in the news/3
Volume 16/Issue 22

abigailPensacola's Riviera Presents
Abigail for Halloween

The Riviera, one of Pensacola's foremost nightclubs and live entertainment facilities is hosting its second Gayla Halloween Party and Costume Contest with live entertainment, Sat., Oct. 31. The featured entertainer for the evening is Abigail, described as "a devastating diva with a difference." Although she began her career in her native London, her dance tracks of k.d. Lang's "Constant Craving" and "Losing My Religion" brought her American acclaim and she has recently settled in San Francisco. Her latest track, on Interhit Records, is "Let The Joy Rise."

The two-year-old Riviera, owned by Joey Harigel and Greg Sheets, has presented in the past such recording artists as Lonnie Gordon (London) and The Sherreece Band (New Orleans).


HRC Debases Itself with D'Amato Endorsement

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest Gay and Lesbian political organization, has followed its traditional methods for selecting political candidates to endorse, and so chosen Republican Senator Alphonse D'Amato of New York over his Democratic challenger Congressmember Chuck Schumer-despite Schumer's superior record on Gay and Lesbian issues and D'Amato's strong support of anti-abortion legislation. HRC has paid a price already with the resignation of one Board member and at least a few grassroots members so far. The HRC Board reportedly voted 15 - 7 for the D'Amato endorsement, honoring his defiance of Republican Party leadership in supporting military service for open Gays and Lesbians and a floor vote on the nomination of open Gay James Hormel to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg. If analysts are to be believed, although the D'Amato - Schumer race is too close for anyone to call, this endorsement is unlikely to influence New York voters to anything like the degree it will impact HRC.

HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch wrote that, "On their records, both Sen. D'Amato and Rep. Schumer could warrant an HRC endorsement. Rep. Schumer has an excellent record over a longer period of time on issues of special significance to Gays and Lesbians. He has been a good friend to the Gay community. His record in the House is one of the best, and he enjoys wide support in the New York Gay community. But Sen. D'Amato has improved his record significantly. He has helped secure critical increases in HIV and AIDS funding, has co-sponsored the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and has both cosponsored and worked on behalf of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). He has been with us on other critical votes as well. In short, his record is among one of the best in the United States Senate at this time."

The key to D'Amato's selection is HRC's organizational value of preferring incumbents, who wield more power in the operations of Capitol Hill. Birch likens the controversial selection of D'Amato over Schumer to HRC's 1996 endorsement of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) over then-Governor William Weld (R), while still calling the latter "a true hero to our community." Then too incumbency was the deciding factor.

Unfortunately for Birch, who carefully prepared an official announcement in full knowledge of the hot button the endorsement represented both within and outside the organization ("In fact many have already expressed their rage," she wrote), the news leaked out in time for morning newspapers and critical counter-releases before her formal statement could be widely distributed.

In principle a non-partisan organization, HRC has had a challenging time finding Gay-friendly Republican candidates to endorse. D'Amato is one of only 15 Republicans to win an endorsement this cycle, compared with 178 Democrats plus one independent, and the only other HRC-endorsed Republican Senator is Arlen Specter (PA). HRC restricts its endorsements to candidates for national office.

Predictably, the national Gay and Lesbian partisan organizations praised and condemned HRC's choice on party lines. National Stonewall Democratic Federation interim executive director Daniel McGlinchey said, "I'm disappointed in HRC's endorsement of D'Amato because he doesn't deserve it. He is not the better candidate, and his membership in the U.S. Senate will help keep the Republican majority and its homophobic leaders in place and setting the agenda." The national Gay and Lesbian Log Cabin Republicans executive director Rich Tafel, on the other hand, said, "The Human Rights Campaign chose the best candidate by far in Senator D'Amato," adding that, "This marks a real step forward for HRC. It's a clear sign that our movement is maturing and realizing the importance of working within-not against-the Republican Party." Meanwhile, Stonewall was criticizing Log Cabin for the latter's endorsements in opposition to the three openly Lesbian Democratic candidates for Congress (Christine Kehoe in California, Margarethe Cammermeyer in Washington, and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin), compared to Stonewall's own past support of openly Gay Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ).

As Birch notes, the endorsement process does not consider candidates' actions at the state level, where many New York Gays and Lesbians blame D'Amato for the anti-Gay tenor of the state legislature. There civil rights protections for Gays and Lesbians have been repeatedly blocked despite the state's sizable and vocal Gay and Lesbian population and even D'Amato's own support. New York's Empire State Pride Agenda group not only gave its endorsement to Schumer, it publicly criticized HRC for endorsing D'Amato. The immediate reaction of local poll watchers was that the national organization's action would not be as significant to the state's Lesbian and Gay voters.

