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Volume 15/Issue 23

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel

Don your gay apparel" and celebrate the holidays in that "gay old fashioned way." Holly Folly, Provincetown, MA's first Annual Gay and Lesbian Holiday Festival, will be held the first weekend in Dec., the 5th-7th.

A unique opportunity for gay men and lesbians to celebrate the holidays as a community, the event will feature a Christmas concert by The Boston Gay Men's Chorus, A Snow Ball, Holiday House Tours, Red & Green Theme Parties, special holiday menus at Provincetown's finest restaurants, sensational shopping-choice gifts and generous sales, festive accommodations, mistletoe, and Santa as you've never seen him or her before.

Provincetown is infamous for its parties and some of the town's best party throwers are in charge of the festivities.

Provincetown's special charm and magic will be aglow as the entire town decorates for the season. Inns, shops, restaurants and private homes will be decked out in their holiday finery. This is Provincetown as it's never been before with a procession of festive trees and gleaming lights. Another highlight of the weekend will be the Holiday House Tour, a unique opportunity to visit some of Provincetown's most charming guest houses.

Fabulous feasts will abound. The town's top chefs will prepare sumptuous traditional and 18th century Yuletide Feasts. Romantic candle lit dinners, high teas, special menus, and festive brunches will laden the tables of some of the town's best restaurants.

Provincetown will be alive with the sound of music. Strike the harp and join the Boston Gay Men's Chorus in a special holiday concert or the Provincetown Theatre Company as they present a holiday opera. Some restaurants will feature live chamber music and merry carolers will be roving the streets.

Here comes Santa Claus. A slimmed down, beefed up Mr. Santa and a gorgeous Ms. Santa will be on hand to find out if revelers have been naughty or nice. Pictures will be taken with their admirers and proceeds will be donated to local charities.

For more information call 1.800.933.1963 or email P.O. Box 533, Provincetown, MA, 02657. Web:

Georgia High Court OKs Atlanta DP

Atlanta, Georgia can finally go forward with granting equal spousal benefits to the dependent domestic partners of its unmarried employees, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, thanks to a state Supreme Court decision issued Nov. 3. While the current case has taken little more than a year from the City Council's enactment of the ordinance through this week's high court ruling, Atlanta has been battling for the chance to offer fair compensation for years. The battle may not yet be over, however: the conservative Southeast Legal Foundation, which opposed the measure on behalf of local resident Lamar Morgan, has threatened to take the matter to the state legislature. In its public statements the Foundation has complained almost exclusively about the measure's application to same-gender partners, even though under many similar coverage plans heterosexual unmarried couples seeking domestic partner benefits have outnumbered gay and lesbian couples by as much as 7 to 1. The Foundation had charged that the measure encouraged homosexuality, conflicted with the state's heterosexuals-only marriage law, and was fiscally irresponsible.

At issue in the current case was whether changing the word "family" to the word "dependent" overcame the objections of the Georgia high court's 1995 ruling that Atlanta's previous 1993 domestic partners ordinance was exceeding its authority by expanding the state's definition of "family." In the eyes of the Foundation, this was a distinction without a difference, but the high court disagreed by a 5 to 2 margin. (The state also has a definition of "dependent," as one receiving at least 50% of his/her support from another; the city ordinance lacks such a specification.)

Then-Attomey General Michael Bowers played a key role in seeing that the earlier ordinance was struck down - the same Michael Bowers who successfully defended Georgia's sodomy statute before the U.S. Supreme Court. There's an additional irony relating to Bowers: Robin Shahar, the lesbian attorney from whom Bowers withdrew a job offer after learning of her private religious commitment ceremony, has been involved with the currentcase as an employee of the city's legal department. (Shahar has filed an appeal of her own lawsuit against Bowers with the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Celebrating the current ruling along with the city were the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund - which contributed a friend-of-the-court brief to the city's case, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1644, the Atlanta Executive Network, the Georgia Equalitv Project, the National Employment Lawyers Association's Georgia Chapter, the Service Employees International Union 1985, and the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia.

