Montana becomes No. 35

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17

By the end of November, the orange and purple should be blue on this map.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and respect for same-sex couples’ marriages in Montana.

Today’s (Wednesday, Nov. 19) ruling follows a favorable marriage ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in cases out of Idaho and Nevada. The circuit court holds jurisdiction over Montana, as well as Alaska and Arizona, which also have the freedom to marry.

Although Montana can appeal to the 9th Circuit, that court has refused to stay marriage rulings for other states. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t stayed rulings in circuits where it rejected appeals. So marriage in Montana is likely to begin over the next few days.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

“Montana’s same-sex couples and their loved ones want what all families want: joy, protections, security, and respect — and that’s what the freedom to marry is all about. This ruling, in keeping with nearly every other court that has ruled in more than a year, brings us to 35 states with the freedom to marry — but we are not done until we end marriage discrimination in all 50 states. It’s time for the Supreme Court to affirm the freedom to marry nationwide and bring our country to national resolution for all loving and committed couples in every state.”

More than 50 federal and state courts in the past year have ruled in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

—  David Taffet

Ex-gay leader marries his husband in Oklahoma

Smid

The happy ex-ex-gay newlywed couple

John Smid, a leader of the ex-gay group Love in Action, married his partner Larry McQueen on Nov. 16 in a ceremony held in Oklahoma.

Several years ago, we ran a story about a Dallas couple tortured with so-called “reparative therapy” by Love in Action. After the story ran, the ex-gays involved in their ordeal who had all become ex-ex-gays by then, contacted the couple to apologize for their involvement.

The couple live in Paris, Texas, where marriage — thanks to the hard work of people like Smid — is still not legal. Nice that he lives close enough to marriage equality state Oklahoma that he can take advantage of their liberal marriage laws.

We wish Smid — who has done so much harm to so many gay people — and his husband happiness.

—  David Taffet

South Carolina marriage appeal turned down

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has turned down a request to stay marriage equality in South Carolina.

Although the 4th Circuit has not issued any rulings directly regarding South Carolina’s marriage equality ban, the court has ruled that Virginia’s marriage equality ban is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review that ruling means that the 4th Circuit’s decision in the Virginia case extends to all the other others under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

North Carolina and West Virginia had already complied. South Carolina balked and has been using a variety of delaying tactics.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts steps in, South Carolina will become marriage equality state No. 34 on Thursday, Nov. 20.

 

—  David Taffet

Oklahoma grants first same-sex divorce

oklahoma-marriageAs marriage equality spreads across the country, there’s a major lesson the gay and lesbian community needs to learn: Just because you CAN get married, doesn’t mean you SHOULD get married.

Although Oklahoma has had marriage equality for almost two months, it’s already had its first same-sex divorce. It’s not as bad as it sound, however.

Deanne and Julie Baker of Oklahoma City married in Iowa in 2012. They tried to divorce over the summer, but the Oklahoma court rejected their petition, because it didn’t recognize the marriage. Once marriage equality hit the state, the petition was accepted on Oct. 15 and the couple is divorced.

So remember, if you visit a marriage equality state to marry and you then consider divorce, Texas is neither a marriage equality state nor a divorce equality state. And a couple can only divorce in their home state, unless at least one of them establishes residency elsewhere.

—  David Taffet

Pack your bags and head for Ole Miss to git hitched later this week. Maybe.

mississippi-flag-e1387132309472“Gay couples could start obtaining marriage licenses in Mississippi as early as this week if the predictions of at least six top legal scholars nationwide hold true,” according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

That’s Jackson, MISSISSIPPI.

Mississippi with the Confederate flag in its state flag. Yes, the state that beats Texas with worse healthcare and a worse education system. Looking at a map, it’s the one two states to the right. Mississippi might beat Texas to marriage equality by 15 states.

And Mississippi was our only real competition in the race to be last in equality. A Mississippi victory positions Texas nicely to be last.

However, the 5th Circuit, one of the most conservative courts in the country, would almost certainly stay a decision to allow marriage equality. Wouldn’t they?

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves heard the case on Monday, Nov. 17. He was appointed by President Barack Obama. No Obama or Clinton appointee has ruled against marriage equality since the Windsor decision in June 2013. A quick decision is expected. Like this week. And they just might sneak in a few marriages before the 5th Circuit stays any ruling.

The 5th Circuit is scheduled to hear appeals of Texas and Louisiana cases on Jan 5. If this ruling is issued quickly, it could be heard then as well.

