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May 7, 2004

AIDS walkers brave cold and rain

Columbus--For the first time in over half a decade, the weather did not cooperate with plans for the Robert J. Fass Memorial Central Ohio AIDS Walk and the post-walk festival.

Temperatures in the 40s and a cold rain didn’t dampen the spirits of those who were serious about helping a good cause, though.

The location for the walk and festival was new this year. It moved from Bicentennial Park, where it ahs been for several years, to the Battelle Plaza in front of the Nationwide Arena. While the new location is more central in downtown Columbus, it did not seem very conducive to the pre- and post-walk activities.

The benefiting agencies this year were Camp Sunrise, the Columbus AIDS Task Force, the Delaware County AIDS Task Force, Family AIDS Clinic and Educational Services, the Licking County AIDS Task Force, the Ohio AIDS Coalition and Project Open Hand.

“These are seven phenomenal agencies in our community who are out there working everyday towards helping people with HIV and AIDS,” said Andrea Campbern, news anchor for WBNS Channel 10 and one of the event’s hosts.

She added that every dollar raised though the Columbus AIDS Walk and 5K Run would be distributed to those agencies. She said that this was possible due to the generosity of the many sponsors of the event.

Cambern said that, “Even though we have made great strides in the battle against HIV and AIDS we need greater resources more than ever before” because more people are infected and more people are dying from the disease.

Bill Hedrick, who is running for Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. was there with a group of his friends and supporters because “even in this weather the walk is nothing compared to what people who are sick are going through.” Hedrick said that he marches every year and that he wasn’t going to let the weather keep him away.

Michael Lee, who also marches from year to year, said that he was there because “we definitely need to keep going in this fight.”

“You know that old, saying about ‘think globally and act locally?’” he asked. “Well, that’s why I am here and hopefully these events won’t be necessary in the future.”

Fifteen-year-old David Bellomy was given a special round of applause at the registration desk because at his young age he had managed to raise $1,028 on his own. A student at Alum Crest high school, Bellomy said that he was marching in honor of his younger brother Robbie.

“It’s a great cause and I like walking,” he answered matter-of-factly when asked why he had single-handedly raised so much money.

The top team efforts for most money raised this year were Camp Sunrise ($2,700), OSU Council of Graduate Students ($3,700), Huntington Bank ($3,900), Bank One ($5,600) and King Avenue Methodist Church ($10,000).

Out weatherman for Channel 6 WSYX Chris Bradley asked not to be blamed for the awful weather.

“I am glad you’re here,” he said, “because raising this money is more important than this lousy weather.” He also predicted that the rain would stop just as the walk was winding up.

While the rain did stop according to Bradley’s prediction, the cold weather continued and the post-walk festival was cancelled.

“Get out there and walk, walk, walk,” Cambern said to the crowd, “and then go home and curl up with some hot coffee or cocoa.”

The Columbus AIDS Walk is named in memory of the late Dr. Robert J. Fass, who was the director of the division of infectious diseases at the Ohio State University. His daughter Karen was present at the walk and thanked the sponsors and supporters for doing this in the memory of her father.

Final figures were not available for the walk’s donations by press time. Last year’s event drew $181,000 in donations, and preliminary figures showed $115,963 in donations for the 2004 walk.

However, donations were still coming in, and collection points had been set up around the city for those who were unable to attend because of the weather.

“I think in the next few weeks, we’re going to see more,” said Maureen Hoffer, one of the organizers.

She noted that four walkers brought in over $5,000 apiece, an improvement over the previous year, and that there were more corporate sponsorships, which was not figured into the preliminary fundraising figures.

 

 


Couple sues to stop Ohio ban amendment

Columbus--A Cleveland-area couple has filed suit to block a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, all domestic partnerships and civil unions.

