Opponents end their petition challenges
Columbus--�The challenges are over. There�s nothing that will alter the fact that they will have sufficient signatures to put the amendment on the ballot,� said Alan Melamed, who heads Ohioans Protecting the Constitution�s campaign to defeat a marriage ban amendment.
The proposed Ohio constitutional amendment, resulting from a petition drive, will be on the November ballot as Issue 1. It would ban same-sex marriages, civil unions and anything that �intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.�
Melamed said the decision not to file any new lawsuits to try to block the measure from getting on the ballot was reached after careful consideration September 21. The day before, the Tenth District Court of Appeals in Columbus denied a move to force Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to withdraw his certification of the measure�s petitions because they lack a required summary.
The remaining unsettled challenges will continue in some of the 52 counties where they were filed, but the Tenth District�s ruling will not be appealed and no new legal avenues will be pursued, even though some have been successful.
Melamed, an attorney, said that OPC�s decision to move on was made for three reasons: The measure�s backers have turned in 144,247 more signatures to replace the rejected ones, making it very likely they will reach the minimum valid ones needed; there is a September 23 deadline for all challenges to end; and Blackwell, who controls the certification process, supports the amendment.
OPC attorneys John P. Gilligan and Don McTigue told the three-judge appellate panel at the September 20 hearing that Blackwell has violated some of his own directives in other ballot initiatives to help.
After hearing 15 minutes from each side for oral arguments, the panel, led by Judge Cynthia Lazarus, and Judges Donna Bowman and Susan Brown, rejected their petition.
McTigue and Gilligan�s case hinged on the missing summary, which they said should invalidate all of the petitions. The matter was partially settled in April by a Franklin County judge�s ruling allowing the petitions to be circulated without the summary, as a special case.
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro appealed that decision to the Tenth District June 28 in defense of the state law requiring the summary. That appeal is still pending.
But with Petro representing the other side of the issue, Blackwell had to be represented by a special counsel. He appointed Donald Brey of Columbus, who often represents the Republican Party in election matters. Brey was also counsel in the 2002 attempt to repeal the domestic partner benefits ordinance in Cleveland Heights.
The Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, which circulated the petitions, attempted to insert itself in the case, but was turned down by the court.
Their attorney, Michael Carvin of the Washington office of Jones Day, submitted a 43-page motion the day after the case was filed. Carvin was one of the attorneys used by the Republican Party in the Bush v. Gore case after the 2000 election. He also defended Cincinnati�s Article 12 before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.
Although they had been rejected, Jones Day sent another attorney to the hearing anyway. When Matthew Kairis approached the bench after Gilligan and McTigue�s argument, he was rebuffed again.
�Your motion [to intervene] is denied,� said Lazarus. �Step back from the bench.�
Brey argued that petition opponents have no legal right to stop the vote by extraordinary means because simple means were available.
McTigue argued that no simple means were available because of the tight schedule of the county cases and that different county courts have reached different conclusions.
McTigue also questioned Blackwell�s impartiality in the case.
Blackwell has admitted to helping the amendment effort on behalf of the Bush presidential campaign.
McTigue accused Blackwell of violating his own directives on other initiatives in order to help promote this one.
In the end, the court agreed with Brey and denied the writs.
Melamed said the campaign now needs to stop putting resources into the legal process and into defeating the measure at the polls.
�Now that it�s on the ballot it�s time to engage and fight,� said Melamed.
�Every gain made any group to obtain equal rights and protections has come with a fight,� Melamed added, �Proponents of this amendment have offended many with this proposal so extreme that they have set us up for a fight we can win.�
Melamed said winning will change the future in Ohio and around the country, but will require full commitment from the LGBT community and its allies to do what it takes to win.
�With that commitment we can succeed,� said Melamed. �We know our message will work if we can communicate it.�
Ohioans Protecting the Constitution is on the web at www.opcpac.com.
Columbus--As the deadline for putting an Ohio marriage ban amendment on the ballot approached this week, challenges to the signatures had reduced them below the number needed. However, the measure�s backers have submitted over 100,000 more.
A Franklin County common pleas judge invalidated an additional 2,568 petition signatures as a result of the protest by marriage amendment opponents.
To date, challenges have been filed in 52 counties. Franklin�s is the only one given a full trial. Most cases were still pending at press time. Three counties, Fulton, Crawford and Erie, invalidated all of their petition forms because there was no summary on the form.
Eight counties, including the large Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties, denied all protests and accepted all signatures due to a law saying that protests must be filed at least 50 days before the election, or September 13. That requirement could not be met due to the Ohio secretary of state�s office not finishing the processing in time.
Franklin County Judge Jennifer L. Brunner, a former elections attorney, invalidated another 9% of the county�s signatures, beyond the board of elections� initial examination. The ruling left Ohio�s second most populated county with only 25,968 valid signatures from the 41,151 originally filed by the petitioners, the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage.
OCPM submitted the signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State August 3 in an attempt to place the measure on the November 2 ballot. If passed, it would amend Ohio�s constitution to forbid same-sex marriages, civil unions, and any legal recognition of relationships outside the marriage of one man to one woman.
