A good head on his shoulders

For actor Matt DeAngelis, the flower power musical ‘Hair’ isn’t just a time capsule — it’s a reminder of the transformative effect of theater

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

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HAIR
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St.
Sept.. 20–Oct. 2
ATTPAC.org

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Matt DeAngelis wasn’t even alive when the hippie Summer of Love took place, but for the last two years, he’s happily relived it eight times a week as one of the original cast members in the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair.

“I didn’t know a lot about the show before I was cast in it,” says the 28-year-old Boston native who now makes his home in New York. “I’m sort of a contemporary rock musical theater singer and always have been, so when I started doing Hair I said, ‘How did I miss this for this long?’ But my parents never listened to it — they didn’t listen to the Beatles either, so I missed that, too.”

DeAngelis and other members of the original cast bring the show to that reddest of reds when they open at the Winspear Opera House Tuesday as part of the Lexus Broadway Series. In fact, this company is coming directly from the New York production, where they spent the summer.

That means DeAngelis was in New York when same-sex marriage was legalized in the Empire State. To commemorate it, three gay couples wed on the stage of the St. James Theatre while the Hair company looked on.
“I was standing center stage for that,” DeAngelis boasts. “A doorman and usher at different theaters were one couple, an actor whom I didn’t know and a playwright were another couple, Terri White and her longtime girlfriend got married — Terri’s a legend in our industry. It was fantastic!”

Combining theater and activism seems like a perfect fit for a show like Hair.

“Gay rights are important to theater people, ya know? Gavin Creel, who was our original Claude [and who performed at last year’s Black Tie Dinner], inspired us to do a bunch of work with Broadway Impact. We did a big benefit in London, we marched on Washington for the marriage equality rally. We have such a special group of producers — they lost $150,000 to let us go to Washington. But it’s such a special cause for our company, because right is right. We’ve all taken the message of Hair and the idea of advocacy for what you believe in.”

Don’t expect to see similar commitment ceremonies on the stage of the Winspear, though.

“To me, marriage isn’t symbolic — it is real,” DeAngelis says. “I wish we could [perform a same-sex marriage] every night in every city. But that was really just a victory lap for us: It said in the biggest metropolis in the U.S., you can get married. If it wasn’t legal it wouldn’t have mattered.”

Hair is a slightly formless musical, set in 1967 (before the madness of 1968 — the assassinations of MLK and RFK, the escalation of the war in Vietnam) where free-love (including then-provocative issues of interracial dating and homosexuality), drug use and counterculture attitudes are vigorously embraced. Still, some of the controversy over it, especially its notorious nude scene, puzzles DeAngelis.

“I think it’s an incredibly powerful moment in the context of the show. We had one walkout where a woman grabbed her daughter and stormed out. People get all bent out of shape because we took our clothes off for 30 seconds, and it’s not even sexual. But we do far more offensive things in the show with our clothes on: humping, drug use, language. I sing a song called ‘Sodomy’ — though granted, people walk out during that too,” he laughs.

A show like this may be a good fit in gay-friendly NYC, but DeAngelis likes the idea of bringing the message to the people, and not just preaching to the choir.

“Not always playing to a liberal New York audience is sort of the point of the show for us,” he says. “It’s such a message show; taking it to the people is important. Just because you come see Hair doesn’t mean you need to leave as a flower child. We say what we have to say and confront people. If we change a few minds, that’s awesome, but what we really want to do is force people to think about it.That’s the art form. Theater is important — I couldn’t do it for a living if I didn’t believe that. It really has an impact on people, shining a light on the darkest of corners.”

And, like few other musicals, Hair certainly does let the sunshine in.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Applause: Don’t Ohlook away

Keep an eye out for Ohlook Performing Arts, a suburban theater company with an edge

RockyHor
Ohlook doesn’t offer your mother’s idea of community theater. Shows like ‘Debbie Does Dallas,’ ‘Vampire Lesbians of Sodom’ and ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ (pictured) definitely give edge to the ‘burbs.

A conservative bedroom community like Grapevine, Texas,  isn’t the first burg you think of when you consider a hotbed of nightlife. Maybe you can get a nice dinner, do some shopping, even drinks. But late-night theater with vampire lesbians?  That doesn’t seem much like a suburban offering.

But almost defiantly, and with fascinatingly good reason, the folks behind Ohlook Performing Arts Center embrace the idea of edgy shows in the ‘burbs. And, as it turns out, the community seems to be following suit.

“I’m surprised that we haven’t had more of a backlash,” says producing artistic director Jill Blalock-Lord. “But we have a board that supports what we’re doing and hey, there are gay people in the ‘burbs, too!”