Thomas Rankin and Raymond Zander filed suit against Ohio Attorney General James Petro and the measure’s backers on May 5 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Rankin and Zander are asking the court to compel Petro to withdraw his April 28 certification of the proposed petition summary language because they say it is misleading. They also say its approval by Petro’s first assistant while he was on vacation was illegal.

Rankin and Zander are represented by Columbus attorney Donald McTigue, who specializes in election and campaign law.

The suit is accompanied by a motion for a temporary restraining order which, if granted, would halt signature-gathering by the group seeking to amend the Ohio constitution until the suit is resolved.

That group, called the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, is led by the Citizens for Community Values of Cincinnati and is represented by Cincinnati attorney David Langdon. They filed the proposed amendment and the ballot summary language with the attorney general April 20 with 218 signatures.

By law, 100 valid signatures are needed to submit the amendment’s summary to be printed on the petitions to the attorney general. He then must rule on its “fairness and accuracy” before certifying the measure to the secretary of state.

Once it is certified, petitioners need to collect ten percent of the total vote in the last gubernatorial race in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties by 90 days before the election to have the proposal sent to the ballot.

In this case, they need 322,899 signatures by August 4 to put the amendment on the November ballot.

The proposed amendment reads: “Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”

Rankin and Zander claim that the summary language “is not a fair and truthful statement of the proposed constitutional amendment.”

The summary Petro’s assistant approved reads: “The amendment denies the validity and prohibits the legal recognition as marriage in Ohio of same-sex relationships and relationships comprised of three or more persons, and forbids according non-marital relationships a legal status intended to approximate marriage in certain respects.”

“The amendment’s prohibition on according non-marital relationships a legal status intended to approximate marriage is not limited to certain respects, but includes all respects,” according to the complaint.

The couple also states that the summary “contains inflammatory and argumentative 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,” and as such, “incorrectly implies that same-sex relationships and relationships comprised of three or more persons are currently accorded legal recognition as marriage.”

The suit also states that First Assistant Attorney General D. Michael Grodhaus had no authority to approve the summary.

Ohio law requires that Grodhaus be bonded for $5,000 to act as attorney general during Petro’s absence.

The suit claims Grodhaus’ bond is wrong, thereby removing his authority to act as attorney general.

The bond names Grodhaus as “1st Attorney General of the office of the Auditor, State of Ohio.”

The couple says that there is no office of “1st Attorney General” and that there also isn’t one “of the office of the Auditor.”

Rankin and Zander also want Petro ordered to declare the summary language to be “not a fair and/or truthful summary” and invalidate Grodhaus’ certification. The suit also seeks the petitioners and Petro to be assessed all court costs and the couple’s legal fees.

At press time, the suit had not been assigned a judge, and neither Petro nor Langdon were aware of its existence.

Petro’s spokesperson Kim Norris, who spoke before learning of the suit, confirmed Petro’s absence when the summary was certified, but said the office believes it was “completely legal and appropriate.”

Norris also said, “[Petro] does not believe [the constitutional amendment] is necessary, and he is on the record as opposed to it, but that is irrelevant to his duty as attorney general.

Petro also opposed the “defense of marriage act” passed by the Ohio legislature in February which took effect May 6.

 

 


Gaybaiting and political posturing blend in U.S. amendment hearings

Washington, D.C.--Members of Congress have blended gaybaiting with political posturing during a series of hearings on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

U.S. House and Senate panels have been hearing testimony for several weeks on the proposed amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution has held two hearings, March 30 and April 22, with at least three more hearings promised by the chair, Republican Steve Chabot of Cincinnati. Chabot scored a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent legislative scorecard, refusing even a non-discrimination policy in his office that includes sexual orientation.

Judiciary Committee chair F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, also with an anti-gay record, explained the “need” for the hearings as the “problem” created when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November, 2003 that the state must recognize same-sex marriages.

Sensenbrenner also cited as a “problem” the “broad right of personal autonomy” created by the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas, which struck sodomy laws as unconstitutional.