The challenges have been brought by Melanie Essig and her mother Sandra Essig, both of Columbus. Melanie Essig is employed by Verizon, which insures her partner under its domestic partner benefit.
Essig fears that the amendment would threaten that benefit, leaving her partner, whose employer does not provide benefits, uninsured.
The campaign against the amendment, Ohioans Protecting the Constitution, has hired election attorney Donald McTigue to represent the Essigs in the petition protests.
The Franklin County suit was filed September 10 and set for hearing September 17. Judge Brunner signed her decision the next day.
During a hearing that lasted the entire day, Brunner outlined which protests she would allow and which she would dismiss. Afterward the Friday hearing, the attorneys and elections board staffers reviewed petition forms until midnight. They resumed in the morning, examining the petitions until evening before contacting the judge to sign the order.
Franklin County assistant prosecutor Patrick Piccininni represented the Board of Elections in the suit. OCPM was represented by attorney Christopher Finney.
Finney and McTigue fought hard for their positions during the Friday
hearing. Once the judge ruled, however, signatures and petition forms
were accepted and rejected quickly and unanimously.
Finney argued that the signatures met the standard set forth in the constitution, and that the laws passed by the legislature governing their validity and sufficiency could not trump the constitutional requirements.
�The signatures ruled valid by the board of elections are sufficient,� said Finney. �The rest of the technicalities are not an issue.�
McTigue argued that the laws passed to facilitate the process have been held constitutional, and that in order to meet the legal requirement of �sufficiency,� the signatures must be presented according to the law.
�A signature cannot be sufficient if it is not on a petition that is sufficient,� said McTigue.
McTigue questioned two witnesses, petition circulators Margaret Teague and Marla Nutter of Columbus. Teague�s testimony cast doubt on the accuracy of the petition form�s compensation statement
Nutter described the petition as �voters� registration for the ballot� when asked by McTigue what the forms circulated by her husband Jerry Tatum were. Nutter also circulated petitions but they were rejected by OCPM due to irregularities on the forms. Tatum was out of town and did not receive the subpoena to appear in time.
Brunner described the laws governing signature sufficiency as �a mess of a statute� before allowing protests on points which affected the integrity of the petitions.
Brunner rejected protests she said served �no pivotal purpose.�
Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has to either send the measure to the ballot or reject it by September 23, regardless of the status of protests. Blackwell has already stated his support for the amendment, as well as a federal one.
Blackwell sent a letter to OCPM September 17 saying that their number of valid signatures at that point, 280,578, fell short. A total of 322,822 is needed.
OCPM submitted 144,247 more signatures September 20 to make up the difference. They have been collecting those since they turned in the first set August 3.
McTigue said the new signatures will be checked by the counties over five days, then returned to Blackwell.
Cincinnati--The campaign to repeal the city charter�s Article 12 was boosted September 15 by a prominent African American church leader.
Rev. James Forbes, a senior minister at New York City�s Riverside Church well known in the nation�s African-American church community, spoke in support of the repeal effort as �Yes on Issue 3� supporters rallied at the south front of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
The repeal measure will be Issue 3 on the November ballot. A majority �yes� vote will abolish Article 12, which bars the city from passing any ordinance protecting gays, lesbians or bisexuals.
Forbes said the article is holding back the city�s potential, that Cincinnati �is too beautiful a city to be known around the world as the capital of exclusion and intolerance.�
The night before, he gave a presentation on �Reclaiming the place of religion as a force for social justice in America.�
�We have the power to shape the destiny of the world,� Forbes said. �The question is, do we know it?�
Forbes is part of Mobilization 2004, a call to action to faith communities across the U.S. to meet the challenges the nation faces this year.
He called on religious leaders throughout Cincinnati to educate their congregations on the issue.
�Discrimination against any group is unjust and divides the community,� he said. �Wake up, Americans black, white, brown; rich, poor, middle class; gay, straight; religious and secular; left, right and center--we need a healing of our divisions.�
Hoping that a story from his boyhood would not be too �indelicate� to his audience, Forbes said he was found by his mother �expressing my gynecological interest� with a friend.
�My mother punished me by putting me in a closet. I was afraid, in the dark. I pulled the doorknob to get out but it broke off and I was trapped,� he said. �Do you know what it is like to be in a dark closet and you can�t get out? Cincinnati, you can�t have a freedom monument and a closet of bondage for gays.�
Getting support from the black churches is considered essential to repeal Article 12 since its 1993 passage by 62 percent of voters came, in great part, from religious black citizens.
Forbes told the crowd, �Faith can help lead us to a united, more just America. Faith has been a profound force for progress and justice in the history of this nation, from the struggles against slavery to the struggles for civil rights and peace.�
He promised to return after Issue 3 passes, dancing a little jig and getting audience members to sing to show how he would spark a celebration.
Joining Forbes at the podium was retired judge Nathaniel R. Jones, who heard many civil rights complaints while on the federal bench.
