Shekter to receive lifetime achievement award


Tony Vedda, left, Sam McClure, right


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce announced four special honorees and the recipient of a lifetime achievement award to be given at its April 24 dinner.

Mark Shekter will receive the chamber’s second lifetime achievement award. Shekter is an award-winning architect who also has a real estate company called Surrealty. He was one of the founders of Stonewall Business Association and helped with its merger into the GLBT Chamber.

At the height of the AIDS crisis, Shekter created MOM — Meals on the Move — to deliver meals to people living with AIDS who couldn’t prepare their own food.

The four special honorees are American Airlines pilot Capt. Kathi Durst, Andy Smith, Roger Thompson and Zack Hicks.

Durst last August became the first woman named chief pilot for American Airlines. She’s been with the airline since 1988.

Smith was named executive director of Texas Instruments Foundation last year, and is responsible for $12 million in grants to arts organizations and math and science education.

Thompson is executive vice president, chief development officer, general counsel and secretary for Brinker International. He’s involved with National LGBTQ Task Force and Lambda Legal as well as the Chamber.

Hicks is Toyota’s chief information officer. The company is moving its U.S. headquarters to Plano. Hicks has already relocated to the area.

On hand to announce the award winners was Sam McClure, vice president of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She said her organization includes 39 chambers around the country. While Dallas isn’t the largest or the oldest, she said it’s one of the strongest and has won a record four excellence awards.

McClure called North Texas Chamber CEO Tony Vedda a nationally recognized leader.

The dinner will be held in the new City View ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel on Stemmons Freeway.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 16, 2015.

—  David Taffet

Plano group releases flier supporting equal rights ordinance

A new group called People in Support of the Equal Rights Policy of Plano TX created a flier to debunk myths about the city’s new equal rights ordinance.

Plano Flyer

The opposition group needs to collect fewer than 3,900 signatures, or 10 percent of the number of people who voted in the last election, to force a recall vote on the ordinance.

—  David Taffet

Prestonwood church, which has a history of sex abuse, is opposing Plano ordinance


Prestonwood Baptist Church, competing with First Baptist Church of Dallas for the title of area’s most homophobic

Prestonwood Baptist Church has become the center of activity when it comes to collecting signatures to repeal the new Plano nondiscrimination ordinance and capture the title of most homophobic church in the Metroplex from First Baptist Church of Dallas.

That defender of religious freedom may also be remembered as the church where a pastor had to resign in 2008 because he was caught soliciting sex from a minor.

Sr. Pastor Jack Graham, who is spearheading the signature collection effort for the Plano recall, accepted the resignation of Pastor Joe Barron after a 2008 sex sting.

“Barron was charged … with online solicitation of a minor,” according to an AP story from the time. “Undercover officers posing as a 13-year-old girl communicated with the 52-year-old minister for about two weeks. The online conversations were sexual in nature, police said.”

After connecting with “her” online, the Prestonwood minister drove 200 miles to meet her in Bryan. He was arrested and released on $7,000 bail.

In 2009, he was sentenced to seven years in prison after reaching a plea deal. He had to serve a quarter of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole and then had to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

While that was the most famous case of child abuse, there have been other allegations.

In the late 1980s, minister John Langworthy was dismissed after charges of child abuse. Langworthy moved to Clinton, Miss. where he served at Morrison Heights Southern Baptist for two decades

“There, he recently received a 50-year suspended sentence for molesting multiple boys as young as 6,” according to Baptist News Global. “But Langworthy avoided prison time because, in the plea bargain process, prosecutors were concerned about the statute of limitations.”

A Facebook group has formed called People Against Prestonwood’s Silence on Allegations of Sexual Abuse.

In December, referring to Langworthy, they posted:

“It still seems unbelievable that Jack Graham was a 2-term President of the Southern Baptist Convention and has been given a complete pass (so far) for his role in allowing a predator to go on a multi-decade rampage raping children across Mississippi. Truly jaw dropping when you think about it.”

—  David Taffet

Michigan must recognize ‘window marriages’

Marriage_Equality_Map_FL_01-12-2015A federal judge ruled Michigan must recognize its “window marriages” performed last year after the state’s marriage law was struck down and before a stay was placed on the ruling.

After Michigan’s marriage law was declared unconstitutional, about 300 couples married in the state before a higher court judge placed a stay on the ruling. Michigan is in the 6th Circuit, which later upheld the state’s right to discriminate.

Now Federal District Judge Mark Goldsmith says the state must recognize those marriage licenses it issued.

“Even though the court decision that required Michigan to allow same-sex couples to marry has now been reversed on appeal, the same-sex couples who married in Michigan during the brief period when such marriages were authorized acquired a status that state officials may not ignore absent some compelling interest — a constitutional hurdle that the defense does not even attempt to surmount,” Goldsmith wrote in the introduction to his opinion.

The “window” lasted only a few hours on March 22, 2014. Goldsmith was not the judge in original decision.