Chabot opened the March 30 hearing stating that the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which says that states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages from other states, may be challenged under Lawrence and the 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision Romer v. Evans stating that laws cannot be passed to separate groups from legal rights and protections due to animus from the majority.

Chabot said the hearing will “explore whether DOMA will remain a firewall” against states like Massachusetts.

Former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, who drafted the 1996 law, testified that DOMA was constitutional and expressed opposition to amending the constitution.

“I do not enjoy opposing people who I agree with in substance on matters of process,” said Barr, “Yet, the Constitution is worth that lonely stand.”

“DOMA was meant to preserve federalism, not to dictate morals from Washington,” said Barr. “And, part of federalism means that states have the right to make bad decisions - even on the issue of who can get married in the state.”

He stated that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the mayor of San Francisco are “wrong because they took the decision- making process out of the hands of the people.”

“However, said Barr, “that is what social conservatives are also trying to do; and even more inexcuseable, they are trying to do it using the Constitution as a hammer.”

Also testifying against the amendment was John Hanes, a Republican who chairs Wyoming’s Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hanes opposed a similar constitutional ban in his state “particularly because it was unnecessary,” and “had the potential to become needlessly divisive.”

Hanes said his state, like the nation, has laws and courts with “a long history of deciding how to treat marriages performed outside the state.”

The rest of the witnesses, both days, avoided directly calling for a constitutional amendment, instead railing against pro-gay U.S. high court rulings, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and homosexuality in general.

Quoting scripture, Vincent McCarthy, director of the anti-gay American Center for Law and Justice said Congress was right to pass DOMA in 1995 because “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

“Thus, to admit that same sex relationships can be valid marriages requires a concession that sexual distinctions are meaningless,” said McCarthy.

“Procreation is necessary for the preservation of the species,” testified attorney and conservative columnist Bruce Fein. “Traditional marriage laws encourage procreation by offering both material legal advantages and social esteem for opposite sex unions. Same-sex couples cannot procreate.”

Witnesses during the second hearing addressed the topic, “Legal threats to traditional marriage: implications for public policy.”

Lincoln Oliphant of the Marriage Law Project said the Massachusetts marriage case “alerted us all to the perils we face.”

“DOMA is doomed if those Massachusetts judges get a hold of it,” said Oliphant, “and a federal court applying the law and reasoning of the Massachusetts court will strike down DOMA as surely as the Massachusetts court struck down its marriage law.”

“In our national culture, once homosexual marriage is recognized anywhere, there will be enormous pressure to settle for a ‘least common denominator’ conception of marriage,” said Dwight Duncan, a law professor who wrote anti-gay friend of the court briefs in Hawaii, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Stanley Kurtz, a cultural anthropologist and anti-gay columnist, told the committee of his article in the February issue of the neoconservative Weekly Standard titled “The End of Marriage in Scandanavia” where he says “the system of marriage-like same-sex registered partnerships” established in the 1980s and 1990s “contributed significantly to the ongoing decline of marriage in that region.”

Pediatrician Jill G. Joseph, a federal marriage amendment opponent testified, “Like it or not, the 2000 Census counted over 600,000 same-sex unmarried partner households with the real figure more likely to be three million. And like it or not, approximately one quarter of those households include children.”

“I am concerned that the federal marriage amendment will cause further harm to children whose parents already face severe obstacles in securing the same legal benefits available to children of all other two parent families.”

The Senate also held hearings and plans more.

Human Rights Campaign director Cheryl Jacques said the Senate will be the more likely of the two to vote on the bill, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses to move to the states.

“It’s because of people like Republican leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania who are pushing it,” said Jacques. “Also, they are trying to spot [senator and presidential candidate] John Kerry, trying to disadvantage him by making him vote on it.”

During the April 28 testimony in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families chaired by anti-gay Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama titled, “Healthy Marriage: What is it? Why shouldn’t we promote it?” five witnesses testified.

