention is the state House and Senate meeting jointly. When it first met on February 11, four amendments were considered. None got the needed 101 of 200 votes to move forward, and the convention recessed for a month.

Left standing at the recess was a compromise proposal offered at the last minute by the anti-marriage House Speaker Thomas Finneran and moderate Senate President Robert Travaglini. Also known as the �leadership amendment,� the proposal would define marriage as being between one man and one woman, and guarantee same-sex couples the right to form a civil union providing �entirely the same benefits, protections, rights, and responsibilities that are afforded to couples married under Massachusetts law.�

Also left open was a proposal offered by openly gay State Sen. Jarrett Barrios, which would change the definition of civil marriage to �between two people,� mirroring language in the high court�s ruling.

A third proposal offered by Rep. Paul Loscocco would define marriage as between one man and one woman, but allow the legislature to determine the �nature and extent of civil unions� and be able to change that definition any time.

The third proposal was considered the most anti-gay, and the one that pro-marriage advocates felt necessary to defeat.

The convention reconvened at 2 pm with Travaglini presiding. Earlier, 3,400 demonstrators on both sides of the issue gathered inside the capitol, and another 1,500 gathered outside. Those favoring same-sex marriage sang patriotic songs outside the House chamber for 16 hours.

With only a minority of legislators completely supporting same-sex marriages, pro-marriage advocates strategized to defeat the most anti-gay proposal by Loscocco. They used the same method that defeated an outright same-sex marriage ban proposed by Travisa month earlier: support the leadership amendment in preliminary votes to take the other proposals off the table, then go against it on the final vote.

During the first hour of the convention, a motion by anti-gay State Rep. John Rogers was made to adopt language that it was the �clear consensus� of the legislature to ban same-sex marriages. That language was suspected to be a device for stopping marriage licenses from being issued on May 17. It was defeated 125-70 by a coalition of pro-marriage and pro-civil union legislators led by Barrios.

The first procedural motion to substitute the leadership amendment for the Barrios amendment passed 129-69, which also took the Loscocco proposal off the table.

Prior to the vote, anti-same-sex marriage legislators pleaded with pro-marriage ones not to support the leadership amendment, because to do so would betray their principles.

But pro-marriage lawmakers, who believe that the leadership amendment is their best chance to preserve same-sex marriage, remained quiet during the debate and supported the amendment.

Anti-marriage lawmakers used a similar strategy to take the Barrios amendment off the table by first voting against the leadership amendment, then for it.

The leadership amendment passed on a preliminary vote 121-77 minutes before a mandatory recess at midnight.

Called a �a mushy compromise no one loves� by pundits, it still needs an additional vote to pass. Lawmakers opposed to any recognition of gay and lesbian couples don�t like it because it creates civil unions. The pro-gay side doesn�t like it because it bans marriage.

Both sides are looking for ways to kill it, including bringing either the Loscocco amendment or the Barrios amendment back to the floor.

The convention will reconvene on March 29.

Pro-marriage advocates believe that the compromise amendment will be the easiest to defeat at the polls because neither side likes it, so no one will fight for it. If it fails, the court�s decision stands.

Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a same-sex marriage opponent, vowed to ask the high court for a stay of their decision to prevent same-sex marriages until after the constitutional amendment process has run its course.


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Five congregations hold service to defy Episcopal church

Fairlawn, Ohio--Five Episcopal congregations in the Diocese of Ohio held an outlaw confirmation service for 110 people on March 14, bringing in retired bishops from around the country to perform the services as a protest against the diocese�s support for the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.

The five churches, which were joined by a fledgling congregation that is not part of the Episcopal Church, held their service at an Eastern Orthodox church in suburban Akron. They planned the services in secret, and did not ask Diocese of Ohio Bishop J. Clark Grew II to provide �alternative oversight� for their ceremony.

Aiding the renegade congregations was the American Anglican Council, an arch-conservative group that opposes the ordination of gay men and lesbians. In the wake of last year�s approval of Bishop V. Gene Robinson�s ascension to head the Diocese of New Hampshire, the AAC has threatened schism.

The AAC brought in the five retired bishops, as well as an active bishop from Brazil. Their actions run counter to Episcopal regulations, which divide authority based on geography.

�I am not yet clear on what prompted such an action, one that was also decided and planned in secret, except perhaps an anxiety on their part caused by having the majority of clergy and parishes in this diocese take up the work of mission at home and abroad after the events of last summer, and center themselves in the gospel imperatives with renewed energy in anticipation of shared service with Bishop-elect Mark Hollingsworth,� said Grew, who is retiring shortly.

Hollingsworth, who will be consecrated on April 17, said in a written statemnt, �I am disappointed that the parish priests from the Diocese of Ohio and the six bishops of the Church who were involved in this service chose to begin their relationship with me, not with direct and honest dialogue, but by acting in this manner.�

�An action of this sort, designed to break down the community of faith, has no place in our polity,� the statement continued. �No one group can define for the whole church what constitutes an �emergency.� The laity and the clergy of the Diocese of Ohio, meeting in convention last November, clearly articulated their support of an inclusive theology in the larger church, and their affirmation of its actions in last summer�s General Convention.�

The bishops of the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, will be meeting in Texas this month to work on �alternative oversight,� a mechanism by which parishes whose views are at odds with the majority of their diocese can have another bishop come serve their needs.

The idea currently being floated is that a congregation would go to their bishop and discuss the matter with him, and he would then bring in a �flying bishop� to serve them. The American Anglican Council, however, objects to the plan, wanting parishes to be able to independently seek bishops to attend them, as was the case with the recent confirmation.

�We love the system when it works in our favor, and hate it when it doesn�t,� said R. Stephen Gracey, Bishop Grew�s assistant for information strategy. �We can keep polity that has worked for hundreds of years, or we can abandon it on an issue-by-issue basis.�

In addition to the General Convention�s confirmation of Bishop Robinson�s ascension last summer, the Diocese of Ohio�s convention in November faced a resolution being put forward in most dioceses by the AAC that expresses its opposition to Robinson�s bishopric, declares the diocese passing the resolution as part of the Episcopal Church and withholds funding from the existing national organization.

The resolution is seeking to establish that the current church is illegitimate and that the forces allied with the AAC are the �genuine� Episcopal Church. Church property is held in trust by local congregations for the national organization, so any parish leaving would have to give up their building and other financial holdings. The resolution is an attempt to outmaneuver that.

When the resolution was put forward in November, 84% of Diocese of Ohio clergy voted against it, as did 83% of the laity at the convention.

Gracey pointed out that, had Robinson been elevated earlier, the matter would not have come to the General Convention. It was only the fact that he was selected as bishop within two months before the convention that the entire organization had to confirm his selection. The confirmation by the General Convention was also not a vote on Robinson himself, but an approval of the methodology used by the Diocese of New Hampshire.

�Confirmation shows belief that the process of selection was followed,� Gracey noted.

It is not clear what will happen to the clergy and bishops involved in the March 14 service. The priests could be let off, face an admonition, suspension, or be deposed as priests. Their fate lies in the diocese�s hands. The bishops, however, would face disciplinary action from the House of Bishops, the national organization of Episcopal bishops.

�Neither the House of Bishops nor the Diocese of Ohio is likely to be swayed by sudden confrontational actions,� Grew�s statement continued. �Any response by the Diocese of Ohio in this matter will be prayerfully considered and characterized by the life of Jesus himself, who calls us all to unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.�

Gracey also pointed out that, had the parishes come to him requesting �alternative oversight,� there are at least two retired bishops within the diocese that could have helped them.

No parishes, however, have gone to Grew as yet requesting such an alternative.

The Diocese of Ohio covers 48 counties in the northern half of the state, and includes over 100 churches. The diocese has almost 26,000 members.

 


 

Man gets ten years for kidnapping Akron student

Akron--A jury acquitted Patrick C. Geiger of raping a gay University of Akron student last summer, but convicted him of several other charges. Four days later, he was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Geiger, 35, was convicted March 12 of abduction, kidnapping and felony assault stemming from the August 8, 2003 incident.

He met his victim in a bar near the University of Akron campus, and he and a friend invited the man back to Geiger�s apartment for a party. When it turned out that there was no party and Geiger�s friend left, the student also tried to leave. The victim said that Geiger locked the door and assaulted him, allegedly telling him that if he would stop resisting, Geiger would make his death quick and painless.

The victim also said that Geiger told him that he could not let him go because he would go to the police, and Geiger did not want anyone to know he was gay.

According to the victim, prosecutor Kevin Mayer told him that a juror said they believed that the sex was consensual but became violent, hence the acquittal on the rape charge.

The felony assault charge was added after prosecutors became aware that Geiger was HIV-positive, something he had not told his victim. Ohio law makes it a crime for someone who knows they are HIV-positive to have sex with someone without telling them. The victim has since been tested twice, both times with a negative result.

Geiger still faces kidnapping and assault charges stemming from a second attack on a 42-year-old neighbor on February 9. At the time, he was under house arrest, unable to post $50,000 bond in the first incident.

Geiger was missing for ten days in February due to a jail mixup. Due to delays in receiving the results from DNA tests, prosecutors in the first case dismissed charges against him February 10, intending to re-indict him.

By then he had been jailed in the second incident. Because of the $50,000 bond in the first case, he was allowed a signature bond in the second one. Jailers did not realize he had not paid the cash bond, and released him on February 13. He was re-arrested on February 24 after missing a court date the day before.

For the victim, the sentencing presented closure to a long ordeal. It took prosecutors two months to file charges against Geiger, although his identity was known. Then the DNA results were delayed, pushing the trial further back.

�It�s been a nightmare,� he said. �It�s been an unrelenting uphill battle, and now it�s over.�

�I was expecting him to get about ten years, so I�m happy with that,� he continued. �I�m disappointed the jury rejected the rape charge. They accepted that I was being held against my will. I have to say that, at the same time, that I am very grateful that they gave me the consideration they did on the other charges.�

He pointed to the work of prosecutors Mayer and Shelby Woodall as the reason for the convictions, despite the efforts of defense attorney Scott Rilley. The victim was livid at accusations Rilley leveled against him in court, saying the victim lied although police testimony upheld his account.

He also expressed his gratitude to Victims� Services for seeing him through the entire ordeal.

�Now I can start to heal,� he concluded.


 

13 states consider amendments to ban marriage

With same-sex marriages performed in four states and headed for a May debut in Massachusetts, other state legislatures are rushing to pass �defense of marriage� laws or stronger measures.

Many are pushing for state constitutional amendments to define marriage as an opposite-sex institution, while some are pushing resolutions supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Others are strengthening already-existing �defense of marriage� laws by trying to bar recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships made outside their borders.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft last month signed into law the country�s most restrictive DOMA legislation, which not only bars same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, but bans the government from granting any of the �statutory benefits of marriage.� The law is already being used to challenge Cleveland Heights� domestic partner registry, which grants no benefits.

In Michigan, the House of Representatives on March 9 fell eight votes short of the two-thirds majority it needed to send a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the voters. In Kentucky, a Senate-passed proposed constitutional amendment is awaiting action in the House. Gay equal rights proponents organized a protest in Frankfort on March 16.

Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania legislature on March 15 put on hold amendments to bills that would have barred gays from adopting, as well as strengthening the existing gay marriage ban and barring taxpayer-funded same-sex benefits. They cited confusion about what the amendments would do.

A proposed state constitutional ban on gay marriage passed the Indiana Senate with bipartisan support on February 3, but Democratic Speaker Patrick Bauer shelved it in the House on February 23, provoking walkouts by Republicans.

Constitutional amendments to ban marriage will be on the November ballots in Utah and possibly in Missouri, where it awaits House approval, and Mississippi, where both houses have approved amendments. Massachusetts and Wisconsin have both given preliminary approval to amendments. Both need to be approved again in the next legislative session before going to voters.

Four states already have marriage ban amendments in their constitutions: Hawaii, Alaska, Nebraska and Nevada.

But Georgia, Maryland and Oklahoma have defeated amendments this year.

Arkansas has approved a constitutional amendment and supporters are now collecting signatures to put it on the November ballot.

Amendments are pending in Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana and Minnesota. Measures are also tabled or held up in committee in Idaho and Illinois.

Virginia passed a resolution calling for Congress to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, while Arizona�s similar measure passed the House and now awaits Senate approval. California has measures both supporting and opposing the FMA, as well as a bill changing the definition of marriage to gender-neutral terms. Colorado has put its resolution on hold.

New Jersey passed sweeping same-sex partner benefits in January, and since then the mayor of Asbury Park married a single same-sex couple.

In both New York and Rhode Island, pro- and anti-gay marriage bills have been introduced. New York�s bills are not moving.

South Carolina is considering a bill stating that recognition of non-marital relationships is against the strong public policy of the state, which would block civil unions and domestic partnerships. South Dakota rejected a �super DOMA� bill, which died in a House committee, but Tennessee�s Senate Judiciary Committee approved a similar measure on March 16.

A regular DOMA bill was voted down in both the House and Senate in Maine, while in New Hampshire, one has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. Wyoming�s legislature killed a bill that would block the state from recognizing civil unions from other states.


 

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony bring Mahler to Severance Hall

Cleveland--Even as Michael Tilson Thomas prepares to record Gustav Mahler�s Fifth Symphony and perform it in Cleveland, the San Francisco Symphony�s SFS Media label releases his orchestra�s live recording of Mahler�s happiest symphony, Symphony No. 4. The fourth offering in the San Francisco Symphony�s ongoing Mahler series, the single CD offers glorious sound and musicianship and the option of superior SACD surround sound playback.

