1996 – news stories relevant to the gay community

1996 – news stories relevant to the gay community

It was an almost perfect storybook ending for 1996 when a judge in Hawaii ruled that gays and lesbians should have the right to get married. The decision, hailed by gay rights activists and despised by the morality police, capped a year of passionate debate in which the nation finally began to acknowledge the reality of gay families. Marriage – and Congress’s decision to keep it the domain of one man and one woman – was just part of the picture. More and more gays and lesbians had their own kids. Gay youth fought to be heard. Through it all was one message: These are our families, these are our lives.

January

* Golf commentator bounced: Ben Wright is suspended by CBS Sports seven months after telling a newspaper that “lesbians in the sport hurt women’s golf.”

* Millionaire charged: John du Pont is arrested two days after he allegedly shot Olympic gold-medal wrestler Dave Schultz to death. Reports surface that the eccentric du Pont, who ran a wrestling camp on his estate outside Philadelphia, made sexual overtures to at least one of the athletes’ coaches.

* Galindo comes out: Men’s national figure-skating champion Rudy Galindo reveals to sportswriter Christine Brennan that he is gay in her book Inside Edge: A Revealing Journey Into the Secret World of Figure Skating.

* Former Texas legislator’s companion named: After former congresswoman Barbara Jordan dies of pneumonia, the Houston Chronicle lists Nancy Earl in Jordan’s obituary as her “longtime companion.”

* Murderer wins custody. The St. Petersburg [Fla.] Times reports that Florida circuit court judge Joseph Tarbuck awarded custody of an 11-year-old girl to her father, John Ward, who served time for killing his first wife in 1974, because her mother, Mary Ward, is a lesbian. A higher court upholds the ruling in August.

* Hoaxer sentenced: Birdie Jo Hoaks is sentenced to a year in prison after deceiving the residents of Salt Lake City during the holidays. Hoaks, a 25-year-old woman, claimed to be a 13-year-old boy abandoned by a stepmother who could no longer care for him because his father had AIDS. Hoaks had pulled a similar stunt in Vermont in 1993.

February

* Targeting troops: President Clinton signs a defense authorization bill that includes a provision sponsored by Rep. Bob Dornan (R-Calif.) mandating the expulsion of HIV-positive service members. Clinton promises to repeal the measure, which is reversed in April.

* Student club ban: After students at a Salt Lake City high school ask to start a gay student group, the school board votes to ban all extracurricular student groups. The Utah legislature also weighs in, voting to bar teachers from “promoting illegal conduct,” a reference to the state’s sodomy law.

* Rally against same-sex marriage: Two days before the Iowa caucuses, more than 1,000 people gather in a Des Moines church to rally against same-sex marriage. Republican presidential candidates Pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm, and Alan Keyes show up at the rally, while Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander, and Steve Forbes’s campaign manager send letters of support.

* Gays in the military: The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network releases a report claiming that 722 people were discharged from the military in 1995 for being gay, a four-year high.

* Boxer’s revelation: Former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison holds a press conference to confirm reports that he tested positive for HIV days before a scheduled bout in Las Vegas. Morrison says he does not know whether he contracted the virus “from a girl or fighting.”

* Sodomy law falls: Montana district judge Jeffrey Sherlock strikes down the state’s same-sex sodomy law, saying that “it is hard to understand why anyone needs to be concerned with what these people do in private.”

March

* Golfer comes out: In an interview in Sports Illustrated, three-time Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament champion Muffin Spencer-Devlin says she’s gay.

* Assisted suicide OK’d: In a ruling hailed by AIDS activists, a federal appeals court strikes down Washington State’s ban on physician-assisted suicide. The law had been challenged by several terminally ill patients, including a gay man who had since died of AIDS complications.

* Marriage ban: In anticipation of a court ruling in Hawaii expected to make same-sex marriage legal in that state, legislators in 26 other states introduce measures to outlaw same-sex marriage. By year’s end, 37 states will have considered such measures, 16 of which will pass them into law.

* Youth agency allegations: Following a series of stories in the Los Angeles Times, the California Department of Social Services files charges against Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services, a Los Angeles agency serving gay youth, charging that male staff members had sexual relations with young men under the agency’s care. In June the state drops its plans to close the agency after the group admits that “inappropriate sexual conduct” had occurred between agency workers and teenagers in its care.

* Drugs approved: The federal Food and Drug Administration approves two protease inhibitors, ritonavir and indinavir, in record time. Along with a third protease inhibitor, saquinavir, which was approved in late 1995, the drugs prompt the first optimism in years among AIDS activists and health professionals.