—  David Taffet

This Week in Marriage Equality

Marriage_Equality_Map11-17In France, former President Nicholas Sarkozy, who believes in “traditional” marriage so much he’s been married three times, wants to repeal the marriage equality law. Oklahoma once again proves it’s ahead of Texas in relationship recognition. And, although Justice Sonia Sotomayor has stayed marriage rulings twice, Clarence Thomas refused to.

South Dakota

Last week, a U.S. District Judge refused a state motion to dismiss a marriage equality case.

The court will now move forward in considering the constitutionality of South Dakota’s ban, with the judge ordering the state to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgement within ten days.

Nebraska

Seven couples filed a lawsuit today (Monday, Nov. 17) challenging Nebraska’s marriage ban.

Arizona

Justice Clarence Thomas refused to halt marriage equality in Arizona.

Thomas wrote he denied the Arizona request for review because he doesn’t believe that there are enough votes from the Supreme Court to take the case, due to how the full court has recently decided other cases for review. He called it “unfortunate,” and wrote, “at the very least, we owe the people of Arizona the respect of our review before we let stand a decision facially invalidating a state constitutional amendment.

South Carolina

Marriage could begin in South Carolina on Thursday, Nov. 20, making it marriage-equality state No. 34.

When a federal judge struck down South Carolina’s marriage law last week, he stayed his ruling until this Thursday to give the state attorney general time to appeal to the 4th Circuit. The 4th Circuit has already ruled in favor of marriage equality in Virginia and the other states in the circuit — West Virginia and North Carolina — also have become marriage equality states.

Oklahoma

On Nov. 12, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that non-biological parents can seek custody of a child based on agreement to parent together.

The case concerned an Oklahoma same-sex couple who entered into a civil union in New Zealand. The court ruled the non-biological mom could seek custody based on the couple’s agreement to parent their child as long as custody was in the best interest of that child.

Kansas

After Kansas sort of became a marriage equality state last week, the National Organization for Marriage says the U.S. Supreme Court’s order ending its stay on marriage equality in Kansas has “left the decision up to county judges” whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The Human Rights Campaign refutes the NOM opinion, saying, “As it turns out, the U.S. Constitution rather clearly spells out the powers vested in the federal judiciary and nowhere does it say state governors can ignore federal court rulings because they don’t like them.”

6th Circuit

After the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a state’s right to discriminate, the plaintiffs from the four state affected  — Michigan, Ohio, Tennesee and Kentucky — have now filed appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court:

Tennessee

The National Center for Lesbian Rights filed on behalf of four couples in Tennessee.

LCLR wrote, “The court of appeals’ holding not only denies recognition to petitioners’ own marriages and families, but also establishes a ‘checkerboard’ nation in which same-sex couples’ marriages are dissolved and re-established as they travel across the country. That is the antithesis of the stability that marriage is supposed to afford.”

Ohio

Two cases from Ohio were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by Lambda Legal and the ACLU.

Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal, said, “We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance.”

James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Project, said “When you’re married, you’re married, no matter whether you travel or move to another state.”

Michigan

Private attorneys appealed the Michigan case.

Meanwhile, the governor has declared 300 marriages, which took place before the U.S. District Court’s ruling was stayed, void.

Kentucky

Private attorneys appealed the two consolidated Kentucky cases.

 

—  David Taffet

Just back from the Allred Unit

Anthony

Christopher Hines filming Anthony Garcia at Allred Unit

Just got home from the Allred Unit just outside of Wichita Falls. Lots more about the Logo documentary that Christopher Hines is making later.

Fascinating day.

Met a 24-year-old prisoner named Anthony Garcia, a gay man from Fort Worth, who has been in prison 5 1/2 years and has 2 1/2 to go. The charge was assault, but we know we don’t have the whole story. He claims he was attacked, but was arrested and prosecuted. Need to look up the case and get more information.

We could only speak to Anthony by phone through glass because of his level of incarceration. When he first came in, he was obviously nervous but after a few minutes, he relaxed and told his story.

A friend of Anthony’s recently committed suicide in prison. Very touching story. He lost his closest friend.

According to one guard who accompanied us, there have been a couple of suicides recently, after not having any in several years. Amazing they’re able to avoid suicide, but the guard explained that any hint of that sort of depression and the inmate gets help.

Lots more to tell, but need to research his case before writing about it.