In recent months, Ohlook has produced some very queer shows that even urbanites in Dallas proper might drop their jaws at. They just came off a double-feature of Charles Busch plays — Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and Psycho Beach Party — that ran back-to-back as part of Ohlook’s late-show adult series, as well as productions of Debbie Does Dallas and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.

All that begs the question: How are their neighbors in the GOP-friendly ‘hoods of Grapevine, Southlake and Colleyville adjusting?

“Well, the city hasn’t given us a lot of support, but they leave us alone,” Lord says. “We were worried with Trannie, but even in this community, we haven’t had any problems.”

Yes, Trannie.

In February, Ohlook debuted Trannie: A Musical written by Lord’s husband and Redneck Tenor founder Matthew Lord, about a cross-dressing prostitute who searches for the men who gave her up when gay couples were denied adoption rights. But the surprise was on Ohlook: People came out for the show.

Still, the company isn’t specifically gay-centric. In fact, Blalock-Lord says it’s really just been a coincidence — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“I don’t think gay content is the quantifying factor, but I tend to like the message [it] bears,” Blalock-Lord says. “Honestly, we’ll do anything out there because we will do any kind of edgy show.”

They took the gay-themed play Dog Sees God to the American Association of Community Theatre play festival in Rochester, N.Y., and won six awards for it, including best overall production.

Blalock-Lord clearly gets the unbelievable wackiness that her theater company has undertaken. But she wasn’t trying to necessarily step out of the box and be something other community theaters were not.

“Ohlook started as an educational program with student shows,” she explains. “As my kids were growing up, they wanted to be in more adult shows. And so actors that started with us as children are growing into adults in our shows.”

“That’s part of the reason we do those shows,” board member Julie Hahn adds. “We have some talented and serious young people and we offer quality training. These are the shows they wanna do.”

This next season, Ohlook plans to present three shows: The Who’s Tommy, Evil Dead and they’re deciding between Christmas Rocky Horror or Scrooge’s Groovy Christmas. There has been some difficulty in planning because Ohlook is looking for a new home.

“Yeah, we’ve been given our notice so we’re on the lookout,” Blalock-Lord says. “We’re hoping to stay in same area, but we have friends who say come to Dallas. Well, they got theaters in Dallas!”

With a fan base already set, they have every intention of staying close by and they will be in their original space for Tommy, even though it starts later than planned. (“We didn’t want it to open here and then close there,” she laughs.)

Regardless of their struggles, Blalock-Lord feels like Ohlook will always have its peculiar take on theater. And for gay audiences, including some of Ohlook’s students who have made their own self-discoveries, there’s always going to be a place for campy theater — even if it’s way up north.

“I noticed people came from all over to our shows,” she says. “We wanna do shows that bring in an audience and we have revenue from our classes that allows us to be more adventurous. It’s ideal. Part of theater is to educate, but you gotta have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

For more information about Ohlook, visit OhlookPerform.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Nevada gay households up by 87 percent

CRISTINA SILVA  |  Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — The number of same-sex couples sharing a home in Nevada nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, revealing a budding constituency in a state where voters have banned gay marriage, but embraced domestic partnerships.

Nearly 4,600 homes in Nevada were headed by lesbian couples at the end of the last decade, according to Census data released last week, while 4,724 households were headed by two male partners. The data shows that the number of gay and lesbian households in Nevada jumped 87 percent during the last decade, and about a quarter of those couples are raising children. Lesbian couples were more likely than the male couples to have children at home.

In all, Nevada had more than 9,000 households led by same-sex couples in 2010, up from fewer than 5,000 such households counted in 2000.

To be sure, same-sex couples living together remained a minuscule population among Nevada’s more than a million households. But their swelling ranks reflect Nevada’s increasingly gay friendly stance less than a decade after 67 percent of the state’s voters defined marriage as “between a male and female person.”

“Folks who are LGBT may not have been excited (before) to move here from, say California, where they enjoy a lot of legal protections,” said Michael Ginsburg, southern Nevada director for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. “Now that Nevada is catching up, that may not be a factor for people anymore.”

It’s also possible some of the new same-sex households reflect an increased willingness among gay couples to come out to the government, rather than actual growth. The Census doesn’t capture the overall gay population in Nevada, because it doesn’t allow single people to identify their sexual orientation.

Gay activists insist Nevada is home to many more gay couples who cohabitate, and that the 2010 Census numbers only reflect people who were comfortable identifying themselves as gay to Census takers.