* School case heard: The seventh U.S. circuit court hears arguments in the case of Jamie Nabozny, who sued the Ashland, Wis., school district for failing to protect him from antigay verbal and physical abuse from his former high school classmates. In November a jury finds school officials liable. Nabozny will receive just under $1 million.

April

* “Don’t ask” upheld: A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., rules that the Clinton administration’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military is “appropriate” – just one week after a federal district court in San Francisco rules that the ban is unconstitutional.

* Cobb County bypassed: The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games announces that the Olympic torch will not pass through Cobb County, Ga., on the way to the games. Gay activists had threatened demonstrations if the county, which passed an antigay resolution in 1993, was included in the torch relay.

* Murder conviction: Janet Griffin is convicted in a Connecticut court of murdering Patricia Steller and Steller’s nephew Ronald King in 1993 after Griffin’s girlfriend dumped her for Steller.

* Sullivan resigns: Andrew Sullivan, openly gay editor of The New Republic, announces that he is resigning his position. Sullivan also discloses that he is HIV-positive but says his health did not play a role in his decision to step down.

* Canadian civil rights: A bill is introduced in Canada’s House of Commons to extend civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. The bill sails through the legislative body and and becomes law in June.

May

* DOMA introduced: Conservative Republicans in Congress introduce the Defense of Marriage Act, which would ban federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Although political observers say the bill is an attempt to find an election-year issue against the president, Clinton announces that he will sign the bill if it is passed.

* Supreme court victory: In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court strikes down Colorado’s antigay Amendment 2. In the majority decision Justice Anthony Kennedy writes that “a State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws.”

* South African protections: The South African constitution is ratified, making it the first in the world to explicitly prohibit antigay discrimination.

* Ryan White Act held over: After months of inaction, Congress agrees to extend the Ryan White Act, the program that funnels federal AIDS dollars to local communities.

* Clinton responds: In a written question-and-answer interview in The Advocate, President Clinton defends his record on gay issues, saying that “my administration has taken more steps than any previous in bringing the gay and lesbian communities to the table.”

* Home test kit approved: The FDA approves a home test kit for HIV, marketed by Johnson & Johnson, that allows individuals to send a blood sample through the mail and receive the results of the test over the phone.

* Episcopal bishop cleared: Retired bishop Walter Righter is cleared of heresy charges by a special court of Episcopal bishops for violating doctrine by ordaining a noncelibate gay man as a deacon in 1990.

June

* Liaison resigns: Marsha Scott, the White House liaison to gays and lesbians, resigns. Her replacement is Richard Socarides, an openly gay man who had been the Labor Department’s liaison to the White House.

* Log cabin flap: The Texas Republican Party accepts and then returns a check for a booth at the state convention from the state’s Log Cabin Republicans chapter. The gay group seeks a court decision to force the party to allow a Log Cabin booth at the convention but ultimately loses.

* AIDS cofactor identified: Five teams of researchers identify, virtually simultaneously, a single protein called CKR-5 that allows the AIDS virus to establish a foothold in the body.

* Disney boycott: Delegates to a convention of Southern Baptists vote overwhelmingly to boycott the Walt Disney Co. for giving “the appearance that the promotion of homosexuality is more important than its historic commitment to traditional family values.” Among the complaints cited by the Baptists is the company’s policy regarding same-sex domestic-partner benefits.

* School controversy ends: The school board in Merrimack, N.H., votes to repeal a ban on classroom discussions mentioning homosexuality, ending a yearlong battle.

* Cincinnati charter. In the wake of its decision on Colorado’s Amendment 2, the Supreme Court returns Cincinnati’s antigay charter amendment to federal court for reconsideration. Lawyers opposed to the measure say the move effectively kills it.

July

* Marriage “defended” The House of Representatives votes 342-67 to approve DOMA.

* Christian Coalition sued: The Federal Election Commission sues the antigay Christian Coalition, charging that the group, founded by tele-vangelist Pat Robertson, is illegally acting as a political action committee for Republican candidates.

* Gunderson quits: After months of speculation that he might change his mind and run for reelection, openly gay representative Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) announces that he will not run again, claiming that social conservatives were going to “make allegations regarding my health status and AIDS.”

* AIDS conference: At the 11th International Conference on AIDS, held in Vancouver, Canada, researchers discuss the possibility that, for the first time, AIDS could become a chronic, treatable illness like diabetes.

The news causes several viatical-settlement companies, which buy life-insurance policies from people with terminal illnesses, to scale back purchasing policies from people with AIDS.