In an interesting note, Goldsmith writes in his opinion that no Supreme Court case addresses the right to maintain a marriage but it’s assumed that when the vows are spoken, “the lifetime of committed intimacy that couples expect will follow.”

He calls Michigan’s refusal to recognize marriages it licenses “entirely unprecedented.”

—  David Taffet

Swearing in the new Texas House

Yesterday, I went to Austin in a bus chartered by Rep. Eric Johnson with about 50 of his constituents and supporters. Thousands of people filled the Capitol building to watch the swearing in of the 84th Texas Senate and House of Representatives. Johnson reserved a committee room from which his group could watch the ceremony.

Secretary of State Nandita Berry presided over the House session through the election of Rep. Joe Strauss as Speaker. She began with a very partisan speech about the diversity of the state, mentioning representatives and what they represent — like the San Antonio district where Toyota Tundras are manufactured and the Plano district where Toyota is moving its U.S. headquarters. Quite noticeably, she omitted any mention of Democratic Dallas while managing to mention every other major city in the state.

The Plano delegation and a few of its supporters, like Tarrant County Rep. Matt Krauss, may have effectively ended any power the Tea Party will have in this session by supporting Rep. Scott Turner of Frisco in the election for Speaker. After Turner lost, getting just 19 votes, Turner spent 25 minutes delivering a concession speech in which he berated the other members of the House for not voting for him.

My favorite part of the day: We were in and out of the Capitol several times during the day. Each time anyone enters the building, they pass through security. You can bypass security if you have a concealed weapon permit or when accompanied by a member of the Legislature. Well, you have to show the permit. All I had to do to get in was point to Johnson and say, “I’m with him.” I told Johnson that he’s much better than a concealed weapon permit.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Supreme Court takes no action on marriage equality cases

Supreme-Court-building-permissionThe U.S. Supreme Court has declined to act on any of four federal cases out of the 6th Circuit, where a three-judge panel upheld marriage bans as constitutional last year. The court held its conference on Friday, Jan. 9 and announced cases it would hear during the spring on Monday Jan. 12.

If the court will take up one of these cases this session, the justices must decide before the end of January which case or cases they will hear.

Unlike the court’s action in October, the justices did not dismiss the cases from the 6th Circuit letting the lower court’s opinion stand. The cases carry over to the next conference.

The court did deny cert to the case in Louisiana that was simultaneously appealed to the 5th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. The court cited that the case had not been decided by the appeals court. The case was heard by the 5th Circuit on Friday, Jan. 9.

—  David Taffet

VIDEO: Jonathan Saenz explains the opposition to marriage equality in Texas


Texas Values President Jonathan Saenz

Jonathan Saenz was outside the 5th Circuit courthouse in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 9, while inside attorneys were delivering oral arguments were in three marriage equality cases. Saenz wrote on his Facebook page, “The Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell did an excellent job defending our Texas marriage laws yesterday. The only way Texas loses is if the federal judges decide to legislate from the bench.”

Mitchell based his argument for discrimination on the idea that marriage is a subsidy.

Saenz is president of a conservative organization called Texas Values. He formerly served as an attorney and legislative director for Plano-based Liberty Institute, which is currently challenging that city’s nondiscrimination ordinance as unconstitutional.

His anti-gay hatred probably began when his wife left him for a woman.

Erin Moore caught Saenz outside the courthouse:

—  David Taffet

VIDEO: Louisiana Family Forum thinks child welfare isn’t the state’s concern

Gene Mills

Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills

In a press release written before the state made its case, Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum said the state did “a masterful job in defending Louisiana’s rationale for defining marriage as a legal relationship between one man and one woman.”

I say “written before he heard the state make its case” because two of the three judges tore into Louisiana’s arguments about procreation and the third judge had few questions at all.

Here’s what he had to say outside the 5th Circuit courthouse after oral arguments on Friday, Jan. 9:

—  David Taffet

New Texas AG Paxton not happy with how things went in New Orleans

Rep. Ken Paxton

Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton

As one of his first acts as Texas’ new attorney general, Ken Paxton weighed in on the 5th Circuit oral arguments on marriage equality heard on Friday, Jan. 9, in New Orleans. Apparently, he wasn’t happy with how things went.

“In 2005, Texans overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. I am committed to defending the Texas Constitution, the will of our citizens and this sacred institution,” Paxton wrote.

While the 5th Circuit was hearing appeals on marriage cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, the Supreme Court was holding a conference to decide which additional cases it may hear this session.

The court may announce as soon as Monday, Jan. 12, if it will hear a marriage equality case. If so, Paxton can defend the Texas constitution all he wants, but the Supreme Court ruling will take precedence.

—  David Taffet

Oak Lawn rally after 5th Circuit

About 150 people braved sub-freezing temperatures to demand the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard an appeal of the Texas marriage-equality case on Friday, Jan. 9, strike down discriminatory marriage laws.

—  David Taffet