“Are there even more? Absolutely,” said Candice Nichols, executive director for The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. “I don’t think it’s a clear cut view of how many same sex households there are actually are in Nevada. People don’t identify for various reasons, it just depends on their own comfort levels.”

Ginsburg said he couldn’t recall if he or his live-in partner had confirmed that they were a couple to the Census. He wondered if gay couples were not coming out to the federal government because the survey does not allow unmarried participants to identify themselves by specific terms, such as transgender or domestic partners. The questionnaire asks homeowners to identify the people sharing their roof under specific familiar categories, such as child, parent or spouse. Couples who live together but are not married may only self-identify themselves as an unmarried partner.

“You could look at those Census numbers and say, ‘Wow, there are no gay people in this state,’ which is laughable,” Ginsburg said.

The Las Vegas Valley, where most of the state’s 2.6 million people live, is home to the majority of Nevada’s same-sex households.

As with many states, Nevada has become more gay friendly in recent years, passing local and state laws recognizing the rights of domestic partners. The state Legislature passed a law recognizing domestic partners in 2009, but only after then Republican Gov Jim Gibbons vetoed it. State leaders went further this year, passing a series of laws that extended discrimination protections to transgender people and prohibited housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Casino executives, the state’s business elite, have supported the pro-equality measures.

Still, overturning a gay marriage ban passed by Nevada voters in 2002 could take years because of the state’s complicated constitutional amendment process.

Nichols said marriage equality proponents in Nevada agree their best option is to wait for the federal government to recognize gay marriage.

“It’s going to be much easier for the states to say, ‘Wait a minute, the federal government finds this unconstitutional,”’ she said.

—  John Wright

Census shows jump in gay couples as push for marriage equality continues in Wash.

MIKE BAKER  |  Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Rachel Smith-Mosel and her partner have been married in California, where she was born. And they’ve been married in Canada, where her spouse was born. And they’ve been married at a Jewish summer camp, where they had support of their faith community.

But what the couple really wants is to be officially married in Washington, where they work, live and raise five children.

Smith-Mosel, 38, said the state’s domestic partnership laws are insufficient, failing to provide the couple the proper benefits and protections that come with marriage. She said it’s now time for Washington to follow the lead of states like New York and recognize gay couples in marriage.

“My family needs it yesterday,” said Smith-Mosel, a middle school teacher in Tacoma. “I’m impatient, and I’m tired of waiting.”

The yearning for marriage among gay couples and their supporters has been growing along with their public ranks. New Census data last week illustrates a surge in households led by declared same-sex partners across the state, growing by more than 50 percent and expanding in areas outside of urban centers during the past decade.

• More than 24,000 households in Washington are led by same-sex partners.

• In Jefferson County on the Olympic Peninsula and in San Juan County, comprising most of its namesake islands, more than one out of every 50 couples is same-sex.

• Seattle shows that 3 percent of couples are male partners and more than 2 percent are female partners. The number of same-sex couples in King County grew by 37 percent over the decade, slower than the state as a whole.

• Nearly one-quarter of same-sex couples lead a household with children.

Garfield County in southeastern Washington, the least populous county in the state with 2,266 people, had the lowest number of households led by a same-sex couple — with one.

Activists and lawmakers are currently strategizing how and when to best push the issue. Democratic state Sen. Ed Murray, who has consistently filed bills to approve gay marriages since 1997, said the Senate does not have the votes right now to get it approved in 2012. He hopes that will change and isn’t ruling out success in the coming session of the Legislature.

Murray, who has been with his partner for 20 years as of this coming week, also said supporters need to ensure that the law will stand, even if it faces a referendum challenge. He doesn’t believe it would have survived four years ago, when the domestic partnerships law passed, but he does think things are changing.

“Personally, it gets old. Politically, I think we’re on the right road,” Murray said. “This isn’t going to take many years. It’s going to take a few years.”

Both sides of the gay marriage debate claim that public opinion is on their side.

Gary Randall, president of the Bellevue-based Faith and Freedom Network, said he doesn’t think there’s a race toward gay marriage like supporters of the effort would like people to believe. He also thinks that people who want to keep marriage between one man and one woman will come off the sidelines to voice their opinions.

Randall said groups are also having discussions about the best way to educate the public about their arguments — namely that the Bible doesn’t condone gay marriage and that redefining marriage could eventually lead to condoned polygamy.

“I don’t think they’re ready to approve gay marriage,” Randall said.

