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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 17, 2004

Mary Jo Hudson sworn in to Columbus city council

Heading a new committee will be among
first lesbian councilmember�s duties

Columbus--Heading a newly-created committee will be among the responsibilities of the first openly lesbian Columbus City Council member, Mary Jo Hudson, sworn in September 13.

Hudson, an attorney and 15 year Columbus resident, was selected ten days earlier by the other six members of council to fill the seat of retiring member Richard Sensenbrenner.

Hudson was chosen from 29 applicants, six of whom were finalists. She became Ohio�s sixth openly lesbian or gay official and the fourth currently serving. As Hudson took the seat, Columbus also became the largest city in Ohio with an openly gay member of council.

Assuming the chair of a newly created Jobs and Economic Development Committee will be among Hudson�s first official duties.

Hudson, whose legal practice includes representation of small businesses, corporations and nonprofit organizations, was chosen for the post because of her experience with the business community, according to statements by Council President Matt Habash.

Hundreds of people, including many from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Hudson�s mother Ann Hudson, her partner Lynn Wallich and members of her law firm, moved from a reception held in Hudson�s honor to the council chambers where Hudson was sworn in by Judge Cynthia Lazarus of the 10th District Court of Appeals before the council�s official meeting began.

�Mary Jo [Hudson] excels in everything she does and I expect her to excel here, too,� said Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman at the ceremony. Hudson was one of his advisors whom he appointed to the city�s Community Relations Commission, a post she resigned to be seated on council.

Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson said council took a �visionary step� by choosing Hudson, adding to the diversity of the representation in city government, and praised council for its �smart move� choosing Hudson because of her talents.

Answering a reporter�s question about Hudson�s ability to be elected as a lesbian, council member Charleta Tavares, who put Hudson�s name in nomination said, �Mary Jo is the best choice, the right choice. Don�t marginalize her for being gay.�

Hudson has been a leader of the LGBT community since the 1980s, serving on the board of Stonewall Columbus, and as an organizer of Ohioans for Growth and Equality and the Ohio Human Rights Bar Association. She was also one of 12 openly gay delegates to the Democratic National Convention earlier this year.

Before taking the council seat, Hudson resigned her positions on the national boards of the Human Rights Campaign and its foundation, and as treasurer of the campaign to defeat the proposed Ohio constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

Hudson is expected to be challenged by another Democrat in the May primary and, if she wins that, by a Republican in November, 2005.

Coleman warned the Republicans against campaigning on Hudson�s sexual orientation, calling it �a mistake.�

Hudson joins Toledo council president Louis Escobar, Haskins mayor Kenneth Fallows, and Bloomdale city council member Skeeter Hunt as Ohio�s current openly lesbian and gay public officials.

Former Oregon city council member Gene Hagedorn and former Dayton city commissioner Mary Wiseman, both retired, complete the roster of Ohio�s openly gay officials.



Sue Doerfer named to head Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center

Cleveland--Just under a year after former executive director David Smith resigned, the Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland has chosen a new leader.

Susan M. Doerfer, the clinical director of services for the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, will step into the role in one month, beginning on October 18.

Smith announced his resignation on October 5, 2003 at the center�s annual meeting.

The mantle of leadership was split between development director Mary Zaller and program director Jack Hart for about eight months until Kathy Harvey took over as interim executive director in June, when funding cuts led to a reshuffling of administration. Harvey took a leave from her position as board vice president to assume the helm.

The transition to Doerfer�s administration will take three to six months, Harvey estimated.

�We�re going to take a transition team approach,� she said. �It�s been very useful to me to be here for the last three months, to get a look under the hood. The transition team approach is a good one. It makes sure we don�t make mistakes.�

Harvey will then return to the board of directors. Center by-laws prevent active board members from holding paid positions in the organization.

�I�m just thrilled that Sue�s the choice. I think she�s the right choice,� Harvey said. �It�s an appropriate time to bring someone in and acclimate them.�

Doerfer moved to Cleveland in 2001, and has since been active in leadership positions in the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Cleveland LGBT Pride and is on the Cuyahoga County Commissioners advisory committees on disabilities and homelessness.

She is a doctoral candidate in social welfare at the City University of New York, having received her bachelor�s degree from St. Ambrose University in Iowa and her master�s in social work from California State University in Sacramento.

Doerfer is �thrilled to have the opportunity to guide the center in expanding its role and voice in the community in partnership with the center�s dedicated board, staff and volunteers,� she said in a statement.

�We are delighted to announce Doerfer�s selection as her outstanding organizational experience and her deep commitment to the LGBT community will be the driving force in animating the center�s vision for the future, as laid out by our board of directors,� board president Thom Rankin said.

