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May 28, 2004

Judge to rule on Ohio marriage ban petitions

Columbus--A decision was promised before the Memorial Day holiday in a lawsuit suit attempting to stop petitioners from gathering signatures to amend Ohio�s constitution to ban same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Until then, a May 7 temporary restraining order allows signatures to be gathered but forbids petitioners from turning them in.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Daniel T. Hogan heard arguments on May 20. The suit was filed May 5 by a Cleveland-area couple, Thomas Rankin and Raymond Zander, against Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and the petitioners, the newly-formed anti-gay Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage.

Rankin and Zander are challenging Petro�s decision to approve the summary required by law to be at the top of the petitions. If the court rules in their favor, the petitioners would have to begin the process again with a different summary.

The amendment�s backers submitted petitions with 218 signatures to Petro on April 20 for his approval. With it, they must gather 322,899 signatures from half of Ohio�s 88 counties by August 4 to put the measure on the November ballot.

Prior to the crux of the case, Hogan considered a motion filed the day before by Cincinnati attorney David Langdon, representing the amendment backers, to eliminate the testimony of Rankin and Capital University law professor Kent Markus.

Langdon argued that Markus and Rankin�s testimony was �not relevant� and that the case would be decided as a matter of law, not by what witnesses think.

A footnote in Langdon�s motion says: �Of course, the real reason these witnesses are being called is to allow plaintiffs and their backers to grandstand for the media.�

Hogan denied the motion.

Columbus election attorney Donald McTigue represents Rankin and Zander. He surprised the court by calling Barry G. Sheets, who was seated at the counsel table with Langdon, to testify.

Sheets is a full-time employee of the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati, which also hires Langdon. Sheets was one of the circulators of the initial petitions presented to Petro for approval in April.

Before Sheets was put in charge of CCV�s Columbus office last year, he headed the anti-gay American Family Association of Ohio. Prior to that, he worked in the office of arch-conservative State Rep. Ron Young of Leroy.

McTigue called Sheets to testify on whether or not petitions were currently being circulated.

Langdon objected, but was overruled.

Sheets testified that he is the spokesperson for the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, but had nothing to do with drafting either the proposed amendment or the summary.

�Does OCPM have a connection to the petition?� asked McTigue.

�OCPM was not involved in the circulation of the petition� given to Petro in April, answered Sheets.

�Does it have interest in the petition?� asked McTigue.

�Absolutely,� answered Sheets, �It�s a defendant in this case.�

�Beyond being a defendant,� said McTigue.

�I don�t know,� said Sheets.

Judge Hogan interrupted, �Wait. Didn�t you say you are the spokesperson for the organization?�

�Yes,� answered Sheets.

�And you don�t have knowledge?� said Hogan, becoming irritated.

McTigue asked, �Is OCPM currently circulating petitions containing the summary or amendment language?�

�No,� answered Sheets.

�Does it have intent to do so?� asked McTigue.

�That depends on the determination of this court,� answered Sheets.

�If you prevail,� asked McTigue, �do you plan to circulate petitions with this summary language?�

�Yes,� answered Sheets.

Rankin took the stand next, under the continuing objections of both Langdon and Assistant Attorney General Richard Coglianese, representing Petro.

Rankin said that he and Zander have been together 17 years, and are registered as domestic partners in Cleveland Heights.

If adopted, the amendment would end the Cleveland Heights partner registry, created by voters last year.

Rankin told the court of rights, duties, and benefits that he and Zander currently have, based on the status of their relationship, including health benefits for Zander through Rankin�s employer worth $700 per month.

Rankin also told of the relationship the couple has to his great-nephew, and the possibility that he and Zander could have custody of the child in the future.

Rankin said he could adopt the boy, �but Ray would want, and should have, legal custody if something should happen to me.�

Adding that the amendment could jeopardize the parenting arrangement, Rankin said, �We would not be considered a family.�

Niether Langdon nor Coglianese cross-examined Rankin.

Markus took the stand next, also under objection from Coglianese and Langdon.

�The summary is not a fair and truthful summary of the proposed text,� said Markus, �because a number of the elements are unnecessarily ambiguous and misleading.�

Markus said the text of the amendment is simple enough and brief enough and should not be summarized.

He pointed out that the amendment bars anything that �intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage,� and contrasted that with with the �deeply ambiguous� terminology of the summary, which describes �certain respects� of marriage.

� �Certain respects� has several different meanings,� said Markus. �People are likely to read this as being some respects but not others, when in fact, it wipes out all.�

Coglianese cross-examined Markus, also complaining that this was the first time the attorney general has been sued over the approval of summary language.