Josh Friedes, director of marriage equality at Seattle-based advocacy group Equal Rights Washington, said gay marriage proponents need to focus on increasing social acceptance. That means educating people about the marriage benefits that aren’t extended to domestic partners, such as tax benefits or health insurance coverage. He also wants to demonstrate to the public that it’s a matter of dignity for couples who want the state to recognize their relationships equally.

Smith-Mosel carries around a folder of documents detailing her family’s relationships, worried that during a medical crisis or some other problem they will face questions and lack the same protections as officially recognized spouses.

“Our kids need to feel that our family isn’t just second-class,” Smith-Mosel said. “We’re a married couple, and we want to be treated as such. We deserve to be treated as such.”

—  John Wright

FAMILY LIFE: Gay fathers face an empty nest

FATHERS KNOW BEST | When Lucas Grape-Krueger, center, attends Austin College in the fall, his dads Roger Grape, left, and Steve Krueger will suddenly have plenty of time on their hands. They plan to have date nights, travel and even turn their son’s room into a media center. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

The Grape-Krueger family looks forward to a new chapter as son goes off to college

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Roger Grape and Steve Krueger met in Houston 21 years ago, and were only a few years into their life together as a couple when they became pioneers, of a sort, by adopting a child.

Now, more than 20 years later, the two are again on the leading edge of the “gayby boom,” as they face the prospect of soon becoming “empty nesters.”

Krueger remembers his husband bringing up the idea of children on their third date. Grape doesn’t remember it that way.

But just a few years later, they adopted Lucas through a San Antonio-based agency.

Grape said that it never occurred to him that he couldn’t have children.

“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I can’t be a parent,” he said, adding that he always knew he didn’t want to be a single parent.

For Krueger, it was a different story. “I hadn’t really thought of it as a possibility,” he said.

Once the couple was together, Krueger said he realized that parenting was something he could do.

“Neither of us were party boys,” Krueger said, so the couple decided to have a family.

But in 1993, adoptions by gay couples were rare. So Grape approached it like a research project.

He said they had their home study done first before approaching agencies. Then they sent the home study to agencies and asked, “Would you work with a family like ours?” Grape said.

They bought a stack of baby books and then five weeks after they found the San Antonio agency, Lucas Krueger-Grape was born. He went home with his new parents when he was three days old.

Grape said his parents were thrilled when they heard they were going to be grandparents.

But again, it was different for Krueger, who was raised in a conservative family.

Krueger said he told his parents the week before Lucas was born. He said the announcement was greeted with tolerance, but he knew they had problems with the idea. Still, once Lucas was born, “he was a grandkid,” Krueger said.

He said that since bringing Lucas into their family, his parents have even warmed to Grape.

And on both sides of the family, Lucas said he was the only grandchild to carry on the family name.

In 1995, Krueger’s employer, Texas Instruments, transferred him from Houston to Dallas. Grape, who had recently earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Houston, became a counselor at Oak Lawn Community Services.

On moving day, Lucas learned to crawl. Keeping him strapped in a car seat presented a challenge they hadn’t planned.

Krueger remembers one of the most stressful parts of the move as finding a new pediatrician.

“I came out 12 times today,” he said, remembering how he came home and told his partner, “I’m so tired.”

Krueger interviewed a number of pediatricians who turned them down, saying they “couldn’t work with a family like ours,” he said.

Over the next few years, both came out to strangers many times.

“Just walking around the [NorthPark] mall,” Krueger said, where babies were a magnet, they would have to explain they were both the dads.

Lucas Grape-Krueger knows his family is different than most of his friends’ families: Unlike many of his classmates’ families, his parents are still together.

The teen shrugged off the idea of having two dads. That’s all he’s ever known since he was adopted at birth and noted that he has never had problems in school.

“In sixth grade, people would ask, ‘Where’s your mom?’ I gave stupid comments back,” he said.

Lucas wasn’t a child to be bullied. He has a football player’s build and played sports. To make sure he could protect himself, his dads enrolled him in Tae Kwon Do.

“He worked up to almost black belt,” Krueger said.

Krueger said that Lucas was on all of the school teams. They spent evenings and weekends rooting for their son and got to know all of the other parents.

When Lucas wanted to play more sports,they decided to join the YMCA.

“We got a letter on Christmas eve,” Krueger said.

“The bottom of the letterhead said, ‘Where everyone belongs,’” Grape said. “Evidently not.”

Their membership was turned down.

Instead they joined the Jewish Community Center, which welcomed them.

Grape said over the years they thought of adopting a second child. When Lucas was young, they hosted a Walt Whitman student for a year. Whitman was a school for LGBT students that operated in Dallas in the late 1990s.

But Lucas said he didn’t miss having siblings.