Committee Democrats headed by Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts did not attend the hearing and did not have any witnesses.

“They are not taking the bait,” said HRC political director Winnie Stachelberg. “They are not going to give them [the Republicans] another platform for the issue.”

Senate testimony did not address the amendment directly, either. Instead it laid out a laundry list of what the ideal heterosexual marriage should consist of.

Witnesses were Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Wade Horn, who said that “government should not merely seek to be neutral about marriage.”

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of the National Marriage Project testified that marriage produces wealth and is a “seedbed of pro-social behavior.”

National Fatherhood Initiative president Roland Warren testified, “If we want what is best for our children, then we have to ensure that more children are growing up with married mothers and fathers.”

Santorum scheduled another marriage hearing in the Finance Committee for May 5 and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas will hold a marriage hearing May 12. Both, with Sessions, are among those with the most anti-gay records in the senate.

“The [Senate hearings] are really about being anti-gay activists,” said Jacques.

 

 

 


Church reinstates pastor who married same-sex couples

Maumee, Ohio--The Presbyterian court for the Ohio-Michigan area on May 3 released a ruling reinstating a Cincinnati pastor who performed same-sex weddings.

The judicial commission of the Synod of the Covenant, the church body overseeing Ohio, Michigan and some parts of Kentucky and Indiana, issued a 64 ruling overturning the rebuke and removal of Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, the former pastor of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church.

A 2002 ruling by the denomination’s highest court decided that ministers are allowed to bless same-sex unions, but not call them weddings.

Van Kuiken, who is heterosexual, continued to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples and called them weddings, leading to a complaint being filed against him by Rev. Tom Sweets, the pastor of Madeira-Silverwood Presbyterian Church.

The Presbytery of Cincinnati, the local governing body of the denomination, gave Van Kuiken a rebuke, the lowest form of punishment, ordering him to cease performing weddings for same-sex couples.

Van Kuiken disregarded the presbytery’s order and performed another wedding, leading to the presbytery rescinding his ordination and ejecting him from the denomination. He appealed to the regional synod in Maumee, near Toledo, which in February restored his ordination and membership in the Presbyterian Church.

The current decision found that the 2002 ruling did not ban ministers outright from performing weddings for same-sex couples, nor did it provide for disciplinary action against ministers who performed such weddings.

“It avoids an outright prohibition by using the words ‘should’ and ‘should not’ in guidance for church bodies and ministers,” the ruling said.

When Van Kuiken was stripped of his ordination, he signed a separation agreement from Mt. Auburn that allowed the church to seek another minister.

At the time, around 50 members of the church left and formed a non-denominational congregation called the Gathering, which meets at a church in the Clifton area of Cincinnati. The Gathering supported Van Kuiken through his appeal.

The Presbytery of Cincinnati gave Van Kuiken the option of remaining a Presbyterian minister or serving the Gathering as their minister.

“I choose to stand by the Gathering, as they have stood by me,” Van Kuiken said.

“I am very grateful for the courage the commission has shown in reaching this landmark decision,” he said. “A new era has dawned in the Presbyterian Church.”

The synod commission’s ruling can still be appealed to the denomination’s highest court.

The decision was hailed as a major victory by LGBT advocates in Cincinnati.

“While Stonewall Cincinnati does not presume to direct the teachings of any faith, we applaud the Synod of the Covenant judicial commission’s decision in this matter,” said Stonewall Cincinnati co-chair John Schlagetter. “While there are those who would subvert the nature of faith to their own ill-informed and mean-spirited ends, individuals such as Pastor Van Kuiken advance the cause of justice and equality in everyday life by taking principled stands against those who would use religion to advance bigotry and discrimination.”


Columbus violence reports drop as rest of nation’s rise

Columbus--Central Ohio was spared an increase the rest of the nation saw in reported anti-LGBT violence last year, according to statistics released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Organizations.