The new ordinance makes it possible for domestic partners to obtain health coverage through the city's program, although employees must pay anywhere from 25% to 100% of the premiums for the coverage (and as usual, must treat the city's share of the partners' premiums as taxable income under federal law, which is not the case for legally married couples). Domestic partners are defined in the ordinance as two people at least 18 years of age, not related by blood, not married to anyone else, who have lived together for at least 6 months, are jointly obligated for providing each other's necessities of life, have a committed personal relationship "intended to be lifelong," and have filed a declaration for the city's domestic partnership registry with the city's business license office. The city employs 7,000 people. [from PlanetOut]

Blocking The Blockers

The ACLU is preparing to battle another cyber-censorship case, focused in Kern County, California. Last year, the county's Board of Supervisors passed legislation mandating the use of blocking software at all public libraries. According to ACLU attorney Ann Beeson, the law is "preventing adults and minors from accessing a wide variety of valuable information through the Internet."

In response to the new legislation, Kern County libraries installed a blocking program known as "BESS" on every Internet access terminal. This program is running on terminals used by adults as well as children, though the law only requires that blocking software remain active whenever "a minor is present."

According to Beeson, "the ACLU conducted research on BESS and determined that the program blocks access to a wide variety of sites that contain valuable information for minors as well as adults." "BESS blocks access to AIDS and HIV-related speech, safer sex information, art sites with classic nudes, gay and lesbian issues and literature, graphic human rights reports, information about fighting hate groups online, and information about female genital mutilation," she said. "We believe the mandatory use of BESS in the library violates the First Amendment rights of library patrons and Internet speakers who wish to communicate constitutionally protected information."

"BESS" is produced by the N2H2 company. The ACLU is currently seeking potential plaintiffs for the case. [from MEDIAlert!]

Atlanta Gay & lesbian Arts Festival

The theme for the 1998 Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Arts Festival, the sixth, will be "Come on OUT and get your Toaster Oven," an allusion to Ellen's coming-out episode. Artists from all media are encouraged to submit to the festival which will present visual arts, literature (live readings), dance, theatre, performance art, music, comedy, film and artist market. Festival dates are set from March 19-28 in downtown Decatur and at Emory University.

AGALAF's mission is to provide an empowering experience for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities through recognition of their artistic contributions to society. The Festival's overall motto is "the art of coming out." The festival pays performers more than some long time national festivals and it is the only comprehensive gay and lesbian arts festival in the nation. The festival is partly sponsored by Emory University's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Life. Be a part of this growing, exciting and unique event.

Applications are available now by calling 404.874.8710 or writing PO Box 55475, Atlanta, GA 30308. The application along with last year's schedule is on the Web at or write to Jim Chappeleaux, Director/Founder at and ask for one to be sent via snail mail. Fees and deadlines are Nov. 15/Dec. 15 and $10/$20 respectively. A student gallery show is also offered and student writers can read for no application fee.

Study Finds Increased Need
For Targeted Educational Materials
On Oral Sex For Gay Men

Contradictory prevention messages addressed to the gay male community lead a significant number of gay men to believe that the risk of HIV transmission during oral sex is higher than it actually is, reports a study published in the current issue of the Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. The study found that many gay and bisexual men have heightened anxiety about oral sex-even though few cases of HIV transmission through oral sex have been documented.

"What surprised us is that men who are anxious about oral sex took part in sexual activities that are widely known to be high-risk," said Seth C. Kalichman, PhD, the study's lead author. "The survey makes it clear that men are making decisions about when to use condoms based on what they believe is safe and underscores the need for specific HIV prevention messages that target specific behaviors. Our data do not support the belief that telling men oral sex is safer than anal sex will make them abandon safer sex altogether."

"Oral Sex Anxiety, Oral Sex Behavior, and HIV Risk Perceptions Among Gay and Bisexual Men" found that nearly one third of the 348 gay and bisexual men who completed an anonymous survey at a gay pride festival in Atlanta were "oral-sex anxious," and that significantly more "oral-sex anxious" men use condoms during oral sex than "non-anxious" men. The men's attitudes about oral sex were not related to whether they identify as gay or bisexual, are in a relationship, are HIV positive or negative, or how often they undergo HIV testing.