“My girlfriend and her brother always fight,” he said.

Krueger said that being a parent always gave him more to talk about with his colleagues at work.

Becoming gay parents in 1993, Grape said, set them apart. Gay men would ask them why they would do that. Others told them how much they disliked children.

“Our parenting roles didn’t end up the way we expected,” Krueger said.

They thought Krueger would be the disciplinarian. He said he surprised himself with how much empathy he had.

Lucas sees it differently. He said among his friends, he has the strictest parents. But, he said, he knows how to play one against the other to get what he wants.

In June, Lucas graduated from the Winston School in North Dallas. In the fall, he’ll attend Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

Like many of their straight friends, Grape and Krueger are facing an empty nest.

“He’s preparing us,” Krueger said.

“He’s giving us as hard a time as possible,” Grape said.

“It’s working,” Krueger said.

“I can’t remember the last time he met his curfew,” Grape said.

Lucas has a different perspective: “They were perfect,” he said wryly.

To prepare for their new, quieter life, Krueger and Grape have adopted two “empty nest” dogs. Grape is going back to school to work on a masters in library science. He currently teaches.

The couple also hopes to travel more. After a family reunion in New Jersey this fall, they said they might go to New York and get legally married. They’ve already had a ceremony at First Unitarian Church of Dallas.

Grape has become a youth advisor at First Unitarian. Both men are politically active and plan to become more so in the 2012 election. Krueger joined the board of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

And they may do some work on their house.

“They’re threatening to turn my room into a media center,” Lucas said.

But he takes that as an idle threat.

“Nice TV? Sound system?” he said. “Cool.”

He wondered if his parents were trying to get him to come home for visits more frequently.

Although they’ll miss him, his fathers are encouraging Lucas to spend weekends on campus, making friends and enjoying campus life.

“I know we’ll get through it fine,” Krueger said.

“We’re having date nights again,” Grape said.

—  John Wright

FAMILY LIFE: The adoption options

Sonyia Hartwell

For same-sex couples who want a family, CPS may be a more affordable route than private agency placements

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Adoption has become a common option for gay and lesbian couples that want to have a family. But there’s a lot to know before becoming an adoptive parent.

“In Texas, unmarried couples cannot adopt as a couple,” said Leslie Clay, chief development officer at Hope Cottage, the oldest non-sectarian adoption center in Dallas. But that applies equally to straight and gay couples.

Many couples have opted to go outside of Texas, especially when they are using a surrogate and they want the second parent to adopt and be added to the birth certificate.

But Texas does have laws that are favorable to the adoptive parents.

Texas law is silent on the issue of second-parent adoptions by same-sex couples, according to Jenny L. Womack, an adoption attorney in private practice.

“The only place Texas gets into it is on the birth certificate,” she said.

Texas only allows one man and one woman to appear on the birth certificate. An adopted child’s name, however, may reflect both parents’, and will normally be granted during the original single-parent adoption.

Traditionally, Dallas couples have traveled to San Antonio to get their second-parent adoption completed. Bexar County will allow an attorney to direct a case into a particular court and attorneys know exactly which judges will approve a second-parent adoption by same-sex parents.

But Womack said she has had luck recently in Dallas.

“When we had the Democratic sweep, it brought judges in who will do a second-parent adoption,” she said.

While she files adoptions by opposite-sex parents in juvenile court, Womack files same-sex-parent adoptions at the George Allen Courts Building and has been successful there.

Her advice to couples who want to adopt is to visit an adoption attorney first.

Hope Cottage Executive Director Sonyia Hartwell explained that there are two types of adoptions — private and through Child Protective Services.

Hope Cottage is located on McKinney Avenue in Uptown and welcomes same-sex couples. The minimum age for adoptive parents at that agency is 26 and same-sex couples must be in a stable relationship of at least two years.

Hartwell said that the mother placing her child in an adoptive home often participates in choosing the parents. She said CPS works well with same-sex couples.

Most adoptions are done through an agency. Private adoptions are legal in Texas but may not be arranged by individuals. Attorneys and doctors cannot act as adoption agents. Only licensed agencies may.

However, if a private adoption is arranged through a contact, the adopting parents are legally allowed to pay only medical, legal and counseling expenses. Rent, maternity clothes or grocery assistance may only be paid for through a licensed agency. Paying those expenses directly is classified as paying a fee for a child, and is a felony in Texas under laws that prevent baby selling.

Agencies may pay those expenses but are also prevented from helping a birth mother in some ways. The agency can pay rent or utilities but not a rent or utility deposit.