�Human rights and civil rights are indivisible,� he said. �It is our obligation to join ranks with those who are victims. The notion that homosexuality is a disease that can be winked at is a lesson not learned. If you try to parse out rights, you sow seeds for a day when your rights will be restricted.�
Prominent people of color who endorse Citizens to Restore Fairness� �Yes on 3� campaign include Cincinnati City Council members Laketa Cole and Christopher Smitherman, former council members Minette Cooper and Marian Spencer, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr., Rev. Damon Lynch, III, State Sen. Mark Mallory and State Rep. Tyrone Yates.
John Kerry speaks on gay issues
For the first time, a major party presidential candidate answers questions from the GLBT press
Des Moines, Iowa--No major party presidential nominee has ever granted the gay media an interview during the general election campaign; but, on Thursday, September 9, U.S. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, agreed to two separate face-to-face interviews with the gay media.
One, for this newspaper and others around the country, was conducted
by this reporter
Fifteen minutes is not much time, but a check of previous interviews granted by the senator indicated that at least some of his interviews to other media were equally short. Because of the brevity, this reporter did not ask questions for which there was already a record.
For instance, Kerry�s record of support in Congress is well documented: During his first term in the U.S. Senate, he authored a comprehensive gay civil rights bill; in later years, he co-sponsored and voted for the gay and lesbian Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
He co-sponsored hate crime prevention legislation, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, and the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act for federal employees. He testified against the �don�t ask/don�t tell� policy on gays in the military and was one of the very few senators to vote against it, but he has also said there are some circumstances in which it might be appropriate.
Kerry voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, but he has spoken against legal recognition of gay marriage and in support of a constitutional amendment in Massachusetts which would ban same-sex marriage and replace it with civil unions. He has spoken in support of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down sodomy laws.
The Human Rights Campaign says Kerry�s record of support in Senate votes since he entered Congress in 1984 averages 96, but in each of the last four sessions of Congress, it has been 100 percent.
The interviews took place at a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, just after the senator spoke to an audience about health care. Below is a transcript of this reporter�s interview.
Lisa Keen: The gay community knows your record, generally, and the Human Rights Campaign has described it as stellar. But I don�t think many of us know exactly what inspired you back in 1985, in your first term, to author the gay civil rights bill. Can you recall who or what--
John Kerry: I just think it�s an important matter of fundamental fairness. I think, you know, all Americans ought to be treated fairly. And the equal rights clause and the equal protection clause mean something to me. And I think you have to take on some tough fights sometimes. And as president, I hope to pass ENDA, I hope to pass hate crimes legislation. I hope to be able to advance the understanding in America of the difficulties people face in some of the choices in life and we have to be a country that�s open and embracing people, period. I mean I just don�t know how we�re America if we don�t live up to those ideals.
Q: I thought maybe you had a gay friend or gay family member that inspired you to take up that mantle.
A: Well, I�ve had friends, obviously, and I�ve had supporters in my races and people I�ve cared about. But I just never spent a lot of time thinking about people as, you know, different. I mean, each to their own. People choose or don�t choose--they are who they are. You are who you are. And that�s who we are in America--a country that�s understanding and recognizes that. We obviously have some distance to travel. We�re still fighting discrimination over color and religion and a lot of hurdles to go.
Q: Including DOMA and the Federal Marriage Amendment. You voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and you�ve spoken out against the Federal Marriage Amendment. In both cases you described it as �gay-bashing for political gain.� Many of us feel that the constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and Missouri also constitute gay-bashing for political gain. I�m curious why you haven�t spoken out against those two?
A: Well, I think there�s a distinction. I don�t think that�s gay-bashing. It�s, obviously, a position that people in the GLBT community disagree with--I understand that. But I think that, historically, the definition of marriage and the application of marriage laws has always been state-defined. It is up to the states, not the federal government. That�s why I viewed the federal efforts, as specifically targeted, as gay-bashing, because they were usurping into a territory that they didn�t belong. There was no need to do that. Under the Constitution, no state has to recognize another state�s decision, and it�s up to the states.
[The Constitution requires states to give �full faith and credit� to the �public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.� Constitutional law professor Chai Feldblum says, �The Supreme Court has never directly ruled that, under the constitution, states must recognize all marriages from other states, and as a matter of general practice, states have sometimes invoked their right not to recognize a marriage from another state that is contrary to its public policy.�]
So what they were doing was reaching, for political purposes, to drive a wedge. But it is within the rights of a state to define marriage. That�s within state�s rights. And, you know, the majority of people in most states have a different view about what constitutes marriage. So this is a debate that�s going on now. People have different views.
What I think is important is to fight for fundamental rights. To me, the focus right now ought to be on the application of the equal protection clause--ought to be gaining the foothold of employment non-discrimination, gaining the foothold of hate crimes legislation, making sure that we�re protecting people�s ability to share the same rights--partnership rights, tax code treatment rights, ownership rights, Social Security--those rights are what are important to me. That�s what�s governed more by the state and it becomes less of conflict between . . . religion and the state, if you will.
Q: You have supported the idea of providing federal benefits through civil unions.
Q: How would you go about making that happen, as president?
A: You have to fight for it. You have to introduce it.
Q: You would introduce legislation to make that happen?
A: That�s equal protection under the law . . .
Q: I know you supported the Massachusetts amendment and it does provide for an alternative of civil unions.
A: Correct . . .