Coglianese and Markus agreed that the attorney general is not held to approving the �best� language, only that the language is �fair and accurate.� They disagreed on the accuracy of the language.

Coglianese argued that the attorney general had no business being sued for what he called a �ministerial� function. He filed a motion May 7 to dismiss the claim against Petro.

Markus countered that by giving approval, the attorney general was incorrectly signaling to the public that the language could be trusted.

Langdon did not cross-examine Markus.

Instead, he argued that the requirement to summarize the amendment should be ruled unconstitutional, essentially in agreement with Markus� statement that the amendment text itself should appear on the petitions.

Currently, Ohio law requires a summary. Langdon said that he and his law partner Jeffrey Shafer had difficulty drafting it.

�We considered just using the amendment text,� said Langdon, �but then we�re back in court because the legislature says it must be a summary.�

�You can�t summarize something by reproducing it,� said Langdon. �If we would submit an exact reproduction, the attorney general would have to act in an anarchical manner to approve it, or they would say they couldn�t approve it because it�s not a summary, and we would have no remedy because approval is discretionary.�

�This is the perfect example as to why the summary process is unconstitutional,� said Langdon.

�I understand your point,� said Judge Hogan.

Hogan said he was not concerned with the validity of the bond covering Assistant Attorney General D. Michael Grodhaus, who approved the summary while Petro was on vacation.

McTigue argued the bond was invalid on a technicality, voiding Grodhaus� ability to act as attorney general.

Hogan recessed the hearing in order to pull the attorneys into chambers to negotiate the final disposition, which includes the court admitting all exhibits, but not accepting any new-evidence. Langdon agreed not to cross examine Markus in order to resolve the matter quickly.

The Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage put downloadable petitions on their web site on Monday, May 24, before Hogan issued his ruling. The forms, on www.ohiomarriage.com, contain the amendment text, not the summary language.

 

 


Article 12 repeal campaign to expand its reach at Pride

Cincinnati--The campaign to repeal the anti-gay Article 12 of the city charter expects to get another boost during the Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Pride festival.

According to campaign manager Justin Turner, the Citizens to Restore Fairness have 2,684 active volunteers and expect that to significantly increase as a result of the recruiting that will take place around the Pride festival.

�The campaign has gone on over a year, so there is a sense of a marathon, and people tend to think they can put off helping until next week,� said Turner. �But at Pride, we will make people understand that we are running out of time, and if it is to happen, they need to get with us.�

Turner, who has headed larger campaigns including one that preserved a Miami Dade gay and lesbian equal rights ordinance, believes that all campaigns experience this cycle.

�The energy happens as election time gets closer,� he said.

Turner estimated that an additional 150 supportive voters were identified during canvass activities May 22, which will be added to the 13,194 processed and in the data base. The campaign needs to identify 60,000 by election day in November.

Turner said the campaign will use the time until its next major canvass activity June 19 to recruit additional volunteers and continue to build its network of community support.

That network already includes Cincinnati�s mayor, five of seven members of city council, business and community leaders, and major corporations including Proctor and Gamble and Federated Department Stores, which have also contributed $10,000 each toward the effort.

�Right now, we�re working neighborhood pastors,� said Turner, adding that they are speaking to clergy face-to-face in a manner similar to the neighborhood canvassing.

�About 80 percent come out for us,� said Turner, �which is about the same as the neighborhoods.�

Turner said most Cincinnatians know that Article 12 exists, but do not know what it is or what it does.

�Most think everyone has rights and that Article 12 just keeps gays from having special rights,� said Turner, �until we explain to them that it really prevents the city from doing anything that gives gays and lesbians the same protection others have.�

The reason for the confusion can be traced to the 1993 campaign that passed the initiative that became Article 12. That campaign called itself Equal Rights Not Special Rights and passed the measure on a �no special rights� message.

Equal Rights Not Special Rights is still active as part of the Citizens for Community Values enterprise at the center of every organized anti-gay action in Ohio in the past five years. Turner said that will have a different message to try to preserve the article when it goes to the voters in November.

�So far, their work has been behind-the-scenes, and publicly, they show no concern for us,� said Turner, �But as election time gets closer, they will be telling people that repealing Article 12 will lead down a slippery slope to gay marriage.�

Another CCV-affiliated group, the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, is trying to get a state constitutional amendment to ban such marriages onto the November ballot.

 

 


Canvass finds many voters oppose ban amendment

Lakewood, Ohio--A door-to-door canvass in this Cleveland suburb found voters in several neighborhoods opposed an Ohio constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage by over two to one.