A home study is required by all agencies. CPS assigns its own caseworkers but a couple may choose anyone approved to do home studies. That includes a number of people in the LGBT community.

“I tell my clients to be open and honest and don’t freak out,” Womack said.

Hartwell said same-sex couples who successfully adopt are completely out about their relationship and who they are.

“You have to hold yourself out as a couple,” she said.

That means being out to family members and co-workers.

She said that couples that aren’t out won’t have the support of family, friends and co-workers necessary for successful adoptions.

Hartwell said that CPS adoptions are a good, lower-cost alternative to private adoptions.

She suggested couples should be as open-minded as possible.

Older couples aren’t likely to get infants. Younger couples who want infants and are adopting through CPS are more likely to get a placement if they’ll take an older sibling as well.

Hartwell said that the state doesn’t like to break up families.

Hartwell encouraged couples thinking of adopting to schedule an appointment to discuss the possibility. She said most will interview several agencies before settling on one.

An attorney is necessary to file the adoption by the first parent and later by the second.

CPS needs homes to place the thousands of children without parents in Texas.

Clay summed up what they’re looking for.

“We’re looking for good parents,” she said.

For referrals to adoption attorney across the country, visit AdoptionAttorneys.org.

—  John Wright

NATIONAL BRIEFS: Lesbian couple says Vt. resort barred them; 831 civil unions in Cook County

Lesbian couple says Vermont resort barred them

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Two New York women say a Vermont inn refused to host their wedding reception because of the owners’ anti-gay bias. The couple is now suing, alleging discrimination under the state’s public accommodations law.

Kate Baker and Ming Linsley say they were turned away by the Wildflower Inn, a 24-room inn in Lyndonville, when they told the inn the wedding would have two brides but no groom.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Wildflower Inn said the owners weren’t taking calls on the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Vermont chapter filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Caledonia Superior Court. It says the inn violated the state Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which bars public accommodations from denying services to people based on sexual orientation.

831 civil unions in Cook County in June

CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County couples rushed to use Illinois’ new civil union law.

The county clerk’s office says 831 civil licenses were issued in June. That was the first month couples could get them.

A civil union gives gay couples in Illinois many of the same rights and legal benefits as heterosexual couples. Unmarried heterosexual couples also are eligible.

Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office says more female couples — about 51.5 percent — applied for licenses compared to male partners, who made up about 43 percent of the licenses. About 5.5 percent of the couples who applied were heterosexual.

Most of the civil union licenses — about 65 percent — were granted to people who live in Chicago.

The office says licenses and other fees generated about $37,000 in revenue.

—  John Wright

Military gay couples won’t enjoy benefits

Even after DADT repeal is complete, DOMA will create discrepancy

JULIE WATSON  |  Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Gay service members from Army soldiers to Air Force officers are planning to celebrate the official end of the military’s 17-year policy that forced them to hide their sexual orientation with another official act — marriage.

A 27-year-old Air Force officer from Ohio said he can’t wait to wed his partner of two years and slip on a ring that he won’t have to take off or lie about when he goes to work each day once “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed. He plans to wed his boyfriend, a federal employee, in Washington D.C. where same-sex marriages are legal.

He asked not to be identified, following the advice of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a national organization representing gay troops, including the Air Force officer, that has cautioned those on active duty from coming out until the ban is off the books.

“I owe it to him and myself,” the officer said of getting married. “I don’t want to do it in the dark. I think that taints what it’s supposed to be about — which is us, our families, and our government.”

But in the eyes of the military the marriage will not be recognized and the couple will still be denied most of the benefits the Defense Department gives to heterosexual couples to ease the costs of medical care, travel, housing and other living expenses.

The Pentagon says the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman — prohibits the Defense Department from extending those benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states.

That means housing allowances and off-base living space for gay service members with partners could be decided as if they were living alone. Base transfers would not take into account their spouses. If two gay service members are married to each other they may be transferred to two different states or regions of the world. For heterosexual couples, the military tries to avoid that from happening.

Gay activists and even some commanders say the discrepancy will create a two-tier system in an institution built on uniformity.

“It’s not going to work,” said Army Reserve Capt. R. Clarke Cooper, who heads up the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group that sued the Justice Department to stop the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. “Taking care of our soldiers is necessary to ensure morale and unit cohesion. This creates a glaring stratification in the disbursement of support services and benefits.”

Cooper said he also plans to marry his boyfriend, a former Navy officer, in a post-repeal era.