Q: But the Missouri initiative which just recently passed, and a number of those that are coming up this November--like Michigan, Ohio and others--are written such that they would eliminate even recognition or security through civil unions.�
Q:� I think in Missouri, you said after that vote that--
A: I did. And I was not aware. I was unbriefed and I thought it was the same amendment we had in Massachusetts. And that�s very simple. I just thought it was a simple prohibition and not one that excluded civil unions. Obviously, it�d be inconsistent. I am for civil unions and, therefore, I would not have voted for that had I been there . . . I just didn�t know it went as far as it did and, obviously, I don�t support it.
[After the interview, this reporter learned that the Missouri amendment does not explicitly bar civil unions. The Massachusetts amendment is different in that it would expressly create the right to civil unions. Ohio�s, by contrast, would ban anything that �intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.�]
The Kerry campaign was contacted to clarify if he would support a state constitutional amendment that just precluded same-sex marriage but did not--like Massachusetts--expressly provide for civil unions.
Through email from a campaign staffer, Kerry responded on September 14: �It is not up to me what the people of any state decide. And I wouldn�t presume to tell them what to do. What I will do, if asked, is tell people what my position is. I believe that gay and lesbian couples and families should be treated equally and fairly and I believe that that�s best accomplished through civil unions.�]
Q: How often does this issue come up on the campaign trail? Do people ask you about it?
A: It�s not coming up very much right now, no. It depends on where you are, but mostly people are talking about health care, and the war in Iraq, education, and jobs.
Q: The polls would seem to indicate that it�s kind of on a lower tier, but it is on the radar screen.
A: I think it�s because the states are sort of dealing with it. And there�s less sense of--I mean I know that within the community there�s a sense of urgency and disappointment, and I understand that. But I think that politically right now nationally the vast majority of people are focused on the outsourcing of jobs and their inability to pay their bills and survival, in a sense.
Q: If you noticed the turnout in Missouri was much larger last month than expected, and many of the additional voters who showed up to vote seemed to show up specifically to vote for the marriage amendment.
A: Well, that�s the Bush strategy. Sure. That�s their strategy--to try to exploit.
Q: Can you beat that?
A: Well, I�m going to have to. And you know we can�t afford to have 60 percent of the community stay home like they did last time.
[This reporter could find no data to support the notion that 60 percent of the gay community stayed home during the 2000 presidential election. Data collected by the Washington Blade from 118 precincts in heavily gay neighborhoods around the country suggested that 68 percent of registered voters there turned out to vote in 2000.]
People are going to have to realize that what�s at stake here is the Supreme Court of the United States. What�s at stake is whether you�re going to have a president who�s prepared to fight for ENDA and fight for hate crimes [legislation], or one who�s going to just let them sit there. So if people want to make progress in America, in terms of equal protection under the law and living up to our constitutional rights, this election is the most important election of our lifetime.
Q: Speaking of constitutional rights. Many of us see this issue--and I hate to keep hammering on gay marriage, but it is the one we feel most under siege about right now--The constitution guarantees equal protection, but we see poll after poll saying most Americans--the latest said 60 percent--are opposed to letting gays have any kind of legal security or responsibility or benefits through marriage. As president, how would you reconcile those two different places?
A: Well, the presidency is the power of bully pulpit to some degree, and you have to talk reasonably to people. Look, you have to begin at a beginning. It took us a long time to pass the civil rights law. There was a huge filibuster against it. Nowadays, people couldn�t conceive of why did we fight about that. It took us a long time for women to get the right to vote in America. You have to fight for things. And you pick a starting point and my starting point is to try to pass ENDA and try to pass hate crimes [legislation]. And you begin to educate people, and hopefully you change the climate and tone--it�s been very exploitive in the last year or so. And you lead.
Q: And would you do that for the gay community--try to--
A: I have. Why do you ask me if I�d do it?
Q: As president. Would you do it as president?
A: Yes, and I told you what my priorities are going to be. I�m trying to be very honest about it. You�ve got to begin with ENDA and begin with hate crimes and proceed to grow people�s understanding.
Stephanie Cutter (to reporter): You only have 30 seconds.
Q: Okay, last question. I�m curious: If you had been born gay, how different do you think your life would be?
A: I can�t tell you the answer to that question because I don�t know what my--you know, I just can�t tell you how I would have responded to it. Would I have been at the forefront of the crusade in the 1960s or would I still be, as some people are, living a double life or something, I don�t know.
Q: Could you have been in the military?
A: Uh, I can�t tell you the answer to that. I can�t speculate at all. There�s no way for me to speculate on a life I haven�t lived.
Q: Well, gay people do it--speculate that, if we were straight, maybe we could run for Senate or maybe we could --
A: Gay people run for the Senate.
Q: They do now, but back when you were first starting out--
A: Gay people run for members of Congress. Gay people served beside me in Vietnam.
Q: Is there anything else you--
A: Gay people have served in the military for years. For years, they�ve served in the military. I know this. This is what�s important: I want an America in which people are loved and respected and not an America which has outcasts and discrimination and different layers of being an American or a human being. People are who they are, and America�s greatness is that we honor that and can respect it.