August

* Custody battle ends: Sharon Bottoms withdraws her petition to have her 5-year-old son, Tyler Doustou, returned to her a year after a Virginia court ruled that her lesbianism made her an unfit mother. Doustou will remain with Bottoms’s mother, Kay Bottoms, who instituted the custody fight.

* Marijuana club raid: California drug-enforcement agents raid the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers’ Club, claiming that the group, which offers marijuana to people with AIDS and other illnesses, is nothing more than a drug operation. In September, drug agents raid a similar club in West Hollywood, Calif.

* Parties convene: Gay and AIDS activists protest the Republican national convention in San Diego amid denials from supporters of vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp that Kemp was once involved in a gay scandal. Two weeks later, in Chicago, more than 150 gay delegates and alternates rally behind the Clinton-Gore ticket with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

* Politicians come out: Following criticism for his support for DOMA, Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) comes out as a gay man. Later in the month, Neil Giuliano, mayor of Tempe, Ariz., also comes out, citing anonymous threats to out him.

* Civic-worker benefits: Oregon circuit judge Stephen Gallagher Jr. rules that the state must offer benefits to the partners of gay state employees, while the Denver Career Service Authority, which determines wages for city workers, voluntarily offers health benefits to the partners of gay city employees.

September

* Marriage trial: In the trial over Hawaii’s ban on same-sex marriage, lawyers for the state argue for upholding the ban on the grounds that it benefits children. Lawyers for the plaintiffs produce a series of experts who say children raised in gay households are as well-adjusted as those raised in heterosexual households.

* Names disclosed: A list of 4,000 people with HIV and AIDS is sent to two newspapers by an anonymous individual who claims that a state worker was showing friends the list outside a gay bar. The worker, William Calvert, says he was using the list solely to screen prospective dates. He is later dismissed from his job.

* Senate drama: While DOMA sails through the Senate, 85-14, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation, surprisingly comes within one vote of passing, failing only because Sen. David Pryor of Arkansas, who supports the measure, is absent because of his son’s cancer surgery.

* Paras resigns: Melinda Paras announces she will step down as head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Taking her place is deputy director Kerry Lobel.

* Consultant’s private life: Boston magazine discloses that Arthur Finkelstein, a well-known political consultant to such antigay conservatives as senators Jesse Helms and Don Nickles, lives on an estate in Ipswich, Mass., with his male partner and the two children they are raising.

* IBM benefits: IBM announces that it will extend domestic-partner benefits to its gay and lesbian employees, making it the largest corporation in the nation to offer such benefits. Among the other companies that announced during the year that they were adopting similar policies are Hewlett-Packard, Fox, and American Express.

October

* Quilt displayed: The NAMES Project AIDS memorial quilt is displayed in its entirety on the Mall in Washington, D.C. An estimated 1.2 million people tour the display.

* Election gossip: Rumors of homosexuality arise during the reelection campaigns of Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) and Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio), both of whom deny the allegations. While Kasich goes on to win his race the following month, Pressler loses to challenger Tim Johnson.

* Radio spot pulled: After an outcry from gay supporters, President Clinton’s campaign pulls a radio ad boasting that Clinton signed DOMA into law.

* AIDS forecast: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that by the year 2000, African-Americans will account for more than half the reported AIDS cases in the United States.

November

* Election results: President Clinton wins reelection, although gay voter turnout is reportedly lower than in 1992. Meanwhile, two openly gay congressional candidates lose their bids for office, leaving incumbents Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Kolbe as the only openly gay representatives in the Republican-controlled Congress. In a major disappointment to gay activists, Helms is reelected. However, after trailing on election night, Loretta Sanchez is declared the victor over Dornan later in the month when absentee ballots are counted. In California and Arizona, voters approve ballot measures allowing patients with AIDS and other diseases to use marijuana legally for medicinal purposes.

* Schmitz convicted: Jonathan Schmitz is convicted of second-degree murder in the slaying of Scott Amedure. Schmitz shot Amedure after Amedure revealed his crush on Schmitz during a taping of the Jenny Jones TV talk show in 1995.

* San Francisco benefits: San Francisco mayor Willie Brown signs a law, passed unanimously by the city board of supervisors, requiring any company doing business with the city to offer domestic-partner benefits to its gay employees.

December

* Hawaii marriage ruling: Hawaii circuit court judge Kevin Chang rules that the state has not justified its ban on same-sex marriages and may no longer deny marriage applications to same-sex couples. The following day he grants a stay to his ruling pending an appeal, effectively putting same-sex marriage ceremonies on hold until the state supreme court reviews the case the following year.