Pentagon officials have said they believe the ban could be fully lifted soon. The military for now is not discharging anyone under the policy to comply with a federal appeals court ruling July 6 that ordered the government to immediately cease its enforcement. The Department of Justice has filed an emergency motion asking the court to reconsider its order, saying ending the ban now would pre-empt the “orderly process” for rolling back the policy as outlined in the law passed and signed by the president in December.

The military’s staunchly traditional, tight-knit society, meanwhile, has been quickly adapting to the social revolution: Many gay officers say they have already come out to their commanders and fellow troops, and now discuss their weekend plans without a worry.

The Air Force officer says he has dropped the code words “Red Solo Cups” — the red plastic cups used at parties — that he slipped into conversations for years to tell his partner he loved him when troops were within earshot. He now feels comfortable saying “I love you” on the phone, no longer fearful he will be interrogated by peers.

One male soldier, who also asked not to be identified, said after Congress approved repealing the law, he listed his boyfriend on his Army forms as his emergency contact and primary beneficiary of his military life insurance in case he dies in Afghanistan.

He said when he was transferred to South Korea, he and his partner had to pay for his partner’s move.

“But we were able to stay together,” the soldier wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press from Afghanistan. “During the move, I realized I needed to make sure my partner in life was taken care of if something, the worst, ever happened to me, especially knowing I was about to deploy.”

The soldier said when he added his boyfriend’s name to the paperwork as a primary beneficiary and identified him as a friend, the non-commissioned officer in charge shut his office door and told him: “Unlike the inherent benefits to being married in the Army, such as housing and sustenance allowances, our life insurance and will don’t discriminate.”

Same-sex partners can be listed as the person to be notified in case a service member is killed, injured, or missing, but current regulations prevent anyone other than immediate family — not same-sex spouses — from learning the details of the death. Same-sex spouses also will not be eligible for travel allowances to attend repatriation ceremonies if their military spouses are killed in action.

Gay partners and spouses also will be denied military ID cards, which means they will not be allowed on base unless they are accompanied by a service member and they cannot shop at commissaries or exchanges that have reduced prices for groceries and clothing, nor can they be treated at a military medical facility. They also will be excluded from base programs providing recreation and other such kinds of support.

Military officials say some hardship cases may be handled on an individual basis. Activists warn such an approach will create an administrative nightmare and leave the military vulnerable to accusations of making inconsistent decisions that favor some and not others.

Military families enjoy assistance from the Defense Department to compensate for the hardship of having a mother or father or both deployed to war zones and moved frequently.

“It strains a relationship when you’re gone for over a year,” said Navy medical corpsman Andrew James, 27, who lived two years apart from his same-sex partner, who could not afford to move with him when he was transferred from San Diego to Washington. “But straight couples have support so their spouses are able to be taken care of, with financial issues, and also they are able to talk to the chain of command, whereas gays can’t. They don’t have any support at all financially or emotionally, and that is really devastating.”

He said he was lucky that his relationship survived and now that he is in the Reserves, they are together again in San Diego.

The benefits issue came up repeatedly during training sessions to prepare troops for the policy change.

“There are inconsistencies,” Maj. Daryl Desimone told a class of Marines at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, after being asked about benefits for gay military personnel. “Anyone who looks at it logically will see there are some things that need to be worked out in the future.”

—  John Wright

Tripping on a budget

Recently, my boyfriend and I wanted to embark on a fun, easy and cheap getaway. Since I live in Rhode Island, we were sold on the idea of a short drive out to Provincetown, Mass. right on the tip of Cape Cod. We gave ourselves a budget of just $150 for the 24-hour adventure — and even with gas at four bucks a gallon, we made it happen. Here’s how we did it … and how you might on your next trip:

Call motels and inns directly. While booking online is super convenient, it’s always helpful to talk to a real person. They will know of any last-minute cancellations or special discounts.

Travel off-peak. Our motel room was just $87 on a Thursday night. The same room on Friday before Memorial Day goes for $150. We saved $63 by leaving a day early.

Travel locally. While the world is full of wonderful destinations, many great spots are in our own backyards. You don’t have to travel far to have a great time. And staying closer to home will help keep costs under control. By driving the two hours to P’town, we saved a potential boatload of transportation expenses (airfare, taxi, etc.).

Eat like a local. P’town’s downtown core, like many tourist spots, is full of great but pricey restaurants. By taking a short drive off the beaten path, we were able to find a local hangout with more reasonable prices — dinner cost $28 for the both of us.

Use your feet. While P’town has some convenient paid parking lots, we were able to find a free parking spot a short walk from downtown (a $10 savings). Some destinations also offer great public transit options, making for an affordable and fun way to experience a town and meet new people.