I think, you know, and I�ve said this before, I think marriage raises a different issue in the minds of a lot of people because of its deep religious foundations and institutional structure as the oldest institution in the world. It is the oldest institution in the world--older than country, older than our form of government, older than most forms of government. And people view it differently.
What�s important to me is not the terminology or the status; what�s important to me are the rights. The rights. That you shouldn�t be discriminated against in your right to visit a partner in the hospital. You shouldn�t be discriminated against in your right to leave property to somebody, if that�s what you want. You shouldn�t be discriminated against if you have a civil union relationship that affords you the same rights.
Now, I think that�s a huge step. There�s never been a candidate for president who has stood up and said I think we should fight for those things. And you�ve got to progress. Even that, I take huge hits for. And you know, I stood up on the floor of the Senate and voted against DOMA because I thought it was gay-bashing on the floor of the United States Senate. I was one of 14 votes. The only person running for reelection who did that.
So, I�m not going to take a second seat to anybody in my willingness to fight for what I think is right. But I do think you have to take things step by step, in a reasonable way, so you can achieve some progress and not go backwards.
Lisa Keen is a freelance journalist and former executive editor of the Washington Blade and New York Blade News.
Bush campaign connected to Ohio ban amendment
New revelations in Ohio and Republican national politics show a clear connection between the Bush re-election campaign and the proposed Ohio constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
The push for the ban amendment takes a convoluted path, beginning last spring with Bush�s top political advisor Karl Rove, involving the political ambitions of Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, House Speaker Larry Householder and Auditor Jim Petro, ultimately leading to the circulation of petitions by Phil Burress, president of the anti-gay Citizens for Community Values.
�All things flow from there,� said secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Blackwell of the direction for the amendment coming from the Bush campaign.
Blackwell admitted last week that he was enlisted by the campaign to push the issue in Ohio.
He told the Cincinnati Enquirer September 14 the name of the person in the Bush campaign who he said in an early August letter to GOP faithful had asked him to do surrogate work on marriage in Ohio for the campaign--Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlmen.
Blackwell, his campaign and the Bush-Cheney campaign had previously ignored requests by the Gay People�s Chronicle for the name.
The August letter says, �And while, yes, I am running for governor in 2006 I am not overlooking 2004 and President Bush�s re-election.�
�The President�s campaign has asked me to help with a state DOMA [ban amendment] effort and I have agreed. I am working closely with state and national leaders to protect and defend the sanctity of marriage. No one is spending more time communicating with the key elements of the GOP base on behalf of the president than am I,� he continued.
The intent of Blackwell�s letter is to portray himself as the most conservative of the three gubernatorial candidates and most worthy of GOP support because of his stands on fiscal and social issues.
The other two GOP gubernatorial contenders are Attorney General Jim Petro and Auditor Betty Montgomery.
Speaker needed conservative issue
House Speaker Larry Householder, whose fundraising practices are the subject of federal and state criminal investigations, calls his supporters in the House and Senate �Team Householder.�
Householder is term-limited and cannot run again for his House seat. He has indicated that he will seek a state office, and has enlisted the help of Team Householder and two consultants, Brett Buerck and Kyle Sisk, to help him do that and install Petro as Ohio�s next governor.
In a 108-page memo written in January by Buerck and Sisk, a strategy to �destroy� Blackwell is outlined.
That strategy includes detailed plans to stop Blackwell from getting support of the party�s right wing by having the House under Householder�s stewardship pass bills that �run hard to the right� on social issues, including same-sex marriage.
Buerck and Sisk also figured that passing a series of socially conservative bills, including last winter�s �defense of marriage act,� would restore right-wing confidence in Householder�s team in light of a one percent sales tax increase passed last year.
Blackwell, in an attempt to beat Team Householder, has launched an attempt to repeal the tax and is championing the social agenda of the religious right.
Blackwell is also hoping to put his marker on Bush and the national right-wing establishment by working with them through the national election.
Seitz had second try on marriage
State Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati was also enlisted by the Bush campaign to push the marriage issue into the presidential campaign.
He had gotten his DOMA bill passed and signed by Governor Bob Taft on February 6, too early for it to bear on the national political field.
So Seitz �made rounds� among Republican state senators in mid-April asking them to approve a constitutional amendment for the November ballot �to help George W. Bush win Ohio,� according to two Statehouse staffers who asked not to be identified. This is confirmed in an April 14 memo sent to Ohioans for Growth and Equality members by the gay and lesbian group�s then-president Tim Downing, quoting OGE lobbyist Andrew Minton.
Downing�s memo added that Seitz also asked senators to �support President Bush�s call for a federal ban� amendment. That measure failed in the U.S. Senate in July, but may come up in the House in the next few weeks.
Seitz previously argued that his legislative measure, which narrowly passed the Ohio Senate, was sufficient to stop same-sex marriages.
�Seitz�s flip-flop floored people because of his intellectual warp on the issue,� said one of the staffers.
Though no legislative record shows sign of the amendment being considered in the Statehouse, the June 2004 Citizens for Community Values newsletter Citizens Courier says �key representatives and senators� were approached in April.
Seitz has since said that he opposes the current language of the amendment because it is vague, but he supports the concept.