Heights Families for Equality, the Cleveland Heights group that campaigned to protect their city�s domestic partner benefits and establish a partner registry, has turned their attention to the impending battle over the amendment.

Their first canvass to identify opponents of the amendment and recruit volunteers was held on May 23 in Lakewood.

The amendment would bar the state and its cities and counties from recognizing same-sex marriages. It would also prohibit recognition of domestic partnerships and civil unions.

After a meeting at the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center to prepare volunteers and assign them territories, ten pairs of canvassers set out for neighborhoods in the near-west Cleveland suburb, which is known for its large LGBT population.

Lakewood was chosen partly because of two well-publicized setbacks dealt by city council to gay and lesbian residents, said David Caldwell, one of the leaders of HFE.

In January 2000, a plan to grant domestic partner benefits to city employees was defeated in council on a 52 vote. The action followed months of acrimonious council meetings that saw opponents of the benefits quoting Scripture and council members arguing over cost and tax burden.

Last June, a rainbow flag was to be flown in front of city hall to mark Gay Pride week, mirroring the one flying over Cleveland city hall. Mayor Madeline Cain came under fire for the plan to fly the rainbow flag with the United States and POW/MIA flags. She installed a second flagpole as a compromise.

Following Cain�s defeat in the November elections, council voted to remove the second flagpole and place it on other city-owned property. The first suggestion was the refuse and recycling facility on Berea Road.

After those events, as well as the defeat of two gay council candidates in the same election that cost Cain her job, Lakewood�s gay-friendly reputation was tarnished.

�We can actually go out and talk to regular voters and be straightforward on domestic partner issues, and more people than we thought will be with us,� noted Caldwell after the canvass.

HFE volunteers found 43 �implacable opponents� to pro-gay issues, and another five that volunteers believe could be swayed. Forty-two people that were contacted were undecided.

Caldwell compared that to the 166 voters who said that they would be definitely voting against the proposed state constitutional amendment, and another 27 people who said that they would not only vote against it, but were willing to donate time or money to help fight it.

The effort to pass the amendment is still in the signature-gathering stage. A coalition of religious right groups called the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage needs to collect 322,899 valid signatures by August 4, although an internal deadline set by the group is July 21. They are hoping that conservative churches across the state will help them meet their goal.

Caldwell noted in his speech to the volunteers before the canvass that they couldn�t couch the issue in terms of heterosexual unmarried partners, since proponents of the measure would be specifically mentioning gay marriage.

Afterwards, he expressed surprise at �how effective it was to actually show [voters] the wording of the amendment.�

�It�s possible that it wasn�t the language itself but reading the language actually got people to think about it,� Caldwell said.

�I was pleased that we could be honest and straightforward about partnership issues and have the majority of the people in Lakewood be with us,� he noted.

The volunteers also collected postcards to be sent to State Rep. Michael Skindell, a pro-gay former Lakewood council member. The postcards express voters� opposition to the amendment, as well as the already-passed �defense of marriage� law.

HFE�s next canvass against the amendment will be on June 3, starting with a 6 pm meeting at their office above the Cedar-Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights.


First Stonewall Democrat field leader to be in Ohio

Columbus--Stonewall Democrat leaders from across Ohio learned that the National Stonewall Democrats will locate its first professional state field director in Ohio in the near future at a meeting held at Ohio Democratic Party headquarters May 22.

Cleveland Stonewall Democrat president Patrick Shepherd said the purpose of the meeting was to build the network to turn out votes for John Kerry.

The meeting was organized by Eric Stern, who directs GLBT outreach for the Democratic National Committee. Stern is a native of Wadsworth and a Marietta College alumni. He was joined by his counterpart in the Kerry campaign, Mark Seifert, and National Stonewall Democrats director Dave Noble.

The group of 26 also discussed the campaign to defeat a likely Ohio constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships, and civil unions and the Cincinnati effort to repeal Article 12 of the city�s charter, Shepherd said.

��These campaigns in Ohio will, just because they are going on, turn out Kerry voters, too,� said Shepherd.


Thousands of couples have
married in Massachusetts

 

Boston--One week after the first same-sex marriages were performed in Massachusetts, three communities said on May 24 they will comply with an order to stop granting licenses to out-of-state couples.

About 1,700 same-sex couples filed for marriage licenses on May 17 and 18, the first two days they were legal in the state. Two-thirds of the couples were women, and 90 percent live in Massachusetts.

Worcester, Somerville and Springfield were three of the four cities that openly defied Gov. Mitt Romney�s order to comply with a 1913 law barring out-of-staters from being married in Massachusetts if their marriages would not be valid in their home state.