—  David Taffet

A history of Black Tie charity

Thomas, Anglin and Kuchling discussed how they could turn HRCF’s rep down before deciding to say yes — but still do it ‘the Dallas way’

Razzle-Dazzle-D

DAZZLE | Ray Kuchling, back row left, John Thomas, back row second from right and Mike Anglin, front row right, became close friends as they worked together on the Razzle Dazzle board. They later created Black Tie Dinner together. (Photo courtesy Mike Anglin)

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

In 32 years, Black Tie Dinner has raised more than $18 million, distributing the money among more than three dozen organizations.

But it all started one day in the spring of 1982 when John Thomas called Mike Anglin and Ray Kuchling and asked them over to his house to meet his friend, Jim Foster from Washington D.C.

Foster had a proposal to make. He’d been hired as national fundraising coordinator for a new organization called the Human Rights Campaign Fund that would be lobbying Congress for gay and lesbian equal rights. He wanted the Dallas community’s help.

Thomas had known Foster when they lived in South Florida and worked together to fight Anita Bryant’s anti-gay ballot initiative. Because of that connection, Dallas was Foster’s first stop in his efforts to start raising funds.

Anglin said recently that what Thomas knew but didn’t share with him or with Kuchling was that Foster had been active in San Francisco politics where he had been Harvey Milk’s political nemesis.

At their meeting, Foster explained to Thomas, Anglin and Kuchling that he had a strategy to raise the money needed for his new national organization. He was going to the largest urban areas around the country to get community leaders to host a big, fancy banquet, charge $150 per ticket and send the money left over to HRCF.

Foster told the Dallas community leaders he was prepared for resistance, then he stepped out of the room for the three to discuss.

“How do we tell this guy no?” Anglin asked Thomas and Kuchling.

Anglin said in a recent interview that the Dallas activists were already stretched pretty thin after having just launched Razzle Dazzle Dallas and the Turtle Creek Chorale. Both organizations were struggling and needed money. And every Monday the three had their Dallas Gay Alliance meetings. The Baker v. Wade case challenging the Texas sodomy law was ongoing and its legal costs were mounting.

“There wasn’t room for more,” Anglin said.

But as the three talked, Anglin said he remembered something his grandmother from North Carolina used to say: If you want something done, find a very busy person to do it.

After talking about why they shouldn’t stage the dinner, Anglin said they goaded each other into the possibility of saying yes.

“I will consider adding it to my plate, but only if you’ll be on the steering committee and get it done with me,” Thomas said.

Anglin said they’d need a bigger boat. They were going to have to plug into a larger group, including financially comfortable people in Dallas’ LGBT community. The only way to do it was to lock in the support of Dick Weaver, Anglin said.

“We threw a cocktail party in my living room,” recalled Weaver, who invited friends to come over the next night.

“I didn’t know if anyone would show up,” he said. “Everyone invited did. That got the ball rolling.”

Several people agreed to be on the board. Others said they didn’t care to serve on a board, but they’d buy tickets or sell tables.

“That’s all I needed to hear,” Anglin said.

But there was one sticking point. Foster said his concept was for this to be an HRCF event — owned and controlled by D.C.

“We had to explain to him Texans had this thing,” Anglin said. “We don’t like following directions from D.C.”
Anglin told Foster Dallas would do this dinner.

“We hope to make enough money to send you proceeds,” he said. “But this is going to be a locally owned and controlled project.”

Today, with about 50 dinners held to support HRC around the country, the Dallas dinner remains the only one locally controlled.

The first year, 140 people attended the dinner held at the Fairmont Hotel and Dallas sent HRCF $6,000.

“That first dinner was mostly men rattling around in that big ballroom,” Weaver said.

The second year, Dallas was beginning to deal with AIDS, so proceeds were split between HRCF and the newly-created Foundation for Human Understanding, now known as Resource Center. Attendance increased by 100 and proceeds that year more than doubled, so HRCF got a small increase in funds.

By the fourth year, the board of the Dallas dinner made a proposal to the community. Other nonprofits were offered the chance to benefit from the event. Of the $150 ticket cost, $50 would go to the cost of staging the banquet. Another $50 would go to HRCF and the remaining $50 could be designated to a local nonprofit.

“Tickets were flying out the door,” Anglin said.

The Turtle Creek Chorale, Metropolitan Community Church (now known as Cathedral of Hope) and the now-defunct Oak Lawn Counseling Center and Texas Human Rights Foundation each received a portion of the $43,700 proceeds.