Take advantage of the free stuff. Some of the best things Provincetown has to offer — landscapes, beaches and nature trails, people-watching and architecture (like the Pilgrims Monument, pictured) — are free. Hanging out in the sand and getting a little sun charges the soul and doesn’t break the bank.

Pack your own beverages. For less than $10, we filled my trunk with bottled water and soft drinks so we didn’t waste money on motel vending machines. Even better, bring along a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and help save the environment. Cheers!

Hit up the grocery store. Since we were only staying for one night, stocking up on groceries didn’t make a lot of sense, but for longer trips, I love packing the mini fridge full of fresh food. It’s a lot cheaper than restaurant dining — and a lot healthier. Fruits, veggies and sandwiches bought at a local grocery store make for great food alternatives.

Take advantage of free food. Our motel offered a free continental breakfast. It wasn’t super fancy, but a quick croissant and coffee tided us over until the bigger meal of the day. Ask about any included meals when booking your room.

Talk to the locals. I try to befriend locals wherever I go. Natives can be a tremendous resource of recommendations and often know of free events (concerts, festivals, etc.). Be friendly and wear your smile.

— David “Davey Wavey” Jacques

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Dying’ onstage

Rhett Henckel plays twin brothers — one straight, one gay — in ‘Dying City’

It’s not unusual for an actor to play multiple roles in a single play, but that’s a position usually reserved for minor characters. But for Rhett Henckel, the two men he plays in Dying City — twin brothers —are the main characters. One, seen in flashbacks, is a straight man who may have killed himself in Iraq; the other is a gay actor who visits the dead man’s widow a year after his death.

Second Thought Theatre closes out its 10th season with Christopher Shinn’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play that touches on the Iraq War and the prickliness of family relations with a clipped, realistic style. Lee Trull makes his directorial debut.

We asked Henckel about playing two roles — and which one he identifies with more.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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DYING CITY
Studio Theatre, Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Through July 2. $15–$20.
SecondThoughtTheatre.com

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Dallas Voice: One of your characters, Peter, is described as an “intimidatingly handsome actor.” Typecasting? Henckel: I’ve been self-described as that, but I don’t hear it all the time. I have to act a little for it — I have to earn it this time.

Peter has a promising career, but he seems to have slept his way there. Same question. [Laughs] That’s maybe some advice I should take! If I want to have as promising a career as him, I should be more promiscuous. I’ve never really had that opportunity to do that — maybe I should have initiated it more. Though in rehearsals, I have flirted with [director] Lee Trull much more than I expected to. I’m constantly trying to gauge my fuckability in Lee’s eyes.

The play jumps quickly between years, and requires you to go between Peter, who’s gay, and his twin brother Craig, who’s straight. How do you subtly convey which character you are? I hope that I am doing it subtly. I think Christopher Shinn is very intentional on that — he wants the audience to be confused for a bit, even though they are two distinct characters. I’m not working off myself because I don’t see that character; it’s been through the eyes of Kelly [Craig’s widow] that I find the characters. Peter and Craig have very distinct opinions of Kelly, so that has opened up a lot.

But I think they are really alike. There’s a reason you are supposed to be confused. They have a lot of the same psychology and grew up in the same household. I have a therapist I talk to who I shared this play with, and when I said they had been described as polar opposites, he looked at me strangely. He thought they weren’t at all opposite, but really two extremes of one person. We’re all sort of that complex.

Which character do you relate to more? When I first started I identified as Peter — his passive-aggressive way of dealing with people; being an actor; his rampant egoism. But once we got into rehearsal, it was Craig I found quicker. There’s a quiet fury in this man that I feel like I ended up relating to. A lot more things are going on in Peter; Craig is a little bit simpler.

Peter is kind of complicated, for one, pretending to be antiwar to his gay friends even though he could not escape his conservative upbringing: Midwest values, guns, hawkishness about spreading freedom. Did you get that contradiction in him? I’m not even sure that’s entirely true — that’s what Craig says Peter told him. It’s hard to get to the core of what Peter really believes. Getting to the core is what’s so devastating. Being really honest about how we feel, confronting ourselves.

If I had to label the main theme of the play I would say it’s about how difficult true honesty can be: to others, to one’s self. What’s your take on it? No, that’s absolutely correct. Lies in this play are a very core theme. As any great play, it confronts this idea of what is the absolute truth. I hadn’t thought of it before, but Brick [in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof] is a very similar character to Craig. And even Peter. What is a lie and what is full disclosure and what is truly at the core of ourselves? It’s really fucking messy when we get right down to it.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens