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May 21, 2004

Lesbians and gays marry in Massachusetts

First fully sanctioned same-sex marriages in the U.S.

Boston--The United States became the fourth nation to allow same-sex couples to get married on May 17 when a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling from last November took effect.

Cambridge City Hall began handing out marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m. as some 10,000 gays and lesbians rallied outside.

Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd received the first license.

�I feel overwhelmed,� Hams told reporters. �I feel ready to collapse. I�m shaking so much, I�m really ready to faint.�

Shepherd added: �There�s some kid somewhere that�s watching this and it�s going to change his whole life . . .� This is about so much more than us. But it�s about us, too.�

Weddings began around the state several hours later when other government offices opened and judges began granting waivers of Massachusetts� mandatory three-day waiting period between issuing a license and the marriage ceremony.

Gov. Mitt Romney has said same-sex couples from other states cannot get married in Massachusetts unless their home state recognizes gay marriages or the couple is planning to move to Massachusetts. He cites a 1913 state law that was designed to appease states that banned interracial marriage after Massachusetts allowed it.

But several Massachusetts cities have said they never applied that law to straight people and have no intention of applying it to gay people. Those cities include Somerville, Springfield, Worcester and Provincetown, which began issuing licenses to out-of-state couples immediately.

The attorneys general of Rhode Island and New York announced that their states likely will recognize the marriages of residents who marry in Massachusetts.

With weddings taking place across the state, it was impossible to keep a running count, but at the least, hundreds of marriage licenses were handed out by clerks before the day�s end.

In Provincetown, the chair of the city Board of Selectmen, Cheryl Andrews, married her longtime partner Jennifer Germack.

Andrews called it �one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me . . . This is the most memorable day of my life,� she said.

�It�s like a madhouse here, darling,� Board of Selectmen secretary Vernon Porter told the Los Angeles Times. �Everyone�s giving flowers. It�s just gorgeous.�

In Cambridge, Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey were believed to be the very first couple to tie the knot, at 9:15 a.m.

Kadish told reporters she felt �all tingly and wonderful� with �so much love . . . bursting out of me.�

The seven couples who filed the lawsuit that led to the Supreme Judicial Court ruling--the case was named Goodridge v. Department of Public Health--all were married Monday.

�Next to the birth of our daughter Annie, this is the happiest day of our lives,� said Julie Goodridge.

In Boston, Mayor Tom Menino escorted three of the plaintiff couples into City Hall.

�I am very proud to be mayor of the city on this particular day,� Menino said. �We have broken down another barrier. That is what life is all about--breaking down barriers and making this an open society for everyone to live in, to cherish each other and to have a great life.�

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts legislature narrowly passed a draft constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and establish civil unions that grant all state-level marriage rights. The amendment cannot take effect until 2006 at the earliest, after being passed again by the legislature and ratified by voters.

Some observers predict that now that the weddings have begun, support for the amendment will drop off when legislators and citizens realize �the sky hasn�t fallen,� as one put it, and see all the happy gay married couples.

A proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage nationwide is unlikely to clear the hurdles it faces--a two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and ratification of three-fourth of the states, political observers believe--especially now that same-sex marriage is a reality.

Same-sex marriage also is allowed in the Netherlands (beginning in 2001), Belgium (2002), and the Canadian provinces of Ontario (2003), British Columbia (2003) and Quebec (2004).

Several other nations grant some, most or all of the rights and obligations of marriage to same-sex couples under registered-partnership and civil-union laws.

President George W. Bush denounced the weddings taking place in Massachusetts.

�The sacred institution of marriage should not be redefined by a few activist judges,� he said en route to Topeka, Kan., where, ironically, he was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that ended racial segregation in schools.

�All Americans have a right to be heard in this debate,� Bush said. �I called on the Congress to pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. The need for that amendment is still urgent, and I repeat that call today.�

Gov. Romney said: �An issue as fundamental to society as the definition of marriage should be decided by the people. Until then, I intend to follow the law and expect others to do the same.�

Fred �God Hates Fags� Phelps and his family stood outside Boston City Hall with their colorful placards.

In general, however, antigay protest was muted if not invisible throughout much of the state, and the media focus was squarely on the beaming same-sex couples who repeatedly said they couldn�t believe this day actually had arrived.

�I never even fantasized about marriage,� Paul McMahon, 71, told Newsweek. �Going to other people�s weddings, I always thought they were so beautiful, and I never thought about having one of my own.�

McMahon and Ralph Hogdon, 69, have been together for 49 years.

 

 


Manager to be hired for Ohio amendment fight

Cleveland--A group working to defeat a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships and civil unions wants to hire a campaign manager by June 15.

The campaign, led by Ohioans for Growth and Equality with several allied groups and individuals, is being assisted in that search by the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which have expertise organizing statewide campaigns.

�I don�t know how many have applied, but there has been some interest,� said John Farina of Lakewood.

Farina is a member of the of the search committee for the position, which also includes John Corlett of Cleveland, Mary Jo Hudson of Columbus and Chad Foust of Columbus.

The search is being conducted nationally, and hopes to yield a director with extensive experience in fundraising, field organization and person-to-person persuasion.

HRC national field director Seth Kilborn said the search is made more difficult because �it�s late in the campaign season to find talent,� though he is confident that a good candidate will be found.

A new coalition of anti-gay groups called the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage filed the amendment April 20 and will circulate petitions to put it on the November ballot. The group, led by Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati, needs 322,900 signatures by August 4. It is widely believed they will get them.

NGLTF organization and training director David Fleischer said the drive to pass the amendment will also serve the Bush re-election effort as a way to raise money that the official campaign cannot legally accept due to federal campaign contribution limits.

�It�s a way to raise unregulated campaign money for the Bush campaign,� said Fleischer. �If someone gives the maximum legal amount to Bush, they can then give more for the purpose of boosting conservative votes through the amendment campaign.�

Kilborn said HRC is presently deciding how its resources will be spent. He noted that there are at least six states that will have anti-marriage constitutional amendments on their ballots for certain, and others like Ohio which are likely to.

He also said that HRC will allocate its money based on polling, the strength of the state campaign and strategies, and the strength of the coalition of gay and non-gay groups brought together to run it.

Kilborn and Fleischer say that OGE needs to begin to raise money immediately and recruit volunteers as soon as possible, even before it is certain that the amendment will qualify for the ballot.

OGE has already sent out a letter asking for donations.

A Cleveland couple has filed suit to block signature-gathering for the amendment, saying its summary on the petitions is misleading. A Franklin County judge allowed petitions to be circulated, but not turned in until he rules on the matter.

Fleischer said that attempts to pre-empt the amendment through court challenges are necessary, but seldom work.

�Laws are construed in a way to make it easy to get measures on the ballot,� said Fleischer, �so getting it stopped over technical concerns is not likely to work.�

�There are things in a campaign that only money buys, and things that money can�t buy,� Fleischer added. �Both will be needed here.�

Fleischer said campaigns that contact voters door-to-door outperform polls by as much as 20 percent on election day.

The campaign that created the domestic partner registry in Cleveland Heights last year was nearly all door-to-door campaigning. So is the Cincinnati campaign to remove the anti-gay Article 12 from the city�s charter.

That campaign is run by Citizens to Restore Fairness, a political action committee formed in January, 2003.

CRF has identified 13,000 of the 60,000 voters it will need to win. Although they could put the initiative on the ballot any time, this November 2 was chosen before the statewide amendment became a possibility.

�CRF is going to have choices to make,� said Fleischer, �The statewide campaign has a huge impact on what they are doing in Cincinnati.�

Fleischer believes that the two issues are linked and fears that CRF will lose if it ignores the state issue.

He said CRF has four options.

�They could take their matter to the voters sooner than November, or later than November,� said Fleischer. �Or they can make their campaign into a vote yes to repeal Article 12, and vote no to defeat the amendment, or they can just focus on their measure in November, which is the most problematic option.�

CRF co-chair Gary Wright said his group will concentrate on repealing Article 12 in November.

�We need two victories in Ohio,� said Wright. �We are going to go in November. These are two distinct campaigns to be run and won.�

�CRF was only established to repeal Article 12,� said Wright, �and it will remain true to its purpose.�

Wright pointed out that some of CRF�s supporters favor same-sex marriage and some don�t.