One of the staffers said Seitz told senators that if the amendment was on the ballot, money that could not legally go directly to the Bush campaign could still help turn out Bush voters if it was sent through an unrelated issue campaign.
Such issue campaigns, including the one against the marriage amendment and the one to repeal Cincinnati�s Article 12, have no limits on contributions and can accept corporate money.
However, Seitz failed to convince enough senators to put the measure on the ballot, leaving it to anti-gay activist and rising GOP conservative policy influence Phil Burress to mount a petition effort to put it on the ballot.
Burress� Citizens for Community Values announced its intent to file petitions on April 20.
Burress spoke at rightist conclave
Immediately before the Republican National Convention in late August, Burress spoke to the secretive Council for National Policy, reported the New York Times. The group was founded in 1981 to create a Christian conservative alternative to the Council on Foreign Relations, and as a proving ground for Republican conservative ideas. This year�s meeting was described as �a pep rally to re-elect President Bush.�
Membership in the organization is secret. Guests and presenters are invited only by a unanimous vote of the board.
According to the Times, same-sex marriage was a major conference theme. Burress� speech was on �Using Conservative Issues in Swing States.�
Burress denies any affiliation with the Bush campaign, and has begun to state publicly that opponents to his amendment are surrogates for the Kerry campaign.
The Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, another Burress group formed to back the Ohio ban amendment, sent an e-mail to their supporters July 3 directing them to a Weekly Standard article by ultra-conservative commentator Fred Barnes called �Bush�s Missing Issue.�
Barnes says the amendments against same-sex marriage are crucial for a Bush victory.
�Prime turf for the issue is Ohio,� wrote Barnes, �a state Bush won in 2000 and cannot afford to lose this year.�
Rove found the perfect issue
The �need� filled by the proposed Ohio marriage ban amendment was discovered four years ago by top Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove. Exit polls in the 2000 election showed that as many as four million white conservative evangelical voters, upset with Bush�s attempts to campaign as a moderate, did not vote for president that year.
Rove immediately began searching for issues that would convince those voters to turn out in large numbers in support of his candidate.
The �faith-based� initiative, the late term abortion ban, Bush�s position on stem cell research and the religious overtones of the rhetoric used to motivate the nation to attack Afghanistan and Iraq were all part of the scheme to please those four million evangelicals.
But for Rove, the perfect issue came about on June 30, 2003, with the Supreme Court�s Lawrence v. Texas decision making sodomy laws unconstitutional. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that if gay sex could not be a crime, then nothing could stop same-sex marriage.
A year later, Massachusetts began recognizing same-sex marriages, and Rove had his national issue--one that would motivate the religious right and and divide the African-American community, which leans socially conservative, from its traditional support for Democrats.
As a �battleground� state that both major parties need to win this election, Rove figured out that he needed a marriage amendment in Ohio, as well as 11 other states, all of which are similarly configured politically.
Rove told reporters at a press conference at the Republican National Convention that having the Ohio amendment proposal on the ballot in November helps their campaign.
The last summer weekend is perfect for two AIDS Walks
Cincinnati--The final weekend of summer saw thousands of people turning out to raise money for AIDS services in opposite corners of the state.
AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati�s 15th Annual Red Ribbon Walk for AIDS took place on a sunny September 18, and the walk appears to have reached AVOC�s financial goals, although figures have yet to be finalized.
�It looks like we had about 1,000 walkers and we will reach our targeted goal of $100,000,� Victoria Brooks, AVOC executive director, confirmed. �The weather was beautiful, everyone enjoyed themselves. It absolutely went off without a hitch.�
The following day, mothers took central stage at the 14th Annual Dr. John Carey Memorial AIDS Walk and Run in Cleveland.
Last year children led the way, with a troupe of young dancers as the honorary chairs of the event. This year, the mothers took center stage.
�There really is a point at every AIDS Walk when I get teary-eyed, and it happened again yesterday,� said Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, the day after the event. �For me, it was watching the mothers who were the honorary chairs for the AIDS Walk being there for their gay children, their children with HIV, their children who have been marginalized, being there for their children.�
While financial figures were not in by press time, Pike noted that corporate sponsorships increased 45% since 2003, and there were more vendors present at the step-off site.
He also noted the high-level team participation, singling out the City of Cleveland�s team as well as that of the Cleveland Clinic.
�I drove home at three o�clock thinking: what went wrong, and I had trouble identifying anything that was off-kilter,� Pike said, expressing his pleasure at the quality of the day�s event.
The AIDS Taskforce is one of the eight benefiting agencies. The others are the Free Clinic of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, Planned Parenthood, the Women�s Center, Antioch Baptist Church/Cleveland Clinic Partnership�s Agape program, the Ohio AIDS Coalition and the Hispanic Urban Minority Alcohol and Drug Abuse Outreach Program.
In Cincinnati, the walk benefits AVOC alone. However, AVOC has less help in dealing with HIV and AIDS in Cincinnati than the AIDS Taskforce does in Cleveland.
Cincinnatians proved once again that their concern for each other outweigh all other considerations.