Nationally, incidents were up 8% in 2003 over the figures for 2002, with sharp increases in the period after last June’s Supreme Court ruling striking state sodomy laws and the November decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

The NCAVP report, released April 28, compiles data submitted from 13 cities, states and regions. It includes reports gathered by the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center and the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization in Columbus.

Cleveland reported a 6% increase in the number of incidents, which rose from 16 in 2002 to 17 in 2003. The number of overall victims also increased from 16 to 17, with the number of female victims of violence increasing from one in 2002 to seven in 2003.

The 2002 figures for Cleveland had no incidents of violence against transgender people, while 2003 data showed two occasions.

Another major change in Cleveland statistics was the number of female attackers. There were six in 2002, but none in 2003.

BRAVO’s figures for Columbus showed a four percent drop in the number of incidents, from 211 in 2002 to 202 in 2003. The number of victims dropped seven percent, from 275 to 257.

However, the number of offenders jumped five percent, from 221 to 232.

African American victims dropped 31%, from 59 to 41, and Caucasians dropped 9% from 143 to 133.

The number of victims under 18 years old went from 15 to 21, with three being under 14 years old.

“We have done a concerted outreach to youth groups over the last couple of years,” said BRAVO executive director Gloria McCauley. “There has also been a rise in the number of gay-straight alliances and organizing, so youth are more visible.”

“A combination of visibility and willingness to report violence is at work here, the same as is the case with transgender victims of violence,” she said.

A major change in the figures coming out of central Ohio, however, is the number of incidents reported in which arrests were made. In 2002, 22% of cases reported to police resulted in arrests, while that number jumped to 37% of the incidents, a 92% increase, while the overall number of incidents reported to police increased about 12%.

“Folks are actually willing and able to file a police report and follow through,” McCauley said. “I think the increase in arrests is a sign of the success of our efforts to build a bridge between the community and the police.”

Overall, McCauley said, “There are no big surprises. These numbers are not the be-all and end-all in central Ohio.”

“It’s an indicator that there’s a lot of work to be done in the general community, but it’s also an indicator of success in the LGBT community,” she concluded.


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Ohio womens football teams rousted by opponents

Comets down by 8; Spitfire loses by 60

Detroit--The Columbus Comets faced off against the weather and the Detroit Demolition in an away game on May 1, but lost to the Demolition 18-10.

Comets running back Cynthia Freeman rushed for 23 carries and a game total of 171 yards. 92 of those yards occurred in the first half.

Going into halftime, the Comets led 10-6. But a strong second half defense by the Demolition was punctuated by threatening storms and game delay lightning. After a 28-minute delay early in the fourth quarter, the Demolition came on strong, proving why they are the league’s two-time champs and undefeated this season. Despite Comets rushing for 230 overall yards their passing game was essentially shut down by the Demolition.

Add to that Comets’ penalties totaling 60 yards, two interceptions and one lost fumble and the game went to the Demolition.

The Comets play in Toledo against the Toledo Spitfire at Rossford High School’s Bulldog Stadium on May 8, with a 7:05 pm kickoff.

Hosting the Southwest Michigan Jaguars, the Toledo Spitfire should have enjoyed home field advantage in their May 1 game. Going into the game the Spits were 2-0 and the Jags were 2-1. But all advantages eluded the Toledo team. Playing in harsh rain, the Jags held the Spits to a cumulative loss of one yard in rushing and denied them any pass completions.

It was a game of utter domination with a final score of 66 to 6. Southwest Michigan rushed for 391 yards on 41 carries with 41 minutes in total time of possession. In the first half, Kellie Bennett, quarterback for the Jaguars, completed 7 for 13 passes for a total of 67 yards and two touchdowns.

With a loss this fierce, the Spitfire will have to prove their first two wins were not flukes. Coming up against the Comets who are 2-2 for the season, they will have to bounce back against the Columbus team’s proven defense and sound passing game.