The Ohio marriage ban amendment campaign and a similar one in Kentucky are �factors in our environment,� according to Wright, �and the environment is going to be crowded this fall.�

�The voters are going to have to make up their minds about two different things,� said Wright. �Our opponents are going to try to make them the same issue, but they are not.�

Wright said that CRF has no plans to change its campaign message or timing. �There�s no question that the city and country have moved [on the issue of workplace and housing discrimination] and this is our best time to go.�

�There are other groups here like Stonewall to work on the amendment,� said Wright.

 

 


Downtown rally supports Massachusetts marriage

Cleveland--�No justice of the peace, no peace,� chanted picketers in front of the old federal courthouse in downtown Cleveland on May 17.

The demonstration was one of many organized throughout the nation to celebrate the same-sex marriages beginning that day in Massachusetts, and to protest Ohio�s attempts to deny marriage rights.

Other cities with actions organized by equalmarriagesolidarity.org included Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, and Charlotte, N.C.

The number of picketers grew to 21 at the Cleveland event. Some were participants in a United Church of Christ program to educate members about same-sex marriage and how it will affect the 2004 election.

The United Church of Christ, which is headquartered in Cleveland, is long affirming of GLBT rights and supports same-sex marriage.

�This is not a theocracy or a dictatorship,� said Barb Kenan of Cleveland. She added that gays and lesbians are losing civil rights in Ohio to religious fanatics.

Kenan noted the coincidence that same-sex couples achieved marriage equality in Massachusetts on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court�s Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared that separate is not equal.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cited Brown and its progeny in ruling that civil unions would not be an acceptable substitute for marriage in that state.

Other demonstrations in support of marriage were held at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River during morning and evening rush hours.

An interfaith solidarity celebration service was also held at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbus.�

 


Cop cant sue because there is no gay civil rights
law

Columbus--A federal judge ruled that anti-gay harassment of a Lancaster police officer by colleagues is �crude, offensive, and wholly pathetic� but it does not violate U.S. civil rights law.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory L. Frost based his May 5 decision on an earlier Sixth Circuit ruling that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not protect gays and lesbians.

The $10 million suit was brought last fall by former Fairfield Medical Center police officer Christopher Vickers against the hospital and some of its employees.

Vickers said the hospital conspired to fire him after he complained of harassment by his chief and some fellow officers, all named as co-defendants in the suit.

Vickers complained that Chief Steve Anderson and officers Kory Dixon and John Mueller, and others, tampered with his firearm, impressed the word �fag� on his report forms, and interfered with phone calls after Vickers befriended a gay medic.

Vickers described an incident during a training exercise where Dixon handcuffed Vickers� hands behind his back and pretended to have anal sex with him while Anderson photographed the act with the hospital�s digital camera.

Vickers said the photo was distributed around the hospital.

Other complaints Dixon putting the anesthetic Benzocaine in Vickers� beverage, causing his mouth and throat to become numb, Mueller rubbing a sanitary napkin in Vickers� face, and Dixon simulating anal sex with a Barney doll before forcing it in Vickers� crotch.

Vickers made five federal claims under Title VII and 21 claims under Ohio law.

While sexual orientation was not included in the original 1964 law, the U.S. Supreme Court has extended that protection to gays, lesbians, and transexxuals if the harassment results from sex stereotyping.

Vickers attempted to bring his claim under that line of cases beginning with the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins and its offspring, the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Oncale v. Sundowner, which held that �sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII.�

Frost wrote that Vickers �correctly asserts that Title VII �bars all forms of discrimination because of sex� and that �same-sex sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII.� But he also extrapolates from that rule that discrimination against him for his real or perceived homosexuality is actionable as discrimination based on noncomformity with gender norms or stereotypes.�

�This court is cognizant of post-Price Waterhouse jurisprudence that would lend some support to Vickers� contention,� wrote Frost, who then wrote that case law in the Sixth Circuit, which includes all of Ohio, does not support Vickers, even though case law from other circuits does.