At the second dinner, John Thomas announced that a “humanitarian award” would be presented at the dinner each year. Weaver said they waited for Thomas to sit down before announcing Thomas was the award’s first recipient.

In 1991, not long before Kuchling died, the committee decided to name the award after him. When the committee met, Weaver said they also decided to award it to Kuchling that year. The following year, after Kuchling had died, his parents attended the dinner and presented that year’s Kuchling Award to Reed Hunsdorfer and Lory Masters.

Over the years, the dinner has developed into a much more elaborate affair:

The first dinner journal, which was 20 pages, was printed in 1986. Last year’s journal was 128 pages and hard cover. Table captains and co-chairs were terms adopted by Black Tie in 1988 as the structure of the dinner became more formal.

In 1989, a raffle and the silent auction — or “y’all’s little garage sale,” as Gov. Ann Richards referred to it when she spoke at the 1995 dinner — were added. The name Black Tie Dinner replaced the term Dallas Dinner Committee in 1990.

Attendance topped 1,000 for the first time in 1990. By 1992, more than 2,000 people participated and in 1995, 3,000 people.

The beneficiary video became part of the dinner in 2002.

In 2013, Wendy Davis, who had just announced her candidacy for governor, was a surprise speaker. She posed for photos at a special reception before the dinner and asked everyone there to hold off posting the pictures to Facebook. Once on stage, she told everyone to bombard social media and thousands of pictures of attendees with Davis went viral.

Proceeds from the 25th anniversary dinner in 2006 were a record $1,350,000.

This year, the ticket price was raised from $300 to $400. With that pricier ticket, proceeds could approach record levels again.

Weaver, who’s always looking ahead, said the 50th anniversary dinner is just 17 years away and he is already looking forward to it.

…………………..

33r­­­­d annual Black Tie Dinner
Nov. 15, 2014
Sheraton Dallas, 400 N. Olive St.­­

Kuchling Award winner: Mike Anglin
Elizabeth Birch Award winners:
Ted Olson and David Boies
Entertainers:
Dana Goldberg,
Steve Grand
Alex Newell
Special appearances:
Dale Hansen,
Jason Collins

Beneficiaries:
Human Rights Campaign
AIDS Arms
AIDS Interfaith Network
AIDS Outreach Center
AIDS Service Dallas
Celebration Commun­ity Church
Congregation Beth El Binah
Equality Texas Foundation
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
Legacy Counseling Center
Legal Hospice of Texas
Northaven United Methodist Church
Resource Center
Turtle Creek Chorale
Uptown Players
Women’s Chorus of Dallas

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 4.57.04 PM

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2014.

—  David Taffet

To honor their memory

TDOR events Sunday in Dallas wilal memorialize the at least 71 trans women and men murdered in the last year

Anderson.Carmarion

JUSTICE NOT SERVED | Jonathan Kenney, below left, has a Jan. 22 court date on charges related to the death of Janette Tovar, below right. The Rev. Carmarion Anderson, above, is keynote speaker at services Sunday honoring trans women and men who were killed in the last year. MosaicSong, bottom, will perform.­­

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Janette Tovar died on Oct. 15, 2012, at the age of 43. Her boyfriend, Jonathan Stuart Kenney, 27, allegedly assaulted her.

Witnesses saw the couple fighting early in the morning in the 800 block of West Davis Street in Oak Cliff. Kenney allegedly slammed Tovar’s head against concrete. After they returned to their home in the 900 block of W. Eighth Street, three blocks away, he allegedly continued to assault her.

Hours later, Kenney found her unresponsive and called 911.

Kenney provided a statement to the police admitting that he slammed Tovar’s head into the concrete and continued assaulting her at home.

Although Kenney was originally arrested on murder charges, the charges were lowered to assault because prosecutors did not feel they had the evidence to prove murder. Kenney has a court date set for Jan. 22.

Before her death, Tovar told friends about the violence at home. Friends said they had seen the couple argue, but had not witnessed violence. Others said they didn’t want to get involved in a murder.

One, who was with the couple the night before the assault, was engaged and not supposed to be out that night. She was worried about her own relationship and declined to answer questions.

So rather than get involved, people let someone who allegedly killed their friend get away with murder.

Tovar was transgender, and unfortunately, those who assault and kill trans women and men get away with it far too often.

While Tovar’s death was tragic and her killer isn’t likely to be convicted of her murder, we do know what happened. But in most trans murders, the cases remain unsolved. And in many places, the cases are hardly investigated.

