Boston--The seven couples whose lawsuit against Massachusetts struck down the state�s ban on same-sex marriage will get married on May 17, the first day the nuptials are legal.
Marriages in the state usually require a three-day waiting period after getting a license, but waivers are available from district and probate courts. The couples who were involved in the suit will all apply for waivers.
Three of the couples will receive the first three licenses issued by Boston. The other four will marry in other cities.
Cambridge will open its city hall at 11 pm Sunday night May 16 for a celebration, with the clerk�s office opening at midnight to issue the first licenses. Other cities will begin at their normal Monday morning time.
Despite the near-complete certainty that marriages will begin on May 17, some anti-gay forces are launching last-ditch efforts to avert the first completely legal same-sex marriages in the United States.
After the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts� highest court, last week rejected a bid by 13 state lawmakers to overturn the November ruling allowing same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage foes sought a restraining order in federal court.
The Liberty Counsel, a Florida religious right legal group, and several other conservative groups filed a motion making the same argument the Massachusetts high court court rejected: that the SJC violated constitutional separation of powers in their ruling.
�When the laws that are made violate the state constitution, it is the court�s purview to say yes or no,� said attorney Shari Levitan. �I think the significance of this is not the case itself but that it highlights such strong emotions. People are willing to go to the mat with any argument to push their claim.�
Meanwhile, Gov. Mitt Romney, who opposes same-sex marriage, has warned clerks against granting marriage licenses to out of state couples. He is relying on a rarely-used 1913 law, designed to block interracial marriage, which forbids issuing licenses to couples from other states when their home state would not recognize the marriage.
The law was only passed in five states: Massachusetts, Vermont, Illinois, Wisconsin and Louisiana, which has since repealed the legislation.
Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios of Cambridge, who is openly gay, and Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg of Amherst filed an amendment to the state budget that would repeal the 1913 law. Another free-standing bill to repeal the law was introduced in April by Rep. Robert P. Spellane of Worcester, but it is not expected to make it to the floor for a vote.
In the face of the controversy over the law, Romney backed down a bit, loosening the requirement that same-sex couples prove Massachusetts residency. However, clerks could still refuse to issue licenses to out-of-state residents.
Clerks in a number of municipalities, including the gay mecca Provincetown, have indicated that they will not ask for proof of residency, despite the possibility of a $500 fine and up to a year in prison for violating the state law.
With the same-sex nuptials approaching, one labor union issued a letter on May 7 specifying that the phrase �dependent spouse� in its benefits plan referred only to someone of the opposite sex.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 in Boston issued the letter, and one of their attorneys insists that federal law allows the union to provide benefits as it sees fit.
Five Service Employees International Union chapters have already voted to extend benefits to same-sex couples. Those five locals cover 75,000 members, compared to 6,000 members of IBEW Local 103.
IBEW Local 2222 was displeased with their sister organization�s decision to limit benefits.
�That�s just not the right way, that�s not what America was founded on,� Local 2222 business manager Miles Calvey told the Boston Globe.
�It was surprising and disappointing because labor unions are in the business of providing wages and benefits for working families, not denying them,� said Janice Loux, president of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 26.
Columbus--�This is a battle they are ready to fight, and we have to show up,� said Lynne Bowman of the Human Rights Campaign Columbus steering committee, referring to an attempt to amend Ohio�s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships.
Bowman was one of nine speakers to address nearly 500 people gathered in front of the Ohio Statehouse May 5 to protest the �defense of marriage act� passed by the legislature in March. The act, which took effect the next day, denies recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states, as well as domestic partnerships.
The rally focused on the need to defeat the proposed amendment. If passed, it would put prohibitions against same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships in the state constitution as well as banning protections for unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
�We must be aware that DOMA and the amendments are not about marriage,� said Bowman. �They are about very scared people using every tool in their arsenal to try to protect their world as they think it should be, to try to make us go away, to make us retreat back into our closets.�
During the ceremony, a memorial book was signed by participants as a sign of mourning the loss of GLBT civil rights in Ohio. Veterans Todd Shinkle and Caelen McCauley also laid a black funeral wreath at the foot of the monument to President William McKinley.
Members of Heights Families for Equality, who traveled from Cleveland Heights, recruited volunteers to help fight the amendment.
The event was organized by HRC, Ohioans for Growth and Equality, and Stonewall Columbus.
�We are here tonight to say to the religious right and Karl Rove: Take your message of hate and bigotry and get out of Ohio,� said Stonewall Columbus director Kate Anderson.
Rove directs the Bush-Cheney re-election effort, which has made opposition to same-sex marriage a campaign issue.
�We will not stand idly by while you attempt to elect George W. Bush president on the backs of gays and lesbians throughout our great state,� said Anderson.
�Tonight I say to each and every one of you,� said Anderson, �between this evening and November 2, there is no time to be tired and no request for financial support denied. There should be no leaf unturned to educate family, friends and neighbors why DOMA is bad, why the upcoming state constitutional amendment is bad and why the federal marriage amendment is bad.�
Nick Staup, with his partner Rolando Ramon, addressed the rally. Staup and Ramon married November 28 in Ontario, Canada. Their marriage is not recognized anywhere in the U.S.
Staup said that when his grandparents were a young couple in Kassel, Germany in the 1930s, their Jewish neighbors lost the right to marry whomever they wished.
�My grandparents� neighbors lost their lives in the abused name of God and country which finally inflicted prejudice, violence, and death,� said Staup. �Now our state has embarked down this dangerous path of institutionalized prejudice.�
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays member Duan Cannon, an African American, pointed out Canada as the place where her ancestors went for freedom not available in the U.S.
�Let 2004 not be the year for LGBT people to have to go to Canada for freedoms lost here,� said Cannon.
State Rep. Dan Stewart, a Columbus Democrat said DOMA is �just a finger in the eye of the GLBT community.�
�I wish [Bush] cared more about peace on earth, the economy, and jobs and less about who�s marrying who,� said Stewart.
Miami University Senior Seth Bringman said he planned to leave Ohio, his life long home, after graduation.
�How can my parents accept me when Ohio enacts a law declaring me against the strong public policy of the state?� said Bringman.
�However,� said Bringman, �If George W. Bush is successful writing hatred and bigotry into the U.S. Constitution, let it be known that my generation will tear it down.�
�Darkness falls,� said Rev. Phil Hart, �and darkness falls over the entire state as DOMA takes effect in a couple of hours.�
�What the bigots don�t know,� said Hart, �is that each of us, as gays and lesbians, has known a personal darkness in the closet. We have been in this kind of darkness before and have come through it.�
�The darkness of the closet didn�t contain us for long,� said Hart, �and this new darkness won�t contain us either.�
But they can�t be turned in if he rules that the petition summary is wrong
Columbus--A group seeking to amend Ohio�s constitution to ban same-sex marriage may begin collecting signatures, a judge says, but may not turn them in until he makes a final ruling on the petitions� summary.
A Cleveland area couple filed suit last week to stop the amendment, which would also ban all unmarried partner arrangements. Their case was boosted May 7 when a Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Daniel T. Hogan partially granted a temporary restraining order against the measure�s backers.
Thomas Rankin and Raymond Zander of Westlake seek to compel Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro to withdraw his April 28 certification of the proposed petition summary, which they claim is misleading.
The suit also says that Petro�s assistant D. Michael Grodhaus, who approved the summary while Petro was on vacation, was not properly bonded. As such he could not legally act in place of the attorney general.
The proposed amendment and summary, along with 218 signatures, were filed April 20 with the attorney general. Once 100 of the signatures were verified, the attorney general is required to rule on the �fairness and accuracy� of the summary.
If the summary is approved, petitions can be circulated with it at the top of each form.
Petitioners need 322,899 valid signatures collected in 44 of Ohio�s 88 counties by August 4, representing a tenth of votes cast in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Judge Hogan noted that there are �arguably problems with the language of the summary.�
The couple says that the summary language, which appears at the top of the petitions by law, is �not a fair and truthful statement of the proposed constitutional amendment.�
The suit contends that, while the summary says the amendment �forbids according non-marital relationships a legal status intended to approximate marriage in certain respects,� the actual amendment is not limited to certain respects, but includes all respects.
The couple also states that the summary contains inflammatory language by referring to �same-sex relationships and relationships comprised of three or more persons.�
�The actual language of the amendment does not use the same terminology,� the complaint says, so it �incorrectly implies that same-sex relationships and relationships comprised of three or more persons are currently accorded legal recognition as marriage.�
Columbus election attorney Donald McTigue, who represents Rankin and Zander, said he is pleased with the judge�s statement that there could be problems with the summary.
McTigue is more pleased that the judge suggested that the summary be replaced with the actual text of the amendment. But Hogan did not stop petitioners from gathering signatures, as McTigue also requested.
�The court can see no irreparable harm in allowing the defendants to circulate the petition as is,� Hogan wrote, �provided that the petitions are not filed until after the issues regarding the accuracy of the summary of the proposed amendment have been decided.�
The amendment backers, the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, are represented by Cincinnati attorney and anti-gay activist David Langdon. He filed a temporary restraining order May 12 challenging the constitutionality of the Ohio law requiring summary language to appear on the petitions.
�If there�s no summary, there�s no challenge to its fairness and accuracy,� said Langdon.
Langdon said petitioners could not follow the judge�s suggestion to substitute the text of the amendment without the attorney general�s approval and ultimately, another court case. He said that challenging the summary law �muddies the waters,� but �we need to strike.�
McTigue said Langdon is �adding a significant issue for appeal.�
The temporary restraining order issued May 7 is in effect until May 21.
A hearing will be held May 20 on the suit. If Rankin and Zander prevail, petitioners will be prohibited from going forward with the current petitions, and will need to start over with a new summary.
If Langdon convinces the court to find the law requiring a summary unconstitutional, petitions will simply contain the amendment itself.
Judge Hogan will hear Langdon�s matter on the summary May 13.
Methodist schism proposed, but church will stay together
Pittsburgh--Arch-conservative groups in the United Methodist Church unveiled a proposal at its quadrennial conference to split the church over the issue of homosexuality. But the conference voted overwhelmingly the next day to keep the church together.
The conference, which ended May 7, had already voted to uphold its stance that homosexual activity is �incompatible with church teaching,� that clergy cannot perform same-sex weddings and that unmarried clergy members must be celibate.
The plan was unveiled on May 6 by Rev. William Hinson, president of the evangelical Confessing Movement. He said that a schism would be good for the church, claiming that the debate over homosexuality would not end, but it would allow the two sides to get on with their work without having to deal with it any more.
�Our people, who have been faithful and patient, should not have to endure our endless conflict,� Hinson said.
Many conservatives and most progressives in the church opposed the idea, arguing that the church has gotten over other difficult issues in its history.
�It�s a statement that has not been affirmed by any group or caucus in the church,� said Bishop William Oden of Dallas. �He�s speaking only for himself, and there are generalities that I don�t think any of us would feel comfortable supporting.�
One day after Hinson proposed a split, delegates at the conference voted 869-41 to remain united.
Hinson said that his supporters will use the time until the next conference in 2008 to build support for a schism.
The arch-conservatives must move carefully. Church law bars exiting congregations from leaving with church property, so complex negotiations would have to be conducted to allow an apostate wing to keep their buildings and bank accounts.
The issue was brought back into the forefront of Methodist thought with the March clerical trial of Rev. Karen Dammann, a lesbian pastor living with her partner. A jury of pastors acquitted her of violating church law.
The Pacific Northwest region of the church, the area in which Dammann was located, is known for being progressive on social issues like homosexuality.
Rev. William K. Quick, who was pastor of a Methodist church in Detroit for 24 years before becoming associate general secretary of the World Methodist Council, noted that there were schisms in 1830 over the power of lay people in church life and again in 1844 over slavery. Those groups rejoined in 1939 to form the United Methodist Church.
Two Clevelanders bring their vision of a musical theater to life
Cleveland Heights--Two men shared one vision: Start an intimate theater focusing solely on presenting musicals to an appreciative audience. Their vision is now a reality in Kalliope Stage, whose first production, Carousel, runs through June 6.
There are a few things that make Kalliope, run by openly gay executive director John Paul Boukis and equally gay artistic director Paul F. Gurgol, unique to the area. Taken individually, they are not exceptional characteristics, but as a gestalt, they truly are more than the sum of their parts.
First, the theater is non-profit. There are a number of other very good non-profit theaters in the Cleveland area, true, but Kalliope is completely given over to performing musicals, unamplified, to a small audience in their 100-seat venue at the intersection of Cedar and Lee.
�It�s really an urban model and it fits in well in Cleveland Heights,� said Boukis, a 33-year-old from suburban Broadview Heights.
Boukis started as a classical violinist, playing with the Cleveland Youth Orchestra. During high school, he began doing work in theater, and supported himself at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. as an actor.
Boukis, after deciding with Cleveland native Gurgol that the city would be a good place for the theater they envisioned, sold his house and gave the proceeds of the sale to the Kalliope. Since it is non-profit, the money was a donation, not an investment. That was the certainty he had that the project was worthy.
Similar theaters, like the Signature in Washington, the Tiffany in Los Angeles and the American Century in Chicago, have all met with success.
�We�re trying to set up relationships with these theaters,� Boukis noted.
�We�re not trying to do something glamorous and enormous right off the bat,� he continued, noting that in five years, the theater may need a larger venue.
The theater just received a $30,000 grant from the Civic Innovation Lab, in addition to the mentorship of Michael Cristal, the president of Cleveland�s Consolidated Risk Management and John Polk, director of the Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship at John Carroll University in suburban Cleveland.
�This grant was a major endorsement for us,� he said, noting that the Civic Innovation Lab is a program of the Cleveland Foundation, giving it an important imprimatur in the area.
�This theater can be a real community asset,� Boukis believes. �Cedar Lee has such promise, but it still has a little way to go.�
He noted the presence of the Cedar-Lee movie theater, as well as an abundance of fine restaurants nearby, pointing out that Dobama Theater will also be moving to the neighborhood.
�To me, theater is a sense of place,� he said. �You go to the Kennedy Center, you�re in Washington. You go to Broadway, it�s a region.�
�I think theaters give a city character, and that�s what we wanted to be a part of, especially in Cleveland Heights, which is so diverse.�
For more information, or for tickets to Carousel, call 216-3210870 or log onto www.kalliopestage.com. The theater is located at 2134 Lee Rd. in Cleveland Heights.
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