�The court finds the alleged misconduct Vickers describes crude, offensive, and wholly pathetic,� wrote Frost, �But in light of the foregoing Sixth Circuit precedent, this court is bound to hold that Title VII does not cover Vickers� claims of sex discrimination and sexual harassment. Vickers� arguments to the contrary and his citation to conflicting jurisprudence from outside this circuit are best addressed to the appellate court and perhaps to the United States Supreme Court.�

In ending the case, Frost granted a motion for Judgement on the Pleadings filed by Fairfield Medical Center�s attorney William Case, which argued that the Title VII claim lacked merit in the Sixth Circuit.

Vickers is represented by Stow attorney Thomas Watkins and Macedonia attorney Randi Barnabee.

�We agree with the court�s reasoning in every respect,� said Case, �Even if the conduct were true, it would not allow for a suit to be filed.�

Watkins said the decision was �not any better than what we could want.�

�We knew this case would be settled at the appellate level,� said Watkins, �so it was better to get a decision to get it there now rather than later.�

�This circuit has not recognized protection for gays, but others have, which makes this case ripe for the Supreme Court,� said Watkins.

�And if it gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, the court will be hard pressed not to grant Vickers equal protection under the law established in the Lawrence v. Texas case,� said Watkins.

Watkins said the hospital and the individual defendants have said all along that it was okay for them to do what they did to Vickers because he is not protected by law.

Watkins and Barnabee also said that the egregiousness of the harassment in Vickers� case cannot be ignored by a higher court.

�This is no less severe than what happened in Oncale,� said Barnabee, �and the Supreme Court found that it could not ignore what happened there.�

Watkins said a notice of appeal will be filed within 30 days.


A voice from on high

Singing in a range usually limited to women,
David Daniels is the first countertenor to
gain a wide audience

Cleveland--Northeast Ohio�s gay community is in for a special treat this week. David Daniels, the internationally renowned countertenor whose CDs are high on the Billboard charts, is appearing Tuesday, May 25, at the Cleveland Institute of Music in University Circle.

In addition to his regular program of songs, with which he just finished touring Europe, he will perform settings of James Joyce�s Chamber Music that he commissioned from University of Michigan choral conductor Theodore Morrison and popular American folk songs arranged by Steven Mark Kohn.

A native of South Carolina who can drawl with the best of them, Daniels, though still young, has already experienced a meteoric rise to the very top in the last few years. He is the first countertenor to draw general audiences here in the United States and the first to give a solo performance at Carnegie Hall. His remarkable artistry has won over legions who had always shunned countertenors in the past.

In winning over these general audiences, Daniels has played an important role both as a countertenor and as a gay man.

Countertenors sing in the soprano or mezzo range but with a full voice, not a falsetto. This takes special training.

Because our Western culture traditionally associates high voices in men with effeminacy, homosexuality, and abnormality, general audiences used to avoid countertenors, even though the countertenor sound is different from a woman�s.

Since he is an out gay man, Daniels does not worry about audiences imagining that he is gay. (He and his partner have been together for 18 years.) He does, however, want to win them over to the sound of something challengingly different, to get them to free themselves from the stereotypes and associations in which Western culture still imprisons ideas about gender and sexuality for too many so that they can sit back and enjoy the music.

To this end, he concentrates on singing with the greatest possible artistry, but also as naturally as possible. The result is that after initial discomfort at the challenge to traditional gender stereotypes that the countertenor voice evokes, Daniels� music-making dissipates that culturally conditioned discomfort by the very beauty and sincerity of his singing. Of course, his traditionally masculine good looks don�t hurt any, either.

In this respect, he said, he realizes that educating audiences will always be part of his career as a countertenor. Since this education focuses on teaching a general public to abandon their assumptions about personality and behavior based on outward effects, it is very much in line with what gay advocacy has been doing ever since the Oscar Wilde trials over a century ago.

David Daniels is appearing as part of the Cleveland Institute of Music�s Art Song Festival, which runs from May 24 to 29. To experience his artistry and enjoy a different way of undermining conventional links between effect and gender, reserve tickets weekdays between 10 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. at 216-7915000 ext. 411. Daniels will delight you with much more than just his Southern charm and good looks.

 

 

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