�Before the walk started, I had someone living with AIDS come to me with tears in their eyes and he said, �You know, I never realized how much Cincinnati cares about me�,� Brooks said, �and I think that really sums up why we do the AIDS walk. It�s about awareness, but it�s also about changing lives one person at a time.�
AVOC is continuing that effort with the introduction of their red �Live Safe� bracelets, modeled after the yellow �Live Strong� silicon bracelets seen on wrists across the country. For $3, they can be ordered on the group�s web site, www.avoc.org. Donations can also be made on the web site.
�We�re really excited about them because we want as much awareness brought back to AIDS as there is now for other issues,� Brooks said. �We want people to remember at those times when it might be the most difficult to �live safe.��
She said that thousands of bracelets were pre-ordered at the Red Ribbon Walk already.
Donations to the John Carey Memorial AIDS Walk are still being accepted on its Kintera web page. Go to www.kintera.org and use the search function to locate the Dr. John Carey Memorial AIDS Walk page.
Lesbian Festival draws 800 to a sunny day of music and fun
Kirkersville, Ohio--Nearly 800 women took part in the 15th anniversary of the Ohio Lesbian Festival September 18, converging on the Frontier Ranch Music Center just east of Columbus for the day-long event.
The gathering is the oldest women�s festival in Ohio and the largest fundraiser for the Lesbian Business Association.
LBA president Sherrill Howard expressed disappointment that the attendance was not as high as she had hoped, yet she was �extremely pleased with the talented performers, quality of the many craftswomen and with how well the workshops went� throughout the day, which enjoyed perfect weather.
Approximately 65 merchants and craftswomen were on hand selling items ranging from original art and handcrafted jewelry to T-shirts, homemade jellies, books, music and even Tupperware. Nonprofit organizations like Stonewall Columbus, the Buckeye Region Anti Violence Organization and Get Out the Vote were there providing information on a variety of issues.
Lesbian University was also back in session with workshops covering a variety of topics related to health and fitness, spirituality, civil marriage and home repair. Co-presenter Rev. Marj Creech of the workshop �Reclaiming Your Judeo-Christian Faith While Keeping Your Lesbian Values� was pleased that attendance and interest was better than planned.
�We ran short of chairs!� she laughed.
Creech also hosted a booth for her Granville Metropolitan Community Church and was pleased with the continued inclusiveness of the festival to welcome all women-identified women, including transgender individuals and those transitioning.
Musically, the festival attracted both local and national performers like Shelley Graff and Friends, Natalia Zuckerman, Tamaras and Vicki Blankenship for a day of non-stop entertainment. The evening stage was rounded out with professional comedian Michele Balan, followed by the singing duo of Laura Love and Jen Todd, and climaxing with the timeless acoustic and electrifying rock of Toshi Regan.
Although Howard doubted that this year�s gate receipts brought in enough to cover the costs, she said she was �extremely grateful to the women who braved the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan to come forth in what proved to be a great day on the land.�
Women�s festivals throughout the country continue to see declines in attendance. This year�s numbers weren�t helped by a slow economy and the National Women�s Music Festival�s relocation to Columbus in July, Howard noted.
�The reality is there are only so many dollars to go around,� she added.
The LBA is working on changing its tax status, which will allow it to seek grant money, charitable donations and provide for continued growth.
�This year�s low attendance will set us back with that goal, as the process is not an inexpensive one,� Howard noted.
She added, �If anyone wants to step forward and help make that happen financially, we would love the assistance.�
Howard is already planning for next year�s festival. She encourages anyonewith an interest in volunteering or applying for a few key coordinator positions to contact the LBA. For performers interested in participating in next year�s festival, audition tapes are being accepted until November 30.
Send tapes to LBA Festival, P.O. Box 82086, Columbus, Ohio 43202. Additional information is available at www.ohiolba.org or 614-2673953.
Stonewall Columbus elects new president and officers
Columbus--The board of Central Ohio�s largest and most prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization has some new leadership and new blood, following the unanimous election of new officers at the September 15 meeting.
Stonewall Columbus� board president Rob Berger is stepping down, and his vice president Donna Williams will ascend to the presidency.
�It has been such a pleasure working with Rob Berger because he is undoubtedly the best board president I�ve ever worked with in all the organizations I�ve been at in my career,� said Stonewall Columbus executive director Kate Anderson. �He thoroughly understood the role of president, and he took that role seriously and with strong conviction. He probably worked 40 hours a week on Stonewall issues and working towards our goals.�
�I will miss him greatly,� she added.
Despite having large shoes to fill, Anderson believes that Williams will succeed in her new role.
�Donna Williams is one of the most incredible women I�ve ever met,� Anderson said. �Every time I speak with her, I feel like I�ve learned so much and grown as a person. She has taught me so much about people and dealing with adversity.�
�She brings these perspectives to me through her experiences as an African American woman and an African American lesbian,� she continued. �I think with Donna�s leadership, people will truly understand that Stonewall is inclusive of all members of the GLBT community.�
Roger Fouts will be taking Williams� former position as board vice president. He has chaired committees for the annual Pride Holiday parade and festival and helped organize the Pride art show with his partner Stephen Grabner this year.