�We�re thrilled to see such a strong leader like Sue Doerfer step up to take the leadership reins at the center,� said Doerfer�s current boss, AIDS Taskforce executive director Earl Pike. �She�s been an incredible asset to the community, she�ll be an incredible asset at the center and it helps further the partnership between the center and the Taskforce.�

�It�s a loss for us, of course,� Pike added, �but a larger gain for the community. In the meantime, our daily work goes on as we search for Sue�s replacement.�


Look at Kerrys record, says top Democrat McAuliffe

Cleveland--Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe said John Kerry�s senate record on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender� issues should matter more to the community�s voters than his position against marriage and the party convention�s avoidance of LGBT issues.

McAuliffe toured Ohio for two days this week holding �barnstorming� events in cities, meeting with party loyalists to promote Kerry�s campaign and listen to their concerns. He spoke to the Gay People�s Chronicle September 14 at Cleveland�s Harvard Community Center.

McAuliffe said that although it appears the drive to amend Ohio�s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage is being directed by the Bush campaign, the Democratic Party will not put any resources into its defeat.

�We are putting our full resources into the state of Ohio to get John Kerry elected, nothing else,� said McAuliffe.

He added that voter mobilization by the Democratic Party in Ohio should be enough to counter any gains the Bush campaign might get from the anti-marriage ballot measure. He adamantly stated that the Democratic Party would not do anything to influence those voters on the amendment.

�Part of that get-out-the-vote effort involves the gay and lesbian community,� said McAuliffe. �[GLBT] voters know George W. Bush and they know John Kerry. They know their track records on key issues.�

McAuliffe downplayed Kerry�s stand against same-sex marriage and his support of the Missouri constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage that passed last month, emphasizing Kerry�s support for civil unions and Kerry�s record in the Senate �fighting for the interests of the [GLBT] community.�

�Bush is hostile, Kerry is supportive,� said McAuliffe.

McAuliffe said Kerry talks about judicial nominations �in every speech� and often contrasts his views of what is an acceptable Supreme Court nominee to Bush�s.

McAuliffe fielded that concern during the meeting with community activists as well, when an African-American woman stood up to express her disgust with Clarence Thomas� appointment to the high court by Bush�s father. She feared the younger Bush would make good on his promise to make Thomas the chief justice.

Thomas is viewed as anti-gay and wrote a minority dissent that supported sodomy laws when the court struck them down last year.

Eldie Acheson, an openly lesbian friend and advisor to Kerry and former assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration told the Chronicle earlier this year that Kerry �would approach judicial nominations very much like Clinton did, looking for judges who understand fairness and have a commitment to rights of individuals.�

McAuliffe reiterated Kerry�s position against same-sex marriage, stressing that Kerry supports equality for same-sex couples in every way. Like the candidate, he didn�t explain any further.

McAuliffe said GLBT voters should not worry that as president Kerry would shrink from fighting politically difficult battles.

�Look at his record in the U.S. Senate,� said McAuliffe.

As a freshman senator, Kerry introduced the Civil Rights Amendments Act of 1985, which would have made discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal in matters of employment, housing and credit. It was the first gay civil rights bill ever introduced in Congress.

Kerry also opposes the military�s ban on gay servicemembers and testified against the �don�t ask don�t tell� compromise in 1993 before voting against it.


Election result brightens Massachusetts marriage outlook

Boston--Advocates for same-sex marriage picked up three seats in the Massachusetts primary on September 14.

The election result increases the chances that a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage can be blocked when it comes up for a second vote early next year.

�The message from last night is that voting to keep discrimination out of the constitution will not cost you your reelection,� said Marty Rouse, campaign coordinator for MassEquality, the lead group fighting the amendment and working to elect supportive legislators.

After the state�s top court ruled last fall that barring gays and lesbians from marriage violated the Massachusetts constitution, lawmakers narrowly passed the amendment to trump the court�s decision. They must pass it again after the November general election to put it on a future ballot.

�Every single incumbent that voted with us was reelected,� said Rouse. �In addition to that, we defeated two incumbents who voted against us. And in Massachusetts, it�s extremely difficult to defeat an incumbent.�

The highest profile race was in Somerville where Carl Sciortino made incumbent State Rep. Vinny Ciampa�s vote in favor of the amendment and his opposition to civil unions an election issue in the gentrifying district.

Sciortino eked out a 117-vote upset and is assured election with no Republican on the ballot in November.

�That was our top priority and we kicked him out,� Rouse said.

Another handful of challengers supported by MassEquality were not successful in their bids against incumbents. But the financial and volunteer help the gay community gave to those campaigns resulted in close races�a message not lost on political observers.

Two open seats were contested between supporters and opponents of the amendment. The most dramatic was in Framingham where Tom Sannicandro won a three-way race as a write-in candidate to hold a supportive seat. A full supporter of marriage rights won an open seat now held by an opponent.