Romney obtained copies of marriage licenses granted to couples from Ohio, Vermont, Maine, New York, California, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey, and sent them on to Attorney General Thomas Reilly, asking him to order those three cities and the gay vacation spot of Provincetown to cease issuing licenses in violation of the archaic law.

Reilly, a likely Democratic challenger to the Republican governor in the 2006 election, sent a letter to the four cities on May 21, four days after licenses were first issued, ordering them to comply with the law.

The Provincetown Board of Selectmen was slated to meet with its attorney on May 25 to contemplate responses to Reilly.

The 1913 law was part of a move to normalize marriage laws between states, in part to block interracial marriages. Massachusetts has not enforced it in decades.

The law was only passed in five states: Massachusetts, Vermont, Illinois, Wisconsin and Louisiana, which has since repealed the legislation.

Other towns in Massachusetts also granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples from out of state, but were less vocal in their defiance. Romney, however, has ordered the state to refuse to certify any marriage licenses from out of state couples.

Over the last few months, Romney�s popularity has dropped six percent. Having run as a social moderate, the same-sex marriage debate has garnered the governor the wrath of both sides of the political aisle. The religious right believe that he did not act decisively enough to block same-sex marriages, which Romney personally opposes, while progressives believe that he has shown himself to be more conservative than he presented himself as being when he ran for governor.

Romney and Reilly have differing interpretations of the effect of the law. Romney believes that, since no state has legalized same-sex marriage, no out-of-state same-sex couples can be married in the state. Reilly, however, believes that the law only applies to residents of states that have passed �defense of marriage� legislation or constitutional amendments, and that people from states without such measures should be allowed to marry in Massachusetts.

Action is currently being taken to repeal the 1913 law.

On May 19, the state Senate voted 28 to 3 to add an amendment to the state budget repealing the legislation. All but two of the seven Republicans in the Senate voted for the amendment.

House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, however, has urged the House delegation to the conference committee that will hash out a final budget proposal to block the amendment from going back to the legislature. The House version of the budget does not contain the amendment.

If the repeal stays in the budget, legislators would have only two options: completely approve the budget with the repeal intact, or reject the entire budget.


 

Man indicted in DJ�s murder

Dayton--The Miami Valley gay community was shocked by the May 11 murder of prominent local DJ Scott Grove.

Grove, 43, was beaten to death with a golf club. Michael D. McCain, 35, was indicted on aggravated robbery, murder and falsification charges on May 21, after turning himself in to police on May 14.

�I think at first we were all in shock,� said Randy Phillips, the webmaster of www.gaydayton.org, a site that provides web space for the Dayton Lesbian and Gay Center and Dayton Pride.

While the community�s immediate concern was whether the murder was a hate crime, police investigators ruled out anti-gay bias as a motive.

�At the very onset of the investigation, they weren�t sure it wasn�t gay-related,� said Phillips. �We were relieved in that respect, but murder is always shocking and horrifying.�

The circumstances of his death, according to friend Peter Neubauer, were equally as unpleasant as if it were a hate crime.

Grove and another friend went to an apartment complex in an area of the city known for its drug trade. Once there, they were accosted by men demanding their wallets. As Grove began to comply, he was attacked. His friend got away and brought police.

By the time officers arrived at 10:40 pm, Grove lay dead in the parking lot.

Neubauer remembers Grove as a man who loved playing the piano, especially ragtime. They watched movies and Queer as Folk on Sundays as Grove satisfied another passion, barbecuing.

The day of his murder, Grove had been at Neubauer�s house, where he and other friends urged Grove, who had gotten out of rehab weeks before, not to go to Hames H. McGee Blvd., the scene of his death.

John Zimmerman, the treasurer of the Dayton Lesbian and Gay Center and co-chair of the Sexual Minority Suicide Prevention Committee, a coalition of about ten LGBT organizations formed around five months ago, pointed to a lack of gay-specific support for chemical dependency in the community as a cause of Grove�s death.

�When Scott was killed and we found out the circumstances, we felt we were on the right track� with a campaign against a wider array of destructive behaviors, he said. �We don�t have any mechanisms in the gay community to support people like Scott and keep them in rehab. There are a lot of services in the mainstream community, but do they serve the needs of sexual minorities?�

While the coalition is raising funds to help mainstream organizations ensure that their support efforts are gay-friendly, Zimmerman feels that there is pressure to present the LGBT community as homogenously pristine.

�It�s not real fashionable to talk about this in the gay community any more,� he said,� indicating the desire to present a stable fa�ade. �We are going to be talking about this at our next meeting. I don�t give a damn what the straight community thinks about us any more.�

�We need to take care of our own,� he concluded.

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