�Roger brings an awful lot of talent and experience to the Stonewall board as well,� Anderson said. �I look forward to him bringing his skills to bring Pride up to a higher level and bring Stonewall up to a higher level as well.�
Doug Kaufman and Rene Short are returning as treasurer and clerk, respectively. Anderson noted that Kaufman�s tenure has seen the organization operating in the black for around three years, putting it on its most stable financial footing ever.
�Rene has also been a delight to work with,� Anderson said, noting that she chaired the Pride committee this year.
Linda Schuler will also continue as membership liaison with �a good perspective on what our members are interested in because she�s been so connected with our community for the last five years.� Anderson gave her major credit for bringing the Pride Holiday to the point where it is today.
In addition, four new members were brought on board: Kelly Jaeger, Terry Wheeler, Lynn Wallich and Wanda Ellis.
�These people bring great talents and skills to the board,� the executive director said. �Kelly organized the first Pride 5K run this year, which was a huge success. Terry brings a fresh new perspective and is also an attorney, and it�s always good to have an attorney on board. We hope to use him to look at some possibilities in the future to have some legal clinic days for the GLBT community at the Stonewall Center.�
�Lynn brings an energy and skill sets of strong organization development, management systems and performance evaluations. She has a wonderfully delightful and playful personality which mirrors one of our brand elements of fun, spirited activities that empower people to feel good about themselves,� Anderson noted. �Wanda Ellis comes to us again with a great amount of energy and desire to work at Stonewall. She has management experience as well, particularly in IT systems, but she also brings a fresh perspective as a minority member of the board.�
�I firmly believe that between the board and the staff, we have the strongest team Stonewall has ever had,� Anderson concluded.
John Waters returns to the raunch of
For four years, the country has been in a depression. There has been no joy, no happiness, no sick, perverse, diseased displays of raunch and perversity.
However, that four-year dry spell is about to end.
Surprisingly enough, it has nothing to do with the election--although Bush and Dick do spring to mind.
In Baltimore, not Washington.
The four-year interval is the time between the release of the last John Waters movie, Cecil B. Demented, and his new film, A Dirty Shame.
A reviewer once referred to Waters as �Cecil B. Demented,� so he used it as the title of a film. Were he to continue that conceit, A Dirty Shame might best be re-titled Cecil B. Perverted.
The film is an insane cross of Demented and his seminal Pink Flamingoes. In Flamingos, people vie for the title of Filthiest Person on the Planet, and in Demented, a group of guerilla filmmakers shake up the status quo by staging a celluloid rebellion.
In A Dirty Shame, a group of revolutionary sex addicts, led by Ray-Ray (Jackass� Johnny Knoxville), invade a staid Baltimore neighborhood, seeking the one person who can come up with a completely new kink and unlock humanity�s true potential.
They believe that Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman) is that person, and when she gets an accidental concussion, Knoxville is quick to introduce her to the mysteries of his world.
Apparently, getting an accidental concussion turns people into sex addicts, as the audience learns through amusing flashbacks. Sylvia�s daughter, portrayed by Selma Blair, got konked and became an exhibitionist with an overwhelming desire to expand her bosom, for instance.
The only thing keeping the revolutionaries from their goal is the Neuters, the people who believe that sex is dirty and shameful and shouldn�t be spoken of or had in the middle of the front lawn in broad daylight.
Big Ethel (Suzanne Shepherd), Sylvia�s mother, and Sylvia�s husband Vaughn (Chris Isaak) try to save her from her new life, resulting in a brief conversion back to neuterdom and about thirty more concussions by the end of the film.
Like all John Waters films, this is not for everyone. Gone is that brief, almost family-friendly moment encompassing Hairspray, Cry-Baby and Serial Mom, replaced with enough flashes of nudity and euphemisms for cunnilingus to earn the film an NC-17 rating, much to the producers� chagrin.
Of course, Waters says the film deserves an R, adding that last winter�s �wardrobe malfunction� and the ensuing brouhaha have made the entire country a little on-edge when it comes to sexual matters, even when handled with the humor they deserve.
What�s surprising, however, is that the religious right hasn�t started burning Waters in effigy. With the uproar over Corpus Christi, Terrence McNally�s play that portrays Jesus and the apostles as gay men in Texas, one wonders why they haven�t started burning John Waters in effigy. Ray-Ray is a Jesus figure, and he has his twelve sex-addict disciples, including Mama Bear, Papa Bear and Baby Bear.
Yes, the stocky, furry, flannel-wearing type of bears.
In fact, homosexuality is more up-front in this than perhaps any of Waters� other films. Apparently, the fundies are too busy trying to steal the election to pay attention to popular culture right now.
But the most important question is: Is it funny?
Of course it is. Any movie directed by John Waters with a character named Fat Fuck Frank is, by definition, funny. The humor is, at times, a little forced, a little too contrived, but Waters is also going a little further out than he normally does in this film. Computer-generated sex-addicted squirrels are not easily worked into a script, so the contrivances are justified.
It is, at the core, a John Waters movie, a welcome relief in a sea of mass-produced cookie-cutter films about slashers stalking teens or people falling in love on elevators. And if, God forbid, the election goes badly, at least people can have one last good laugh before the world ends.