Deaths

Peter Adair, 53, filmmaker, in San Francisco

James Barbagallo, 43, concert pianist, in San Leandro, Calif.

Alan Barwiolek, 43, actor, in New York City

Dario Bellezza, 51, poet, in Rome

Michael Botkin, 39, columnist, in San Francisco

Bradley Braverman, 34, artist, in Los Angeles

Edward Briscoe, 57, former Mouseketeer, in Las Vegas

Harold Brodkey, 65, writer, in New York City

Forman Brown, 95, composer and author, in Los Angeles

Peter David Canavan, 46, activist, in New York City

Robert Cayot, 42, activist, in Chicago

Elbert (Allen) Chapin, 55, entertainment manager, in Las Vegas

Devon Clayton, 34, journalist, in Atlanta

W. Franklin Clemmons II, 40, activist, in New York City

Howard Crabtree, 41, costume designer, in Bucks County, Pa.

Gil Cuadros, 34, writer, in Los Angeles

Robert Adams Day, 71, scholar, in New York City

Joseph De Rageriis, 48, opera conductor, in New York City

Neal Dickerson, 38, policy analyst, in Washington, D.C.

Scott Douglas, 70, dancer, in New York City

Ulysses Dove, 49, choreographer, in New York City

Brian Gable, 37, AIDS activist, in Las Vegas

D. Lee Gannon, 36, composer, in Nashville

Francisco “Cannibal” Garcia, 49, singer, in Los Angeles

Miguel Godreau, 49, dancer, in New York City

Mike Gonzales, 41, dancer, in New York City

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, 38, artist, in Miami

Edward Gould, 53, activist, in Palm Springs, Calif.

Tomas Gutierrez Alea, 67, film director, in Havana

Kenneth Halpern, 51, architect, in New York City

Paul Hardman, 72, scholar and activist, in San Francisco

Christian Haren, 61, actor, in San Francisco

Robert Hess, 29, journalist, in San Francisco

David Hogan, 47, composer, off the coast of East Moriches, N.Y.

Herbert Huncke, 81, writer, in New York City

Neil Isbin, 44, activist, in Albuquerque

Frank Israel, 50, architect, in Los Angeles

Jed Johnson, 47, interior designer, off the coast of East Moriches, N.Y.

Barbara Jordan, 59, former congresswoman, in Austin, Tex.

David Kidd, 69, art collector, in Honolulu.

lincoln Kirstein, 88, ballet director, in New York City

Mike Makela, 44, reporter, in Phoenix

Kiki Mason, 36, AIDS activist, in New York City

Lee Mathis, 44, actor, in New York City

Don McCleary, 47, lawyer and activist, in Dallas

Niles Merton, 39, publisher, in Los Angeles

Isabel Miller, 72, novelist, in New York City

Oscar Moore, 36, journalist and novelist, in London

Kevin Mossier, 47, businessman, in San Diego

The Rev. John Keener Mount, 86, Episcopal priest, in Easton, Md.

Connie Norman, 46, activist, in Los Angeles

David Petersen, 54, financial adviser, in New York City

John Thomas Powell, 50, AIDS educator, in Nashville

Eugenia Price, 79, novelist, in Brunswick, Ga.

Sheldon Ramsdell, 60, activist, in San Francisco

Bill Ramsey, 49, activist, in Austin, Tex.

Robert Reinhold, 54, journalist, in Los Angeles

Norman Rene, 45, film and theater director, in New York City

Hugh Rice, 50, activist, in Los Angeles

Richard Rouilard, 43, journalist, in West Hollywood Calif.

Martin Schaeffer, 50, theater critic, in New York City

Howard Shapiro, 40, writer, in New York City

David Shipman, 63, film historian, in Hampshire, England

David Smith, 31, publicist, in Los Angeles

Julian Stryjkowski, 91, novelist, in Warsaw

Perry Watkins, 48, activist, in Tacoma, Wash.

Brian Well, 41, photographer, in New York City

Robert Woolley, 52, auctioneer, in New York City

The covers

Talk is cheap – sometimes. But talk can also be the most precious of commodities. In 1996 The Advocate got readers talking about the issues that had an impact on gay and lesbian lives: gay marriage, gay families, the heated controversies of election-year politics, and the ins and outs of the closet. And it’s not just Advocate readers who were talking but a whole gallery of newsmakers who told their own stories – and reacted to ours. Speaking with The Advocate, they entered into conversation with lesbians and gay men everywhere – and conversation is what turns talk into gold.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group