For many Gay and Lesbian organizations, a pro-choice position is as much a litmus test for candidate endorsements as a stance on any specifically Gay and Lesbian or AIDS issue. Among other reasons, philosophically both issues revolve around individuals' control of their own bodies. While HRC itself is pro-choice, and 97% of its endorsed candidates are as well, D'Amato is far at the other end of the spectrum. His voting record has merited zero ratings from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) for two years, while the Christian Coalition this year rated him at 82% (HRC itself rated him at 66% this year, compared to 83% for Schumer). In endorsing Schumer on Oct. 20, Planned Parenthood's national president Gloria Feldt said that, "we are mindful that we stand today just one veto and three Senate votes shy of a direct assault on Roe v. Wade," and noted that D'Amato has been endorsed by Right to Life. The Board member who left HRC after what was described as a "wrenching" internal debate on the endorsement was Marylouise Oates, who happens to be married to a media consultant who worked on Geraldine Ferraro's Democratic primary campaign against Schumer. She said, "I do not wish to be a part of any organization that applauds and endorses a senator merely for his signing on as a co-sponsor on one bill, after many years of anti-Gay votes." Another anti-D'Amato activist has organized an online petition "to show HRC that Lesbians and Gays in NY are not happy with their endorsement."

D'Amato accepted the HRC endorsement with a reference to Gay murder victim Matthew Shepard, saying in a statement that, "In the wake of the brutal and senseless killing in Wyoming, Americans are reminded once again that we must stand up and fight for our nation's bedrock principle of equal rights and respect for all."

The endorsement is not an unmixed blessing for the Senator, however. Michael Long, the chair of the Conservative Party, which also backs his candidacy, said he'd have much preferred that D'Amato reject HRC's endorsement. He said, "The Conservative Party overwhelmingly doesn't agree with the agenda of groups like this. We believe it's counterproductive to society." [from NewsPlanet]


House Republicans Brag About
Killing Hate Crimes Bill

In a document obtained by Wired Strategies, the House Republican Conference (an arm of the US House of Representatives Republican leadership) is taking credit for having "stopped" the hate crimes bill. The House leadership document contradicts claims from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's staff that the Hate Crimes Protection Act would not pass because Congress had run out of time.

Concerned individuals across the US and from as far as Zimbabwe, Australia, and Russia sent E-mails to the United States Congress, the Wyoming Governor, and Web sites devoted to Matthew Shepard's memory, expressing their concern about the Shepard case, and the need to pass hate crimes legislation. In addition, Americans nationwide, and in countries as far as Hong Kong, telephoned US members of Congress over the last several days to demand passage of the bill.

The House document attacks the hate crimes bill as being a part of "the President's big-government agenda," and calls the death of the legislation "a win for conservative priorities." Under a section entitled "Reinventing Big-Government-Presidential Priorities the Congress Stopped," the House leadership lists: "'Hate crime' proposals that criminalize motive rather than punish violent crime."

In a phone call Oct. 16, Senator Lott's staff told a supporter that the legislation would die because it was simply too late to bring it up this year-the staffer gave no indication of the partisan strategy that now seems to be the reason for the bill's death. The decision to kill the legislation came on the heels of a new Time/CNN poll recently released finding that 75% of Americans think the problem of violence against homosexuals is serious across the country.

"The House leadership has dishonored the memory of Matthew Shepard for partisan political gain," said John Aravosis, an Internet consultant who has been maintaining a Web site about the Shepard case (www.wiredstrategies.com/shepard.htm). "It's incredible that House Republicans would brag about killing a bill that protects the disabled, women and Gay people from beating brutalized by hate," he added.

"Hate is not a family value, but it seems to be a conservative one," continued Aravosis. "This wasn't a partisan issue, it was about the savage murder of a kid that shocked millions of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats," Aravosis added, "Is that all Matt's death meant to Gingrich-a chance to slam the President? Is he that out of touch?"

The House Republican Conference document can be found on the Internet at: 143.231.67.32/IssueFocus/TalkingPoints/TPMain/score. [from Wired Strategies]


One Million Signatures Sought
to Keep Murderer in Jail

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Dorothy Hajdys-Holman have initiated a national drive aimed at getting one million signatures on a petition asking the Naval Parole and Clemency Board to deny parole to Terry Helvey. In 1992, Helvey beat to death his shipmate Allen Schindler, Hajdys-Holman's son, because he was Gay. Schindler's murder and his mother's fight for justice were depicted in Lifetime's 1997 film, Any Mother's Son: The Dorothy Hajdys Story, which won a 1998 GLAAD Media Award.

Under Navy law, sentences of prisoners serving more than one year are reviewed annually for possible reduction. The next hearing for Helvey, who was sentenced to life, is in January, 1999. Hajdys-Holman said, "The reasons for keeping my son's murderer in prison are simple. Terry Helvey is dangerous. He is likely to do the same thing again, if set free. I do not want any other mother to live through what I have.

To add your name to the petition, go to www.sldn.org, download a copy of the petition, sign and snail-mail; or, call 202.328.3244 and request a copy of the petition; or, write to: SLDN, P.O. Box 65301, Washington, DC 20035-5301.


NYC Protestors Denounce Cops

In the aftermath of the Oct. 19 clash between New York City police and 4 - 6,000 participants in a vigil for Matthew Shepard, the Gay University of Wyoming student who died after a brutal beating, there were recriminations from both sides. There will be an investigation of this, the third embarrassment in crowd control this year for the NYPD, but Mayor Rudy Giuliani is standing up for the force despite his stated sympathy with the anti-violence cause.