But that doesn’t mean the victims are not remembered and honored. This year, Thursday, Nov. 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Events in Dallas to honor TDOR will be held Sunday, Nov. 16.

Gwen Smith, a trans woman, held the first Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999 to remember Rita Hester, another trans woman who was murdered a year earlier.

Hester was a trans activist who lived in Boston. On Nov. 28, 1998, she was attacked in her own apartment and stabbed 20 times. A neighbor called police and  Hester was rushed to the hospital, but she died just after she was admitted.

Hester’s murder — like the murders of so many other transgender people — remains unsolved.

Since then, TDOR remembrances have taken place around the world. The ceremonies include a memorial to trans people who have been killed since the last  TDOR commemoration.

Kenny,-Tovar

Jonathan Stuart Kenney, left, Janette Tovar, right

This year’s list includes 71 names so far.

The cause of death is often violent — the trans victims are stoned to death, thrown from moving vehicles, run over, dismembered, pushed off a moving train.

Some of the victims are simply listed as “unknown woman.”

One unknown woman was found in Sao Paolo, Brazil with her eyes removed.

Two transgender women were murdered in Baltimore in June. Both died of massive trauma. One woman’s body was left in a field. Two weeks later, the other was found in an alley.

Last December, two trans women were killed in Cleveland one day apart. One died of a gunshot to the head, the other of blunt force trauma to the head.

An eight-year-old trans girl was beaten to death by her father for refusing to cut her hair, liking women’s clothing and dancing.

Of the transgender murders that took place in the U.S. over the last 12 months, none seems to have been solved.

Local TDOR Chair Oliver Blumer said a local trans woman who died recently will be remembered.

“This year we’re memorializing a young trans woman from Euless who was bullied and committed suicide,” Blumer said.

He said the woman was 18 and still in high school. She changed schools, but the bullying continued until, in May, she took her own life.

Before the 7 p.m. service at Cathedral of Hope, a candlelight vigil takes place on The Strip on Cedar Springs.

Participants in the vigil will meet at Cathedral at 5 p.m. and then drive in groups down Cedar Springs. At 5:45, they will begin to line the street and light candles. They’ll be silent and direct any questions to volunteers along the route, said GEAR coordinator Blair High. At 6:30 p.m., the vigil ends and participants return to Cathedral for the service.

Blumer said doors open for the memorial service at 6:30 p.m.

MosaicSong

Mosaic Song

Because so many of the trans victims this year are from Brazil, he said, one of the people reading names is a Portuguese speaker.

Carmarion Anderson is the keynote speaker. MosaicSong and The Transcontinentals will perform.

High said personal safety is something the trans community takes very seriously. She said she hesitates before planning anything outside of the city.

“If there’s a concert at Winstar I want to go to, I think twice,” she said. “There’s a chance I could get hurt going to Oklahoma.”

The Transgender Law and Policy Institute complied some statistics of the rates of violence and discrimination against the trans community.

Among trans woman, 83 percent reported verbal abuse and 37 percent experienced physical abuse because of their gender identity or expression.

Discrimination is also rampant. Housing discrimination was reported by 37 percent of trans women and employment discrimination by 46 percent. One in five trans women is without stable housing or is homeless and 52 percent are ­­without health insurance.

Trans men reported similar treatment.

Verbal abuse was reported by 85 percent of trans men and 30 percent experienced physical violence.

Employment discrimination was reported by 57 percent and housing discrimination by 20 percent. Fifteen percent were without stable housing or were homeless and 41 percent had no health insurance.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2014.

 

—  David Taffet

Scared straight … I mean gay

imagesI’m on my way to prison this morning.

I’m headed for the Allred Unit outside of Wichita Falls.

Really.

A producer from California is making a documentary about gays in prison for Logo and I’m riding along. And yes, I’m a little nervous.

The last job my father had before he retired was working at Sing Sing, the notorious maximum security prison north of New York City. He taught prisoners machine shop skills during their last year behind bars before their release. I asked him once if it bothered him working with these guys after he found out what they did. He said that although he’d spend several hours with each one every day, he never asked them what they had done. That way, he said, he could just deal with them as people.

This morning, after a background check and sending off a list of what I’d be bringing with me, I’m on my way to Allred and we’re just going to talk to someone. Just like any interview I’ve ever done. But we’ll talk about what he did. I’ll let you know how that worked out later.

—  David Taffet