Other Great Lakes Division games this coming weekend include the Cleveland Fusion away at Southwest Michigan. The Fusion goes into Jag territory with a history of four wins against the Michigan team. This year though, the Fusion is young with 45 rookies suiting up.

Game time is 7 pm May 8 at the Jaguars’ home stadium, 251 Mill St, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

 

 


Warning: May contain graphic sex and violence

But even if they don’t, these comics
are worth a read

They are the kids who doodled in class, all grown up. They entertain millions daily, from the funny pages to the editorial pages, into comic books and graphic novels.

They are the comic artists, and they come in force.

Most recently, Robert Kirby, creator of Curbside, and Seattle comic artist David Kelly released Boy Trouble’s 10th anniversary issue. Of course, it’s only the fifth issue of the compendium of comics by gay writers and artists and their friends, but with increased quality, alas, the quantity suffers.

A couple of hysterically irascible strips by Michael Fahy provide abundant laughter, while Craig Bostick’s cinematic moment-in-time strips provide introspective moments.

Kirby himself provides the art for three strips written by others, including Cathy Camper, G.B. Jones and John Capecci.

For those who might have trouble finding Boy Trouble at their local comic or book store, e-mail boytrouble@springmail.com, and they should have the hook up.

Of course, comic artists aren’t the only ones whose works get the graphic treatment.

Lawurence Schimel, novelist and anthologist specializing in the junction of gay and Jewish identities, wrote Vacation in Ibiza, drawn by Spanish artist Sebas.

Released on NBM Publishing’s Eurotica line, Vacation in Ibiza is an almost wistful glance at two friends’ week on the island, a popular vacation getaway for Euro-gays and techno twinks.

Marek has never been, but his friend Bernd, a more experienced traveler, will be his guide. Bernd seems to get all the men, though, and Marek feels that he will emerge from the Fire Island of the Mediterranean without being metaphorically deflowered.

Of course, as the week progresses, the two compatriots begin moving in different circles, different directions, and a wonderful time is had by all.

The story is cute, if typical. Sebas’ art, however, combines an odd stylization with unmistakable charm, bringing the characters to life in a way that makes them immediately likable.

Vacation in Ibiza should be readily available from most bookstores, easy to order if not already in stock. NBM has also released some wonderful pieces by gay Ohio artist P. Craig Russell, including his adaptations of opera and Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales.

Speaking of Russell, he provided four exquisite drawings for What’s Wrong: Explicit Graphic Interpretations Against Censorship, the sister collection of What Rights?

Released by Arsenal Pulp Press, one of Canada’s best publishing companies, the two collections are benefit volumes for Little Sister’s Defense Fund.

Little Sister’s is a bookstore in Vancouver, British Columbia, that makes headlines every few years as shipments of books heading for their shelves are seized by customs officials as they come into Canada. Despite winning victories in the courts and having judges issue orders that their materials be released, the border is still erratically open to their incoming stock.

Some of the biggest names in queer comics are in these two collections, including Tom of Finland, Eric Orner, Alison Bechdel, Belasco, Howard Cruse, Roberta Gregory and Robert Kirby.

These are not just gay compilations, though. Donna Barr, whose Desert Peach comic presented the adventures of World War II German general Erwin Rommel’s fictional gay brother, donates her work to the cause. So does world-renowned writer and artist Frank Miller and alternative comic giant Evan Dorkin.

Some of the material has been printed before. Three of Glen Hanson and Allen Neuwirth’s Chelsea Boys strips are reprinted here, and Tom of Finland is, in fact, dead.

Other pieces, however, speak directly to the topic. Frank Miller’s depiction of an adult trying to “protect” a child on page 172 of What Rights provides a chilling finale to the anthology, illustrating one of the most severe forms of censorship.

It is a different end than that envisioned by George Bernard Shaw, who opined, “The ultimate form of censorship is assassination.”

 

 

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