�We are mostly going to be on defense in November,� Rouse said. �We�re very worried, there are a lot of well-funded candidates� recruited by Republican Governor Mitt Romney and often financed by religious conservatives from out of state. �But because of last night and how we were able to flex our political muscle effectively, we�re feeling confident that we can go into November strong and well resourced.�

�Community has gotten smart�

Rouse feels the important story that nobody is really talking about is that �the community has gotten smart and has realized that they have to get involved in political campaigns, and help make phone calls, and go door to door, and do the grunt political work. We had MassEquality members active in every single important campaign, and it made a difference.�

�This is not just a gay and lesbian issue, people understand that this is a civil rights issue for everyone. We are movement-building and that is part of this whole piece.�

Polling indicates that gay marriage is fading as an issue for Massachusetts voters and even the state Republican Party has circulated a memo to candidates advising them not to raise it during the campaign.

�We think the subtle message for people is that this is no longer a bad issue for them. The momentum is with us, there has been no backlash, this has not been an issue in virtually any campaign,� said Rouse.

He noted that during the last constitutional convention, several legislators said, �They wanted to vote with us but they were nervous about their reelection. So we know that we are going to pick up some votes from people who voted against us already,� when they look at the new face of the legislature and see more supporters of same-sex marriage.

Supporters of marriage equality need to pick up only five votes among the 200 legislators in the state constitutional convention next year in order to block the constitutional amendment and preserve gay marriage in Massachusetts. They believe the odds of doing so have turned in their favor, if they can hold on to those gains in November.


A rousing weekend

Holly Near, Muse and Cincinnati artists join up for a
pair of shows to get out the progressive voted

Cincinnati--To encourage more citizen participation in the November 2 election, progressives here have teamed up in a cultural coalition to promote Holly Near in concert Friday, October 1 and have set a second evening of politically oriented entertainment during a regional Youth Summit the next night.

Muse women�s choir director Catherine Roma hooked up with Van Ackerman of the Cincinnati Arts Association to promote Near in concert in the Music Hall ballroom and has planned a show with lesbian slam poet Alix Olson and local musicians. The local League of Women Voters was invited to help facilitate last-minute voter registration each evening.

In collaboration with the acclaimed choir, the arts association has booked one of the most powerful and articulate activist/singers of our time. Joining Near will be pianist John Bucchino, Muse, and the Queen City�s saucy, soulful Tracy Walker.

�In a pre-election concert that celebrates our right to vote, peace, social justice, and equality for all people, these dynamic and powerful voices join for an unforgettable night that will inspire, entertain, and touch the spirit,� said Van Ackerman. �We�ll rock the vote with the community coming together at the Aronoff Center for a passionate evening of meaningful music and grace-filled humor.�

Veteran peace advocate Near says on her web site that she�ll vote for John Kerry �to show the world that we do not support Bush and his policies at home or around the world. Period.�

But she adds that the Democratic Party �is not my party of choice. It is middle of the road at best and conservative much of the time. However, I would rather struggle with the Democrats in hopes of pushing them away from being conservative and toward center than struggle with Republicans when I know they are stuck in the right and won�t budge.�

Joining Olson, Walker and Muse on October 2 at St. John Unitarian-Universalist Church�s �Raise Your Voices--Rock the Vote!� event will be local bluegrass favorite Katie Laur and her All-Girl Band, and city councilmember Laketa Cole performing Ntozake Shange�s For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. Young people from throughout the region will cap off the fourth Greater Cincinnati LGBT Youth Summit at the show. The church has a lift for the handicapped.

The remarkable Walker worked for quite a while on her latest musical endeavor, All This Time, which is her first CD since 1998�s Naked. She is known for her mesmerizing acoustic sets, but her strapping and evocative voice impressively pilots her band. With a tone that is like a mixture of k.d. lang and Tracy Chapman, Walker has a sound all her own and lyrics that opens one�s mind.

The Muse women�s choir is dedicated to both musical excellence and social change. In keeping with their belief that diversity is strength, they are feminist women of varied ages, races, and ethnicities with a range of musical abilities, political interests, and life experiences, their web site details. They say they �are women loving women, heterosexual, lesbian and bisexual women united in song.�

Muse commissions and seeks out music composed by women, pieces written to enhance the sound of women�s voices, and songs that �honor the enduring spirit of all peoples.�

St. John�s Unitarian-Universalist Church has been among the leaders of the local GLBT community. It has participated in Pride parades, worked with GLBT organizations, and held many worship services and forums centered on sexual orientation and gender identity issues. In 2000, St. John�s was officially recognized as a Welcoming Congregation by the Unitarian Universalist Association, a special distinction given to churches that have proven their commitment to the affirmation and inclusion of LGBT people.

This year, many church members are at the forefront of the campaign to repeal Article 12 of the Cincinnati city charter, which forbids passage of any law protecting the civil rights of GLBT citizens. St. John�s ministers perform same-sex union ceremonies and embrace same-gender couples and their children, who are listed together in the church�s directory and pictured together on the church�s membership board.

Alix Olson is a nationally touring folk poet and progressive queer artist-activist whose shows have been described as �one part peace vigil, one part protest rally and one part joyful, raucous concert.�

Tickets for October 1 are on sale via or at the Aronoff Center and Music Hall�s box office, call 513-9774157. Tickets for the October 2 concert are available from St. John�s, 320 Resor Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45220 or by calling 513-9611938.

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