Demonstrators spoke out at a press conference on the morning of Oct. 21, held at the offices of New York's Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project-a group which reportedly had refused to sponsor the disrupted vigil because its organizers had failed to seek or obtain a parade permit. Press conference speakers claimed a number of abuses by police and had not only records made at the event and individual testimony to back them up, but videotape showing some officers in riot gear using their batons to hit protestors. According to one report, videotape also showed a group of demonstrators pushing another officer in riot gear back and forth. Along with at least two vigil participants who were injured by police horses, one man said a police officer drove a moped into his back. While observers recorded numerous injuries to protestors-mostly peaceful protestors-police acknowledge injuries only to two of their own; emergency medical services at the scene had previously reported treating two protestors and one officer.

People arrested included a woman in a wheelchair, a woman Episcopal priest wearing clerical garb at the time, a foreign tourist who had no idea what was going on, and two of the legal observers at the event, as well as many of those who had organized the event and had been trying to maintain order. One of the legal observers said that two other legal observers had been physically assaulted by police, and that he himself was arrested while trying to record information about another demonstrator who had just been arrested. The Metropolitan Gender Network has also said that renowned veteran activist Sylvia Rivera and authors Leslie Feinberg ("Stone Butch Blues") and Minnie Bruce Pratt were among those arrested.

There is still considerable confusion as to exactly how many people were arrested; estimates seem to range up to 136 (those documented by legal observers at the protest), although police believe it was about 110, essentially all on disorderly conduct charges, some for resisting arrest. Some 20 - 30 of those individuals were released instead of booked because officers on the scene had failed to complete paperwork. At least 26 so far have agreed to "adjournment in contemplation of dismissal," which may include community service, but primarily means that the record will be erased if the individual avoids further problems with law enforcement for the coming six months. At least 18 people so far have determined to contest the charges against them, and as morning newspapers went to press, a number of demonstrators (about half) were still in jail waiting to be arraigned.

Most of those arrested were held at least overnight, and conditions at the jail were a further concern of the protestors-particularly in the case of at least two men with AIDS who were unable to take their medication. One spoke to the New York Times while being given fluids intravenously at his doctor's office, to compensate for dehydration he suffered while in jail. The protestors say they were held for hours without food, water, or legal representation, and that they were subjected to anti-Gay verbal abuse.

Police had started out with some 70 - 80 officers, enough to manage a crowd of 600, which was more than either police or organizers had anticipated. The police response was escalated by stages until by 7pm an unusual so-called Level 2 mobilization was called, which drew in as many as 1,600 officers from all over the city. Since a somewhat similar problem several months ago when police underestimated a protest of what turned out to be some 40,000 construction workers, police intelligence has been under the direct oversight of Police Commissioner Howard Safir, but at the time of the march both he and the intelligence division commander were out of town at a conference. First Deputy Police Commissioner Patrick Kelleher said immediately after the incident that, "They had a right to gather. But once they left the sidewalk, they were endangering the motorists, they were endangering the pedestrians. And we were forced to make arrests." One report had officers saying they had practically begged marchers to stay on the sidewalk.

But Public Advocate Mark Green said, "While some of the marchers may have acted in a disruptive manner, many participants in the vigil have said that police officers pushed them off of sidewalks and into the street and then arrested them." He described the police response as "outrageous and intolerable," and called for an investigation by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Also speaking out were openly Gay City Councilmember Tom Duane, open Lesbians City Councilmember Margarita Lopez and state Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and Assemblymember Scott Stringer. Glick felt that the orderly and peaceful nature of the march and rally after the police intervention showed that the disruption was entirely the responsibility of the police department, reflecting poor tactical decisions.

Giuliani, still campaigning for Republican Governor Lincoln Almond in Rhode Island, said, "Gays and Lesbians are very much respected in New York," but also placed all the blame for the confrontation on the demonstrators and particularly on their failure to obtain a parade permit. "When people just kind of barge into the middle of the street, then the police can do only one thing, and that is to try to remove them as quickly as possible." He said, "The police reacted to people attempting to block the most crowded city in America. And if they do it again, precisely the same thing will happen. The police originally, obviously, did not have the correct number of police there; they didn't know this was going to take place. I very much support the point that the lawful marchers were making, but I'm very unsympathetic to those who acted illegally. I would hope the organizers of the march are responsible enough to make the distinction ..... I hope they just don't do the knee-jerk, advocate reaction and try to blame the police, but rather take some responsibility for their own actions." He said that, "It's really a shame what advocates do. They distort the truth to fit their position."

One to two thousand attended a more peaceful candlelight vigil on October 20 at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Among those speaking was Episcopal priest Anne Kitch, the wife of a cousin of Shepard's, who had spoken at his funeral . Kitch said Shepard would have been bewildered by the effect his death has had on many thousands of people. [from NewsPlanet]


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