Yet in other areas of their sexuality, these men's choices were quite similar. Fully half (50%) of the "non-anxious" men reported engaging in anal sex without a condom within the previous six months. Similarly-and what researchers did not expect-half (49%) of the "anxious" men also reported engaging in anal sex without a condom within the same time period.

Kalichman believes that the concerns expressed by the gay and bisexual men he surveyed are linked to the mixed prevention messages on oral sex circulating in the gay male community. In 1996, to address the confusion surrounding oral sex and to improve the overall sexual health of gay men, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association began advocating for the creation of HIV prevention messages that underscore that oral sex is significantly safer than anal sex and classify oral sex as 'low risk.'

"This study lends credence to the hope that if we can help gay men understand the relative risk levels of different sexual activities they will make choices that are more likely to keep them healthy," said GLMA Executive Director Ben Schatz. "Informing gay men that oral sex is low risk allows them to enhance their sexual intimacy, and it may encourage them to take fewer risks with other sexual behaviors, such as anal sex.

JGLMA is the world's first peer-reviewed, multi-disciplinary journal dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered health. Published quarterly, JGLMA specializes in original clinical research.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is an organization of nearly 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered physicians, medical students, and their supporters in all 50 states and 12 countries. Founded in 1981, GLMA works to combat homophobia within the medical profession and in society at large and to promote quality health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered patients.

AIDS Action Praises Final FY98 Funding
& Defeat Of Anti-Prevention Measure

AIDS Action recently praised final AIDS funding levels for Fiscal Year 1998 as keeping in step with a constantly changing AIDS epidemic. In addition to the funding victory, AIDS Action was particularly pleased with the defeat of a provision in the House Bill that would have banned federal funding for programs that prevent HIV transmission among injecting drug users.

The AIDS funding levels were reached as an agreement of a Congressional conference committee working to reconcile funding differences in the House and Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations bills. AIDS Action worked closely with members of the Conference Committee and reserved particular praise for the tireless advocacy of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. John Porter (R-IL). The final conference report is expected to reach the floors of the chambers in early Nov.

AIDS Action was also pleased with the defeat of a provision in the House bill that would have prohibited the Secretary of Health and Human Services from allocating federal funds for syringe exchange programs. Although the bill places a six-month moratorium on the Secretary's ability to exercise that right, a blanket ban would have been devastating for HIV prevention in urban epicenters.

"The voice of the medical and legal establishment is loud and clear: there's no rationale for opposing needle exchange programs," added Zingale. "Winning the war on AIDS requires genuine acts of courage; the leaders on the conference committee are carrying on the battle with valor."

In the wake of the tragedy in Mayville, NY where dozens of young people are believed to have engaged in unprotected sex with an HIV-positive man, AIDS Action is calling for FY98 federal funds to focus particularly on improved youth prevention programs.

"Too many newly sexually active young people think AIDS is a relic of the 80s or that new drug therapies mean AIDS is over'; so did the young people in Mayville," added Zingale. "We must re-commit ourselves to teaching young people at the earliest appropriate age that unprotected sex can be deadly."

Lesbian Lawyer Asks Supreme Court
To Review Firing By Georgia AG

Asking the United States Supreme Court to rule on important gay civil rights and government employment issues, Robin Shahar announced on Oct. 31 that she is petitioning the nation's highest court to review her case against Michael Bowers, who fired her from the Georgia Attorney General's Office when he learned that she planned to hold a Jewish commitment ceremony with her lesbian partner.

Shahar's Supreme Court petition seeks to overturn a federal appeals court decision in May that upheld her firing. The petition for certiorari charges that Shahar's firing violated her first amendment rights to intimate and expressive association and that Bowers used numerous illegitimate double standards against Shahar because she is a lesbian. The Court, if it takes the case, will have the opportunity for the first time to rule on whether gay relationships are protected by the right of intimate association, which protects all kinds of deep personal bonds, such as family relationships, from government intrusion.

The ACLU, which originally brought the case in 1991, and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. Are co-counsel on the petition.

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