In conversation with Tilson Thomas some time back, the gay conductor laid out his goals for Mahler performance and recording:

�Mahler�s purpose, as he says so often, is to create a whole world, a whole universe, in every piece,� he said. �In something particularly as large as a Mahler symphony, there is a cinematographic element involved. Mahler wants some things to appear in a very diffused perspective, and others very sharp and direct. Fighting for those kinds of balances in the orchestra is something I�m very much committed to.�

�I�m also committed to live recording because I like the sweep that happens in a whole performance,� he continued. �As a kind of acoustic cinematographer, I try to work with our recording producer to anticipate certain issues of space, breath of sound, and focus of sound - many things that can happen in the course of the piece.�

Mahler marked his first movement �Deliberately. Do not hurry.� Tilson Thomas takes this indication (as well as all of Mahler�s subsequent instructions) seriously. The opening is quite laid back; whenever the tempo quickens momentarily, the orchestra soon returns to a leisurely pace. The conductor gives ample time to savor Mahler�s sleigh bells, his quasi-chamber music ride on a sunny day. San Francisco�s players luxuriate in the music�s textures, the winds especially fine. Even when the music becomes increasingly clouded, threatening to break into yet another outpouring of Mahler�s perpetual angst, it suddenly stops in its tracks; after telling silence, the sleigh ride continues as if nothing had happened. Tilson Thomas savors the movement�s conclusion, as it first seems to end then restart very slowly to build to a rousing climax.

Alma Mahler, Gustav�s wife and a composer in her own right until hubby put a stop to her music writing, said of the second movement, �the composer was under the spell of the self-portrait by Arnold B�cklin, in which Death fiddles into the painter�s ear while the latter sits entranced.� This is a very playful Death, one who toys with termination rather than pulling the plug. His Totentanz becomes a waltz --�In easy motion. Without haste� wrote Mahler -- as he seems to dance out of view, allowing us to savor the sweetness a bit longer. The playing is exemplary.

Tilson Thomas� start to the great third movement Adagio (�Peacefully�) is so heartfelt and warm it makes one want to cry. San Francisco�s violins superbly maintain a long, sustained high note that offers promise of stretching into infinity before gently descending from the heights. Even when the music becomes mournful, then tragic, Tilson Thomas gently reconnects us to the symphony�s overriding sweetness. The end unfolds as a glorious sonic spectacle, triangle and timpani resounding as heaven�s gates open to welcome us.

The �very leisurely� fourth movement is a soprano setting of a Bavarian folk song from the Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth�s Magic Horn) poetry collection that so influenced the development of Mahler�s first four symphonies. The music to the song, �Heaven is Hung with Violins,� was first sketched in 1892, seven years before Mahler began to compose the rest of the symphony. As such, this final movement must be understood as the raison d��tre -- �the tapering Pinnacle� as Mahler told a friend--of the symphony as a whole.

Tilson Thomas noted, �There are enormous storytelling aspects to Mahler�s music. It�s as though he�s telling a story to a child. He must have had a grandmother or someone who told him stories, and he remembered the way someone in their voice can set up the wonder of what is going to come next. It�s as though how, as a child, you can hear [whispering with increasing softness] �and then the two brothers disappeared into the forest and no one saw them anymore.� Just then, the storyteller deliberately sets people up to be delighted or surprised or scared, and there�s a delight that stays with you. No matter how many times you�ve heard the piece and you know it�s coming, it still delights you. Or it should anyway.�

The orchestra segues seamlessly into Mahler�s heavenly dimension. Mahler specifically requested �a singing voice with a gay, childlike sound, but entirely free from parody� for this child�s description of an unquestionably glutinous, meat-laden heavenly paradise.

Though soprano Laura Claycomb, usually associated with high-flying coloratura roles, provides requisite sweetness and soul, her singing cannot compare with Lorin Maazel�s Kathleen Battle (ideally innocent and small, yet filled with wonder and rapt expression) and George Szell�s Judith Raskin (mature sounding at first, but miraculously transcendent and radiant as she sings �There is no music on earth that can be compared to ours. The angelic voices gladden our senses, so that everything awakes to pleasure�).

In part this is the conductor�s responsibility; the magical slowdown of the start of the final verse heard in many versions, or the orchestral punctuations between verses that in Bernstein�s hands (with the New York Philharmonic) sound like a child pouting, here seem absent. San Francisco�s horns drolly underscore St. Luke�s slaughter of the ox, making them sound drunk with wine, but the violins virtually overlook the fish gladly swimming along. Tilson Thomas laudably never upstages his soloist (here far more audible than in live performance), but neither does he succeed in drawing from her the ultimate and indispensable heaven-sent statement.

Tilson Thomas and SFS have just launched a five-year multi-media project designed to �change the climate of national opinion regarding classical music and to make the music more accessible and enjoyable to a wider range of audiences.� Look for their late spring two-part PBS Great Performances exploration of Tchaikovsky�s Symphony No. 4.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are performing in Severance Hall until March 20. For tickets or more information log onto www.clevelandorch.com or call 216-2317300.

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